The recently fired president of Pennsylvania State University, Graham Spanier, is suing the institution to demand access to e-mail records from 1998 to 2004.

According to an article by Charles Thompson in The Patriot-News:

A lawsuit filed Friday by former Penn State President Graham Spanier against the university shows the investigation into what others knew about the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse accusations, and when, may be far from over.

According to Spanier’s lawsuit, when Spanier, Paterno and other high-ranking administrators appeared before the state grand jury investigating Sandusky last year, everyone thought a new email system installed at Penn State in 2004 had eliminated emails prior to that time.

Now that the university has apparently recovered the emails, however, Spainer wants a chance to look them over. The former president has earlier requested that the institution let him see the emails. Penn State has refused, citing “fear of compromising the commonwealth’s ongoing investigation.”

Spanier’s lawyers, however, say they need to allow their client to review email in order for thiem to participate the institution’s internal examination. According to the Thompson article, the letter from Spainer’s attorneys explains that,

We cannot repeat the episode from last year (2011) in which our client was permitted to be interviewed by the attorney general’s office and, later, appear in front of a grand jury with absolutely no preparation, including no review of any relevant documents.

Makes sense. The point of a lawsuit is a little unclear here, however. They might be able to reach a compromise if Penn State needs Spanier’s help in the investigation, but it doesn’t seem likely the former president can compel the university to give him access to his emails; he doesn’t own them. The email system is the institution’s and, thus, the emails belong to Penn State.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer