Thursday, December 4, 2008

Williams Update (for those who still care)

I don't want to turn this into The Civil Procedure Blog, but after reviewing the Williamses' complaint, I have some more thoughts on how this whole thing might play out.

First, unlike the initial speculation at PFT, the Williamses have not alleged any federal claims---such as those arising under the Labor Management Relations Act. What this means is that the only way that the NFL could get into federal court would be if none of the plaintiffs and none of the defendants were citizens of the same state (this is called diversity of citizenship jurisdiction).

However, the complaint alleges that the NFL is an "unincorporated association." If the complaint is correct and the NFL is unincorporated, it has the citizenship of each and every one of its individual members---i.e., the individual franchises. Given that the NFL has a franchise in Minnesota (not much of franchise but still) the NFL is a citizen of the State of Minnesota. And because Kevin Williams is also a citizen of the State of Minnesota, the federal court has no jurisdiction over the case.

Put another way, the Williamses are in total control. They can stay in state court provided that they do not amend their complaint to add a federal cause of action.

Making things more interesting, the NFLPA will purportedly file its own suit today in federal court. Thus, the NFL will have to fight a legal battle on two separate fronts.

It would not shock me if the two sides struck a deal. For example, the Williamses sit out against the Lions and serve the rest of their suspensions during the '09 season. On the other hand, if the NFL caves, it will send a message to the players. The NFL would risk having to going to court over every future player suspension.

UPDATE: Apparently the NFL has tried to remove and the case is in the federal court for the time-being. That doesn't mean it will stay there. I still believe the players have an excellent argument that their case belongs in state court. On a related topic, now that the case is in federal court, the TRO automatically dissolves in 10 business days unless extended.

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