Ruling Expected to Send Fight for Oakland A’s to Supreme Court

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.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


        • did I forget to mention……….In a unanimous ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected San Jose’s claims that baseball’s refusal to allow the A’s to move to a downtown ballpark violates federal antitrust laws……….there lies your waste of money

    • The lawyers on the court case have taken it on contingency. There is no cost to the city of San Jose for this lawsuit.

      The idea that the zero dollars spent on this could be spent better elsewhere doesn’t really make any sense.

  1. Would love to have a sports team her in San Jose , unfortunately this city goes about everything , the absolute wrong way. The supreme Court will refuse to hear this nonsense and the decision will stand . Hopefully some one (DEFINITELY NOT Reed /Liccardo) will figure out a way to bring people together to make this thing happen

  2. I admire our recent Mayor and his insight to bring a professional baseball team into our city. The area of the proposed stadium is centrally located with no traffic or parking problems and plenty of access to our extremely efficient public transportation system. This is an important legal fight, as are all the legal battles the city has undertaken and have been successful in (even though it does not look that way). Measure B was also another future vision of our recent mayor and it has been a resounding success and has no impact on our police and fire staffing. We are still one of the safest cities in the third world.

  3. Nothing will happen until a financial compensation package has been worked out between the Giants and the A’s. Bud Selig has been catatonic on the issue. Perhaps Rob Manfred will get things moving. Deals were worked out in the NY Metro area, so a deal can be worked out here; if the new commissioner helps. It seems to me that the Supreme Court has far bigger fish to fry, and is unlikely to accept the case.

  4. Chuck’s Folly is now Sam’s Folly… From a purely legal standpoint the City’s Case was DOA just like The City’s case for Measure B. Yet Lawyer Chuck and Lawyer Sam continue to spend large sums of taxpayer money either defending losers as in B or preparing infrastucture supporting a stadium that may never come to be.

  5. The Oakland A’s in San Jose will be the best thing for the city ‘sports wise’ since the San Jose Sharks. For those deeply rooted in sports, the Sharks have been one of the most successful Hockey Franchises in NHL falling short of playoffs no more than twice in their existence (since 1991).

    I honestly believe that the Giants are being rude about the situation. Especially since San Jose has historically been A’s territorial rights (up until the 90s maybe? Im no historian). I hear that the back story is that the Giants would be in Tampa Bay right now if it were not for the A’s giving up these rights.. Now that the A’s are near homelessness and Sports Franchises want to be in South Bay, its seems like the Giants have amnesia when it comes to doing a local favor. Either way, the Oakland A’s are reportedly buying property in SJ and are paying taxes on these parcels so I would not call these court costs a loss with no gain. Bring the A’s here. Its a fight worth fighting.

    • You want the A’s..fine…just don’t do it with tax payer funding. And that includes sweet heart land deals.

    • The Oakland A’s in San Jose will be the best thing for the city ‘sports wise’ since the San Jose Sharks.

      But it won’t be for the taxpayers and residents who live in the area.

  6. Will a San Jose ballpark prove as successful in revitalizing the downtown as the 2nd Street transit mall has…
    in creating a drug dealing zone for black criminals?

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