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Court grants UND request

A court ruling Thursday severely restricts the list of documents UND must turn over to the NCAA during the discovery process of the lawsuit over the school's continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname.

A court ruling Thursday severely restricts the list of documents UND must turn over to the NCAA during the discovery process of the lawsuit over the school's continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname.

UND requested the motion for protective order, arguing many of the NCAA's requests were unrelated to the central issue of the lawsuit: whether the NCAA acted correctly when it created a mandate barring the school from displaying its Fighting Sioux logo in postseason play or hosting playoff games.

UND argued the NCAA requests were an attempt to change the subject of the litigation to whether the Fighting Sioux nickname is "hostile and abusive" as the association has claimed.

The NCAA countered that discovery rules are purposefully broad and that much of the information the association requested was referenced in UND's own lawsuit. The NCAA argued it cannot investigate whether UND's claims are valid unless it is given discretion to investigate them.

Grand Forks County District Judge Lawrence Jahnke approved UND's argument in his ruling, writing: "the purpose of this litigation is not to determine whether UND's use of Native American imagery and the term 'Fighting Sioux' are 'hostile and abusive.' That issue involves First Amendment and due process issues not before this court."

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North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem called the ruling a "clear statement" that would save UND time and expense and help both sides meet the scheduled Dec. 10 trial date.

"This ruling is exactly what Judge Jahnke said at the very beginning of the lawsuit and now he's reiterated it," Stenehjem said. "This lawsuit is about the process followed by the NCAA and nothing more. (The ruling) will save us enormous time and effort that we won't have to expend producing thousands of unrelated documents."

The ruling denies most of the NCAA's requests and states UND will not have to answer future NCAA documents requests related to:

-- Whether the Fighting Sioux nickname is "hostile and abusive."

-- UND's relationship with the family of Ralph Engelstad, the UND benefactor who donated the school's $100 million Ralph Engelstad Arena.

-- UND dealings with the federal Office of Civil Rights.

-- American Indian programs at UND.

Exempted from the ruling is one NCAA request, which asks for documents related to the actual impact of the continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname.

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Among other things, that request specifies the nickname's effect on UND's ability to:

-- Obtain grants and funding.

-- Schedule athletic events with other schools.

-- Recruit and retain American Indian students, faculty and athletes.

Stenehjem speculated the request may have been approved because it relates to UND's claim that the NCAA violated North Dakota antitrust laws by imposing the nickname ban and that the ban will unfairly restrain trade in North Dakota.

The NCAA has filed a motion asking Jahnke to invalidate that portion of UND's lawsuit. A hearing on that motion has not yet been scheduled.

The NCAA has not declined to release any documents to UND, but the association won a court battle last month allowing it to keep many of those documents from being released to the public.

UND has won a temporary injunction allowing the school to retain the nickname until the December trial.

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Fargo attorney Wick Corwin, who is representing the NCAA, declined to comment.

Marks reports on higher education. Reach him at (701) 780-1105, (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or jmarks@gfherald.com .

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