WVU attorneys want to depose Rodriguez, wife

By Steve Korris | Jan 31, 2008


CLARKSBURG – West Virginia University attorneys have asked U.S. District Judge John Bailey for permission to place former football coach Rich Rodriguez and his wife Rita Rodriguez under oath and ask them where he lived when the university sued him.

The university disputes Rodriguez's claim that he established citizenship in Michigan before the university sued him in Monongalia Circuit Court in Morgantown.

The university seeks to enforce a $4 million buyout clause in Rodriguez's contract. He resigned Dec. 19, to coach the University of Michigan.

The university sued him Dec. 27.

On Jan. 15, Rodriguez claimed Michigan citizenship, invoked federal diversity jurisdiction and removed the suit to U. S. District Court in Clarksburg.

Rodriguez argued that he established a mailing address, a phone number and a business office in Michigan before the university sued him.

He stated that he and his wife obtained Michigan driver's licenses and registered to vote in Michigan before the university sued him.

The university moved Jan. 18 for remand to Monongalia County, arguing that Rodriguez's wife and children remained in West Virginia.

The university argued that Rodriguez accepted service of the suit at his West Virginia residence Dec. 29.

The university produced an envelope that Rodriguez apparently sent from his West Virginia residence on Jan. 10.

On Jan. 29, university attorney Jeffrey Wakefield of Charleston asked Judge Bailey for permission to conduct jurisdictional discovery.

"Specifically, the University seeks the right to depose Rodriguez and his wife, serve written discovery, and issue subpoenas to obtain information relative to Rodriguez's citizenship if Rodriguez continues to assert diversity jurisdiction," Wakefield wrote.

"Upon information and belief," he wrote, "Rodriguez owned and lived in his West Virginia residence and was a resident of West Virginia on December 27, 2007.

"Rodriguez's wife and children continue to reside in the West Virginia residence and his children continue to attend school in West Virginia."

Wakefield argued that although courts generally don't permit discovery before parties have conferred, courts can permit it for jurisdictional purposes.

Wakefield works for the university's lead counsel, Thomas Flaherty, at Flaherty, Sensabaugh and Bonasso.

On the same day Wakefield filed his motion, Rodriguez deposited a $1,500,000 letter of credit with the clerk of the federal court.

"Defendant is filing this letter of credit in the spirit of compromise and as an act of good faith," wrote his attorney, Sean McGinley of Charleston.

In contrast with those gentle words, however, McGinley for the first time accused the university of breaching the coach's contract.

"Because West Virginia University breached the employment agreement with Defendant," McGinley wrote, "Defendant states that the maximum amount that could be owed by him to Plaintiff is $1,500,000."

The Bank of Ann Arbor, in the university community of Ann Arbor, Michigan, issued the letter of credit.

The bank promised to pay the university upon receipt of a court order from Bailey finding that Rodriguez is obligated to the university.

The letter of credit applies only in federal court. It would have no value if Bailey remands the suit to Monongalia County.

McGinley practices at DiTrapano, Barrett and DiPiero.

Rodriguez has also retained Marvin Robon and Ethan Davis, both of Maumee, Ohio. Bailey has granted them permission to appear in his court.

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