9th Circuit Throws Out San Jose’s Antitrust Suit Against MLB

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In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that San Jose’s antitrust claims against MLB were barred by baseball’s antitrust exemption.

After its antitrust suit against MLB in 2013 was dismissed by a trial court, San Jose had appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit early last year to continue its effort to move the Oakland A’s to Silicon Valley.

San Jose challenged the 92-year old antitrust exemption of MLB to bring the Oakland Athletics to Silicon Valley pursuant to the 2011 agreement with the team because San Jose is in Santa Clara County which falls under the San Francisco Giants’ territory under MLB’s constitution.  It argued that the territory rules violated federal antitrust laws.

The antitrust exemption was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922 and was most recently challenged and upheld in Flood v. Kuhn in 1972.  Citing Flood, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote that

“San Jose is, at bottom, asking us to deem Flood wrongly decided, and that we cannot do.  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.’”

“It’s no surprise that we would have to go to the Supreme Court to eliminate an antitrust exemption created by that same court,” San Jose Mayor Sam Licardo said expecting the City Council’s approval of the Supreme Court appeal in the coming weeks.

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