Is the NFL faced with a ‘hostile bench’ in St. Louis relocation suit?
Irwin Kishner, co-chair of Herrick's Sports Law Group, was quoted in The Athletic in an article on the lawsuit between a consortium of St. Louis-area municipal outlets against the NFL regarding the 2016 relocation of the Rams to Los Angeles. This week, the judge ordered five NFL owners and the commissioner to turn over their finances to assess potential damages in the lawsuit. The article notes that the ruling is "confusing" because it is "laying the groundwork for damages before a trial" and even before an August summary judgment hearing in which the NFL will ask the court to throw out the case.
"It is putting the cart before the horse," said Kishner, adding he has never of financial disclosures for damages at this stage of litigation. "So why are they going to damages at this point, when that hasn't even been established. And the other thing that's odd is the standard, governed by state law, it has to be clear and convincing evidence for the need to have this information disclosed. And I don't understand how that standard was met. Seems to me is that there's a very hostile bench, that could be, trying to say, 'Boy, St. Louis didn't get a great deal on this.'"
The article states that the heart of the St. Louis plaintiff's case is that the NFL purportedly ignored its own relocation bylaws, which require that an owner make his or her best effort to stay in the existing market. The NFL has argued that it is "immaterial whether the league broke its bylaws because St. Louis is not a party to them." Kishner argued that "St. Louis should have negotiated a ban on relocation into the original stadium lease. Only then could it have standing to sue."
The article notes that the NFL will likely appeal the ruling and that settlement is also a possibility. Accordingly, the ruling seeking financial information from the owners "suggests that the judge is holding them personally responsible."
Read the full piece in The Athletic here. Access requires a subscription.