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Court rejects Raiders' bid for new trial on NFL

By Julia Cheever

July 3, 2007

The Oakland Raiders lost a bid to the California Supreme Court yesterday to keep alive an eight year-old lawsuit in which the team sought $1.2 billion in damages from the National Football League.

The court in San Francisco unanimously refused to order a new trial on an unsuccessful lawsuit in which the team claimed the NFL undermined its plans to build a new stadium in the Los Angeles area.

The court said the Raiders failed to prove there was misconduct among members of a Los Angeles Superior Court jury that rejected the suit in 2001.

Oakland Raiders general counsel Jeff Birren said he disagreed with the decision and said, "The Supreme Court ruling is incomprehensible."

NFL attorney Gregg Levy said, "This ruling should bring an end to a long period of litigation and allow the parties to focus their efforts on football fields rather than issues of law."

The Raiders played in Los Angeles from 1982 to 1994 and moved back to Oakland in 1995 after plans for a new stadium at Hollywood Park in Ingleside fell through.

The team's lawsuit, filed in 1999, claimed the league interfered with the efforts to build a new stadium and also owed compensation for the opportunity to replace the Raiders in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit sought $500 million in damages for the failure of the stadium plan and $700 million for the league's opportunity to put another team in Los Angeles.

After the jury rejected those claims, the trial judge, Superior Court Judge Richard Hubbell, ordered a new trial on grounds of juror misconduct.

But the judge failed to explain his reasoning and did not say which of two jurors cited by the Raiders committed misconduct.

In 2005, a state appeals court in Los Angeles overturned the new trial order and in yesterday's ruling the state high court agreed with that action, thus leaving the original jury verdict in place.

The panel said that because the trial judge hadn't given his reasoning, it had to review the evidence independently, instead of taking the usual path of deferring to the trial judge. It said that under that standard of review, the Raiders hadn't proved that juror misconduct occurred.

Justice Joyce Kennard wrote in the court's opinion that the evidence of alleged misconduct by two jurors was "sharply conflicting" and was therefore inconclusive.

The Raiders had claimed that one juror had told fellow jurors he hated the Raiders and owner Al Davis and that another juror who was a lawyer had improperly given her own instructions on the law during deliberations.

The two jurors in post-trial statements denied any wrongdoing and other jurors gave conflicting statements about what their colleagues had said.

Justice Marvin Baxter wrote in a concurring opinion that the result is that "the Raiders snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this proceeding."

Baxter noted that the new trial order would normally have been likely to be upheld if the judge had given adequate written reasoning, but that the team lost because the judge failed to do so and the team didn't prove its case under the independent review standard.

Birren, disputing the ruling, said, "The experienced judge who oversaw the trial between the National Football League and the Raiders found that there were overt acts of juror misconduct and ordered a new trial.

"The Supreme Court ruled that because the judge failed to insert a few words of additional explanation, the Raiders should be denied a new trial," Birren said.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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