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San Jose Files New Suit Against MLB Over Proposed A’s Move

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An artist’s rendering of what a downtown San Jose ballpark would look like. (SJ Redevelopment Agency)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The city of San Jose moved forward in two different courts Thursday with its bid to clear a possible path for the Oakland A’s to move to a new baseball stadium in San Jose.

In one action, the city filed a lawsuit in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, alleging that Major League Baseball is wrongly interfering with San Jose’s economic and contractual advantages by blocking the move.

The A’s club is not participating in the lawsuit, but has a three-year option to buy property from San Jose on which the team could build a new stadium to replace its aging facility in Oakland.

The city claims MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig are interfering with that option through a combination of restrictive provisions in the MLB’s constitutions and alleged stalling by an MLB relocation committee assigned to study a possible move.

“The Oakland Athletics have expressed the desire to move the Club to the city of San Jose and to exercise the option agreement,” the lawsuit claims.

“MLB has made it clear that it plans to oppose and prevent the relocation of the Oakland Athletics to San Jose,” says the lawsuit, which seeks financial compensation for the city’s alleged loss of millions of dollars in tax revenue from the stadium and new jobs.

In a second step on Thursday, San Jose filed a notice with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that it will appeal a federal trial judge’s dismissal of its antitrust claims against the MLB.

San Jose won’t file its appeal arguments until after the circuit court sets a briefing schedule, and it could be months before the court issues a ruling. But attorney Philip Gregory said the city will ask the court to set an expedited briefing schedule.

“We’re trying to get it done soon,” he said.

Both steps taken by the city follow from U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte’s dismissal of a federal lawsuit filed by the city last June.

In October, Whyte dismissed antitrust claims in the lawsuit, agreeing with MLB’s argument that a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court decision specifically exempted baseball from federal antitrust laws.

That dismissal was the subject of the appeal notice filed Thursday.

San Jose has argued, thus far unsuccessfully, that the high court decision doesn’t apply to its case, but Gregory acknowledged that the city might have to eventually take its case to the Supreme Court to try to have the baseball antitrust exemption set aside.

“We’re absolutely prepared to do that. Baseball should be treated like any other sport,” he said.

On Dec. 27, Whyte dismissed the two interference claims remaining in the case. He said that because those claims concerned California law, it would be more appropriate for them to be pursued in the state court system.

The two dismissal rulings cleared the way for the city to appeal the antitrust claim in the federal appeals court and refile the interference claims in a state superior court.

The new lawsuit was filed in Santa Cruz County rather than Santa Clara County Superior Court because California law doesn’t allow cities to file such lawsuits within their own counties, Gregory said.

He said MLB has until late March to respond to the lawsuit and said he expects the organization to ask for dismissal of the new case. An MLB spokesman was not available for comment.

The MLB constitutional provisions challenged by San Jose are a measure giving the San Francisco Giants territorial rights over Santa Clara County, which would take a vote of three-fourths of the 30 club owners to change, and a measure requiring a three-fourths vote of approval before a club can relocate.

In September, the A’s paid $25,000 to extend the stadium property purchase option to Nov. 8 of this year, the lawsuit said.

© Copyright 2014 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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