Now that a federal appeals court has upheld Major League Baseball's exemption from antitrust laws, San Jose will likely take its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sustained MLB's dismissal of the lawsuit by the city, which accuses the league of unfairly blocking the Oakland A's from moving to the South Bay. Santa Clara County is San Francisco Giants' territory under MLB rules, which the city claims is a violation of federal antitrust laws.
San Jose, the 9th Circuit ruling states, "joins the long line of litigants that have sought to overturn one of federal law’s most enduring anomalies."
But a three-judge panel ruled unanimously Thursday that the case was void because of baseball's antitrust exemption, created by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922 and reaffirmed twice in the past half-century.
"Like Casey, San Jose has struck out here," the ruling says, in a nod to Ernest Lawrence Thayer's baseball poem "Casey at the Bat."
Mayor Sam Liccardo said the decision was expected. It was also an important step in the process, he says, since only a Supreme Court ruling can revisit the century-old decision that created the antitrust exemption.
“San Jose should be allowed to compete with other cities for major league teams, and I expect the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the nation’s fundamental predisposition toward fair and free competition," Liccardo said Thursday. "Since taxpayers do not have to foot the bill for this litigation, San Jose has nothing but upside to continue to pursue this to the Supreme Court, as a successful result will enable a half-billion dollar, privately-financed stadium in the heart of our city."
Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, however, called the ruling a huge setback and, as the founder of Baseball San Jose, personally disappointing.
"It is frustrating that Major League Baseball continues to interfere with a business deal between the City of San Jose and [A's owner] Mr. [Lew] Wolff, and deny San Jose and Santa Clara County of an economic opportunity," Cortese said.
San Jose's case asked the court to invalidate a precedent set in Flood v. Kuhn, a 1972 decision upholding baseball's antitrust exemption.
"San Jose is, at bottom, asking us to deem Flood wrongly decided, and that we cannot do," the 9th Circuit wrote. "Only Congress and the Supreme Court are empowered to question Flood's continued vitality, and with it, the fate of baseball's singular and historic exemption from the antitrust laws."
Faced with declining attendance and revenue, the Oakland A's set its sights on San Jose, where they hoped to attract wealthier sponsors. But relocating to another team's territory requires approval from three-quarters of MLB clubs. The league has taken its sweet time granting this approval, forming a relocation committee that has come to exactly no public conclusions in the six years since its founding.
In the meantime, the A's have advanced their own plans, keeping a deposit on land in downtown San Jose where it hopes to build a new stadium.
Arguing that the delay was a deliberate effort by the MLB to prevent the move, San Jose filed its lawsuit in 2013.
Click here to read the ruling in its entirety.