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Weil Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Overturn Major League Baseball Antitrust Exemption

On September 18, 2023, Weil filed a petition for certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the century-old common-law antitrust exemption for professional baseball.

Weil brought a federal antitrust action against Major League Baseball (MLB) on behalf of its clients, the Staten Island Yankees, Tri-City ValleyCats, Norwich Sea Unicorns and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, alleging that Major League Baseball’s restructuring violates the U.S. antitrust laws in a challenge to the Supreme Court’s “baseball exemption.”

Several high-profile organizations and individuals are expected to file amicus briefs in support of the petition shortly.

Weil filed the initial complaint in December 2021 in the Southern District of New York. On June 15, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a Statement of Interest on behalf of the plaintiffs, arguing that the baseball exemption is “aberrational” and should not be construed as broadly as it has been previously, weighing in great favor to the plaintiffs and the likelihood that SCOTUS will ultimately hear the case. It is very rare for the DOJ to intervene in a case at the District Court level. On October 26, 2022, as expected, the court granted MLB’s motion to dismiss, but solely on exemption grounds, and rejected MLB’s other defenses.

Ultimately, Judge Andrew Carter recognized that the only reason MLB’s conduct is not subject to challenge is because he was bound by a 100-year-old line of Supreme Court cases and legislation that has (to date) exempted MLB from antitrust scrutiny. Judge Carter also cited the DOJ’s Statement of Interest that generally supported the plaintiffs and advocated against construing MLB’s exemption broadly, and the court concluded that even under a narrow construction, the exemption applied.

On behalf of the plaintiffs, Weil appealed to the Second Circuit in late 2022, which was supported by an amicus brief from the DOJ. The appeal stated that the Second Circuit’s hands were tied by Supreme Court precedent, and asked the Second Circuit to affirm the District Court’s opinion quickly so that the plaintiffs could appeal to the Supreme Court. The Second Circuit issued its decision in June 2023. The plaintiffs are now appealing this decision to the Supreme Court.

The Weil team is led by David Lender, Co-Chair of Weil’s global Litigation Department, and includes partners Greg Silbert and Eric Hochstadt, and associates Zach Schreiber, Shai Berman, Daniel Lifton, and Mark Pinkert.