Fans Write Judge, Seek Commissioner’s Deposition

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On October 14, 2015, a letter was written to Hon. Judge Scheindlin of the Southern District of New York asking for the opportunity to depose MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred. The letter, written by counsel representing a class of baseball fans, is in relation to an antitrust class action suit filed in 2012 against Major League Baseball and its broadcasting blackout rules. The fans are challenging the restrictions that MLB and the major cable and satellite companies are able to impose on local television broadcasting for games in small market territories.

In their strongly worded letter, the plaintiffs ask Judge Scheindlin to allow them a chance to depose Commissioner Manfred, whom they believe is going to testify at trial on a wider range of topics than MLB initially discussed. While the plaintiffs are not opposed to allowing Manfred to testify, they simply seek the opportunity to question the Commissioner prior to hearing for the first time his statements in court. And although discovery for the case closed last year, Judge Scheindlin has the power to reopen discovery and allow the deposition prior to trial.

MLB, on the other hand, seeks to block the aforementioned opportunity, arguing that the fans had the chance to depose Commissioner Manfred during the discovery period, and in being able to depose him now would go against judicial fairness. In response, however, the plaintiffs argue that they didn’t originally depose the Commissioner when they could have because MLB communicated that Manfred, who was only an executive vice president in 2013 when depositions occurred, was only to testify at trial in a much narrower light, being called to only address “media revenue and competitive broadcasting balance.” But since being promoted to Commissioner, which the plaintiffs tell Judge Scheindlin they had no opportunity to predict two years ago, MLB seeks to call Manfred to testify on matters involving “rule changing and the effects of broadcast rules and territories,” which they argue are much broader than originally anticipated.

Giving them this opportunity to depose the Commissioner, the fans plead, would be in the fair interest of justice and would prevent any litigious advantage heading into trial.

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