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MLB Seeks Dismissal Of Suit Over Possible A’s Move To San Jose

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A rendering of what a downtown San Jose ballpark would look like. (SJ Redevelopment Agency)

A rendering of what a downtown San Jose ballpark would look like. (SJ Redevelopment Agency)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – A federal judge in San Jose will hear arguments Friday on Major League Baseball’s bid for dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit in which the South Bay city claims the MLB is illegally impeding a possible move by the Oakland A’s to San Jose.

San Jose filed the lawsuit against the baseball association and Commissioner Bud Selig in June.

It claims their allegedly “illegal and collusive actions thwarted (San Jose’s) diligent efforts to procure a major league baseball team for Silicon Valley.”

The proposed move has been stalled, the lawsuit says, by the San Francisco Giants’ assertion of territorial rights in Santa Clara County as well as a lack of action by a committee appointed by Selig in 2009 to study Bay Area territorial issues.

Provisions of the MLB Constitution that enabled the stalling to occur “unduly and unlawfully restrict the ability of MLB clubs to relocate” in violation of federal antitrust laws, the lawsuit contends.

One of the provisions is a requirement that three-fourths of the MLB clubs must approve a team’s relocation into another team’s territory. The Giants acquired the Santa Clara County territory in 1990, when the team was considering a move to the South Bay.

MLB, meanwhile, has asked U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte to toss out the lawsuit without a trial.

It claims it is protected by a 91-year-old doctrine, first created by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1922 decision and upheld several times since then, that exempts professional baseball from antitrust laws.

“The Supreme Court has never indicated any intention to limit or abolish baseball’s antitrust exemption,” MLB lawyers wrote in a filing submitted to Whyte.

San Jose contends that one of the high court’s later decisions shows that the antitrust exemption should be interpreted narrowly to apply only to employment and labor disputes by players.

MLB’s lawyers maintain that argument is incorrect and that the Supreme Court’s “holding remained rock solid: the business of baseball is exempt from antitrust scrutiny.”

The San Jose lawsuit also includes claims of violations of state antitrust law, unfair competition and interference with prospective economic advantage.

The MLB argues those claims should be dismissed as well, because of either a conflict with federal antitrust law or a lack of legal foundation.

The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse at 280 South First St. Whyte could either rule from the bench after hearing arguments or take the case under consideration and issue a written decision at a later date.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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