Houston Nutt’s attorney still planning to refile lawsuit in state court

Published 12:11 pm Thursday, August 17, 2017

It may be later than expected, but Houston Nutt’s lawsuit against Ole Miss will soon be back in court.

Thomas Mars, Nutt’s Arkansas-based attorney, said he’s still planning to refile the lawsuit in state court after the former Ole Miss coach’s original complaint was dismissed Aug. 9 in federal court because of a lack of jurisdiction. Nutt originally sued Ole Miss, its athletics foundation and the IHL board for a breach of contract and defamation for what he believes were intentionally false statements made by school officials, including former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and athletic director Ross Bjork, to spread a false narrative about the amount of violations related to the NCAA’s investigation into the football program tied to Nutt’s tenure.

In a statement released shortly after the school’s motion to dismiss was granted, Mars said the case could’ve remained in federal court if Ole Miss and the IHL board were dropped from the lawsuit and that he would file an updated complaint this week.

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But Mars told the EAGLE today that his co-counsel, Mississippi trial lawyer Bubba Morrison, is in the midst of a jury trial in another case and won’t be able to review and edit the updated complaint until that trial is over, which might not be until early next week, Mars added.

“Whether or not we decide to let Ole Miss preview the complaint before it’s filed, it’s safe to assume that we won’t be filing the state court lawsuit this week,” Mars said in a text message.

Asked who the defendants would be in the updated complaint, Mars said, “We haven’t made a final decision about that yet.”

Ole Miss is facing 21 alleged rules violations, including 15 Level I charges — four of which involve two of Nutt’s former staff members, David Saunders and Chris Vaughn, for their role in academic fraud and impermissible benefits provided to recruits.

In an effort to prove Nutt’s claim that Freeze, Bjork and associate athletic director for communications Kyle Campbell conspired to put out false informaton in off-the-record phone calls to sports writers, Mars filed an open-records request for Freeze’s university-issued phone logs. That led to the discovery of a call Freeze placed to a number linked to an escort service, which prompted a more thorough investigation of those records by the school that uncovered what Bjork called “a concerning pattern” of personal misconduct that forced Freeze to resign July 20.