San Jose and its law firm — working on a contingency basis, so the entire proceedings cost local taxpayers nothing — have argued in court that San Jose’s right to a MLB team trumps MLB’s antitrust exemption. So far that argument has not proved compelling, as the city has lost twice, including earlier this year before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite the setbacks, the San Jose City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the appeal. From the San Jose Mercury News:
“This is about to get fun,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said after the closed-door vote.
It remains unclear, however, whether the Supreme Court will take up the case, and there have been no shortage of legal experts who doubt the battle will ever make it to Washington, D.C. The court only agrees to hear about 75 to 80 cases each year, or about 0.8 percent of the appeals it receives.
“On the whole, the odds are probably relatively slim for the city,” Nathaniel Grow, an assistant legal studies professor at the University of Georgia who has been following the case and has written a book about baseball’s antitrust law. But “I’ve always said if they can get the Supreme Court to take the case, the odds would be in their favor.”
The central issue is MLB’s territorial rules and the use of the antitrust exemption to enforce those rules. San Jose is part of San Francisco’s territory, and the Giants ownership have blocked the move of the A’s to San Jose, saying the team would siphon off revenues from the Giants. MLB owners take territorial rights very seriously — every large-market team embraces them as a way to keep another team out of New Jersey or Los Angeles or Boston— and expecting MLB to drop their territorial rules is sheer folly, no matter how loudly San Jose advocates argue for a team. Still, the appeal is logical: The U.S. Supreme Court created the MLB antitrust exemption, the U.S. Supreme Court can strike down the MLB antitrust exemption.
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