Anti-trust Exemption Newsbeat
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
While many fans are aware that baseball is generally exempt from antitrust law, fewer realize that courts have adopted widely divergent views regarding the extent to which MLB’s operations are actually shielded from the law. For instance, just because MLB is generally immune from antitrust law does not mean that a court would necessarily give the league free reign to engage in anti-competitive practices in areas completely unrelated to professional baseball (such as if, for example, MLB Advanced Media — the league’s digital content distribution company — were to enter into a price-fixing scheme with other non-sports-related, Internet-streaming-video service providers).
Courts have traditionally disagreed regarding where to draw the line between MLB’s exempt and non-exempt conduct, and thus are deeply divided over the extent to which they will allow antitrust lawsuits to proceed against MLB. As a practical matter, then, anyone wishing to sue MLB under antitrust law may be able to do so – despite the league’s antitrust exemption – so long as they file their case in the right court…
That having been said, there may be some cases where this sort of forum shopping is not possible. In the San Jose lawsuit against MLB, for instance, the city had to file its case in a local court, even though California judges have traditionally adopted a broad view of baseball’s exemption.
In contrast, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the recently filed suit challenging MLB’s scout hiring and pay practices wisely elected to file the case in New York, a jurisdiction that has historically viewed the exemption much more narrowly (as reflected in the decisions discussed above involving MLB’s television broadcasting and umpire relations). As a result, it would not be surprising if the New York court allows the antitrust portion of the case to move forward, despite baseball’s exemption.
Friday, April 17, 2015
Leading off…..Roberts…..John Roberts….
For the first time in four decades, the U.S. Supreme Court will have an opportunity to reconsider baseball’s notorious exemption from antitrust law. On Wednesday, the city of San Jose, California filed an appeal with the nation’s highest court, asking it to overturn professional baseball’s nearly century-old immunity from the Sherman Antitrust Act.
The appeal is the latest step in the litigation surrounding the Oakland A’s proposed move to San Jose. Back in 2013, the city sued Major League Baseball claiming that the league’s failure to approve the A’s relocation violated federal antitrust law. The district court dismissed the lawsuit later that same year, concluding that baseball’s exemption shielded MLB’s relocation decisions from antitrust scrutiny. That decision was upheld earlier this year by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While these lower courts were constrained by a series of Supreme Court precedents exempting baseball from the Sherman Act, the Supreme Court itself is not bound to follow the prior rulings. So San Jose is asking the Court to seize this opportunity to overturn baseball’s highly controversial antitrust immunity. Like any appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, however, the odds that the Court will agree to take San Jose’s appeal are rather slim.
San Jose is hoping to convince the Supreme Court to take the case by arguing that baseball’s antitrust exemption is an outdated doctrine that is harming the public interest in a variety of ways. In its Petition for A Writ of Certiorari – the formal name of an appeal to the Supreme Court – the city argues that none of the original legal justifications for the exemption remain.
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