ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The long-running fight between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals over television rights fees reached New York’s highest court Tuesday when a lawyer for the Orioles argued a $296.8 million award for 2012-16 made by a panel of baseball executives should be thrown out and the case reheard by a different forum.
Derek L. Shaffer, a lawyer for the Nationals, told the six judges of the New York Court of Appeals they should affirm the decision, as New York Supreme Court Justice Joel M. Cohen did in 2019 and an appellate panel did the following year. Shaffer predicted additional litigation between the teams in a dispute that could hold up a potential sale of the Nationals, which said last April they were exploring the marketplace.
“Potential disputes that your honor is alluding to are ones that will be litigated, as this case has been litigated, until kingdom come by my friends for the other side,” Shaffer said. “So I think that is a recipe for just having this litigation continue and continue in a never-ending fashion as opposed to having one chapter of this at long last more than a decade later conclude.”
MASN, which is controlled by the Orioles, paid the Nationals for 2012-16 what Baltimore proposed: $197.5 million. Washington argued it should be paid $475 million. An arbitration panel of baseball executives — Pittsburgh Pirates President Frank Coonelly, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon — heard the case in 2012 and ruled in 2014 that the Nationals were owed $298.1 million.
The Orioles appealed, and that decision was thrown out in 2015 by New York Supreme Court Justice Lawrence K. Marks, who ruled that a law firm representing the Nationals was conflicted because it had worked for clubs of executives on the panel. The appellate division sent the case back to baseball to be heard by a reconstituted Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee.
A second panel of baseball executives — Milwaukee Brewers chairman Mark Attanasio, Seattle Mariners President Kevin Mather and Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro — ordered the slightly lower payment of $296.8 million.
The Orioles argue that the process remained tainted and should be decided by a different forum.
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