San Jose's antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball over the city's stalled effort to lure the Oakland A's has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte, one of the Bay Area's most experienced federal judges.
In a brief notice filed Tuesday, the court revealed that the case has been randomly assigned to Whyte, a 1992 appointee of former President George H.W. Bush known for being one of the nation's most influential judges in high-tech law. Whyte, 70, took semiretired, or "senior," status three years ago but still hears a steady diet of cases in the San Jose federal courthouse.
As a result of the long-stalled attempt to bring the Oakland A's to a ballpark in downtown San Jose, city leaders sued baseball in June, accusing the league of violating antitrust laws in a conspiracy to deprive San Jose of the ability to secure a major league team. Major League Baseball has been considering how to handle the A's interest in moving to San Jose in view of the San Francisco Giants' claim of territorial rights in the South Bay.
The lawsuit originally was assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard Lloyd. But lawyers in the case did not agree to have the case heard by a magistrate judge.
Whyte was then assigned the case through the court's computerized system.
The soft-spoken, lanky Whyte has presided over some of Silicon Valley's fiercest corporate showdowns, including Microsoft's battle with Sun Microsystems in the late 1990s and more recently the multibillion-dollar feud between Rambus and Hynix.
Whyte also struck down California's law barring the sale of violent video games to minors, a free speech ruling ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Before joining the federal bench, Whyte was a Santa Clara Superior Court judge for three years, appointed by former Gov. George Deukmejian. He spent much of his career as a lawyer with the San Jose law firm Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel, and got his law degree from the University of Southern California.
In his personal life, Whyte lists tennis, skiing and basketball among his hobbies. There is no mention of baseball.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz.