Sports Law Blog
All things legal relating
to the sports world...
Monday, March 17, 2014
Judge Wilken deems Alston v. NCAA a Related Case to O'Bannon and Keller v. NCAA
In a move that will make it harder for the NCAA to transfer the ever-expanding In Re NCAA litigation out of California to another court, such as one in Indiana, Judge Claudia Wilken has just deemed former West Virginia running back Shawne Alston's lawsuit v. NCAA to be a related case. Alston sued the NCAA earlier this month in the the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California -- the same court hearing O'Bannon and Keller -- arguing restrictions on athletic scholarships violates antitrust law. He hopes the suit will become a class action. Today was also eventful because four current players, led by sports attorney Jeffrey Kessler, sued the NCAA over athletic scholarships in a lawsuit similar to one brought by Alston (Kessler's case is unaffected by Judge Wilken's order).
One of Alston's lead attorneys, Jon King of Hagens Berman, explained to me the impact of Judge Wiken's order:
1. McCann: Am I right that this means that the Alston case is now, like Keller and O'Bannon, part of In: Re NCAA?
Jon King: Yes, although all 3 cases will proceed on different schedules – just as Keller and O’Bannon currently are on different schedules. The main import of today’s ruling is that it will make it much tougher for the NCAA or the Conference Defendants to successfully argue that the Alston case should be transferred to another district court, such as in Indiana, where the NCAA is headquartered.
2. McCann: Will you and other lawyers for Alston be part of the decision-making process for the plaintiffs in O'Bannon and Keller?
Jon King: No -- everything is separate in terms of the decision-making – but it happens to be that my firm is lead counsel in Keller, and one of the two firms that filed Alston – the effect of a “related case order” like today’s is really more about the Judge –means that the Judge will have oversight over all of the cases and make sure they are all coordinated and efficient – that is a lot easier to do if one judge is presiding over all of the cases – for example, it can help so that the same witness does not need to be deposed multiple times by multiple groups of plaintiffs – can get everything coordinated in one spot and on one day. Some of this is easier said than done, but definitely easier to do if only one judge involved.
3. McCann: I assume this also means that, given the similarities of Kessler's case to the Alston case, Kessler's case may eventually be deemed a related case as well, even if filed in a different state?
Jon King: It is a more complicated question as to his case – because it was filed in another federal court, in New Jersey, as opposed to here in the Bay Area – there are a few other ways in which cases in these circumstances can be combined – one of the ways is by going before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, a panel of 7 federal judges that decides where to centralize cases where there are similar ones in different districts around the country.