SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The city of San Jose's antitrust claims against Major League Baseball were dismissed Friday by a federal judge, who allowed the city to pursue allegations of contract interference in connection with the Oakland Athletics' stalled relocation plans.
U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte in San Jose ruled that MLB's antitrust exemption, created by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922, barred most of the claims in San Jose's lawsuit. The city filed the lawsuit in June, accusing MLB of conspiring to stop the team's proposal to move to a planned ballpark in downtown San Jose.
MLB defines San Jose and its suburbs in Santa Clara County as the exclusive territory of the San Francisco Giants.
Whyte rejected San Jose's contention that the antitrust exemption was limited to the player reserve system and ruled it includes MLB's "business interests," such as relocation issues.
The Supreme Court last upheld the exemption in the 1972 Curt Flood case, when the court said it was up to Congress to change the exemption. Whyte said the fact that Congress altered the exemption in the 1998 Curt Flood Act only with respect to the employment of major league players was evidence that Congress did not wish to alter it for baseball's other business.
"The court holds that MLB's alleged interference with the A's relocation to San Jose is exempt from antitrust regulation," the judge wrote.
San Jose's outsider lawyer, Joe Cotchett, said he plans to appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"I find it hard to believe Major League Baseball is not subject to the same antitrust rules that apply to all other sports," Cotchett said.
The judge did allow San Jose to pursue claims MLB interfered with the city's contract with the A's, which involves an option to purchase downtown land for a new ballpark.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig established a committee in March 2009 to study the issue and says the group remains at work.
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