Atlanta – 45 days ago before Monday, September 9th, The City of Oakland was given a deadline of Monday, September 9th, before 12 midnight to submit a new complaint as part of its lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders and the National Football League. That order was issued by U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero, and after he surprisingly approved an ill-considered, 33-page throw-up-against-the-wall “motion to dismiss”. The City of Oakland did make the deadline; let’s examine what basic changes were made in the complaint.
A New Complaint Focused More On Basic Claims Rather Than Esoteric Ones
The original lawsuit complaint filed by the City of Oakland vs the Oakland Raiders and the National Football League (and helped by a battery of private lawyers led by National Football League (NFL) anti-trust expert James Quinn of Berg & Androphy) last December started with mention of the NFL and its “complete market power” over franchise relocations, before moving to discuss the relocation process and the history of the Raiders in Oakland.
But with all of that, the first City of Oakland lawsuit complaint did not deal with the allegation that the NFL was not following its own relocation policies and the very valid claims of lost tax revenues to the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda.
This time, things are different.
The newly amended City of Oakland complaint expands dramatically on the NFL’s “complete market power over franchise relocations,” and to include discussion of the NFL as a cartel and its revenue sharing policies, before looking at the franchise relocation process, itself.
Then, the newly amended complaint explains what it calls “The NFL’s Broken Relocation Promises” in another new section, and gives a new history not presented in the first complaint, before it goes back to the matter of the history of the Raiders in Oakland.
But, and I think this is most important, the new City Of Oakland complaint does something the first one did not do: specifically discuss how the NFL and the Oakland Raiders failed to follow the League’s own relocation policies. The new complaint specifically goes to the claim that monetary damages were done. It even points to something the Oakland Athletics may find of interest: a devalued Oakland Coliseum:
Devaluation of the Coliseum Property 211. Oakland has also suffered significant losses from the devaluation of the Coliseum
property; with no hope of ever hosting an NFL team, that property has lost considerable value. Among other things, as a direct result of the Raiders’ relocation, Oakland will suffer from increased costs such as debt service (Oakland now must pay the debt service for the Authority in the absence of the Raiders) and increased maintenance costs of the Coliseum. As noted above, in a competitive professional football market, the Raiders would still be playing in the Coliseum, with negotiated renovations.
212. Further, that Defendants’ anticompetitive conduct compelled Oakland to propose a new Coliseum does not change the analysis. Oakland’s proposal was a response to anticompetitive demands. Defendants cannot benefit from their own anticompetitive behavior.
213. The “new” Coliseum was meant to occupy the same location and simply replace the current Coliseum. The Coliseum is more than just a building: it is a 155-acre property specifically designed to host sports teams, which includes significant improvements for that purpose (e.g., parking and a dedicated BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) stop).
In total, the City of Oakland’s newly filed complaint against the Oakland Raiders and the NFL is tighter and far less esoteric than the original filing. In focusing on lost tax revenue and breach of contract, something all but completely ignored in the original City of Oakland filing, the Oakland complaint is brought in line with its to-date-more-successful St. Louis relative. The City and County of St. Louis, and that stadium authority called The Sports Complex Authority are suing the Rams and the NFL for breach of contract and fraud.
In the latest twist in that case, L.A. Rams principal owner Stan Kronke lost a major court battle to have the matter brought before a private arbitrator, rather than in public court in St. Louis. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled the relocation lawsuit should be decided in a St. Louis courtroom and not before an arbitrator. In response, Kronke’s lawyers are trying to get the U.S Supreme Court to take up the case – an effort few lawyers give any real chance of happening.
Will Judge Joseph Spero Pay Attention And Read The Case Documents This Time?
The real question is will San Francisco Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero read the complaint and the documents that go with it. Judge Spero’s initial set of questions, and willingness to rubber-stamp a questionable 33-page answer to the original filing leaves this blogger wondering if Judge Joseph Spero actually understands how sports league’s work, even at the little league level?
Or, perhaps he was playing a legal game to draw out a better and more expansive, and less theoretically-based, complaint. If that’s the case, it worked, and Judge Joseph Spero just might be the genius Oakland needs.