San Jose has resumed its legal assault on Major League Baseball, urging a federal appeals court to strip baseball of its cherished antitrust exemption and find the league has violated the city's rights by stalling its quest to lure the Oakland A's to Silicon Valley.
In court papers filed Wednesday night, San Jose asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate its central legal arguments against Major League Baseball, which rely on claims that the league has undermined the A's desire to move to a new downtown ballpark in San Jose.
Calling MLB's nearly century-old exemption from antitrust laws a product of a bygone era, San Jose lawyers argue their lawsuit should be allowed to proceed over what they say is an unjustified delay in deciding the A's fate. U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte dismissed the case last year, finding that baseball's antitrust exemption barred it.
The 9th Circuit recently agreed with San Jose's request to put the case on a fast track, which could allow the court to hear arguments as soon as May. MLB's lawyers, who have called the city's claims meritless, are expected to file counterarguments in the coming weeks.
San Jose, the A's ownership and MLB have been embroiled in a standoff for more than four years, as baseball has yet to act on the team's request to move to the South Bay. The San Francisco Giants own territorial rights to the South Bay and oppose the move, which as a result must be approved by league owners.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig notified A's owner Lew Wolff last June that for now the move has been rejected, according to court documents. Wolff, however, has downplayed the league's position, insisting he will continue to press to move the A's from O.Co Coliseum, the league's fifth oldest ballpark, to San Jose.
In addition to the federal court case, San Jose has a separate state court lawsuit pending in which city lawyers argue MLB's position on the A's has undermined the city's business interests because it interferes with an option agreement between the city and team to buy land for the ballpark.
Even if the city prevails in court, San Jose voters would have to approve the ballpark deal. Oakland city officials, meanwhile, continue to work on keeping the A's in the East Bay.
Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz