The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals denied the request by baseball owners to
NEW YORK (AP) _ The 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals denied the request by baseball owners to stay the injunction issued against them last week, clearing the way for the season to start April 26.
The three-judge panel battered management lawyer Frank Casey during a one-hour hearing, accusing him of faulty legal strategy and trying to confuse the court with doubletalk.
``You’re just going around in circles,″ Chief Judge Jon O. Newman told Casey.
The appeals court let stand the injunction issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor until the 2nd Circuit hears an expedited appeal during the first half of May. Their questioning made it clear there is little likelihood the injunction will be overturned.
``What would persuade you that your position is wrong?″ Chief Judge Jon O. Newman asked Casey. ``Do you want to hear it from Judge Sotomayor or from us?″
Two of the three judges on the panel told Casey they thought owners made a key legal mistake when they dropped their attempt to declare an impasse in bargaining. On Dec. 23, owners imposed a salary cap, but they abandoned the attempt Feb. 3 after the National Labor Relations Board said it was inclined to issue an unfair labor practice complaint.
``You could have fought that out in court and had a heck of a good case. You didn’t,″ Judge Ralph K. Winter said.
``You had the possibility of pursuing that with the NLRB and you threw in the towel,″ Judge J. Daniel Mahoney said.
Three days later, owners unilaterally abolished free agent bidding, salary arbitration and anti-collusion rules, claiming they were permissive rather than mandatory subjects of bargaining.
The NLRB issued a complaint on March 15, saying those provisions couldn’t be altered before an impasse, and Sotomayor’s injunction forces them to abide by the expires contract until she agrees there’s an impasse.
Casey said owners will not appeal today’s decision to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice responsible for the 2nd circuit.
Newman denied the stay motion from the bench and told both sides the appeal would be heard no earlier than May 1. He said a different panel may hear the appeal.
``I think the questioning certainly points out the areas that they want us to address and what they are thinking about,″ Casey said after the hearing.
``Today’s court action is another victory for the NLRB, for collective bargaining and for baseball,″ said Fred Feinstein, the NLRB’s general counsel. ``The court has again recognized the need to appropriately enforce labor law so that collective bargaining can have a chance of succeeding. Labor law is working as it should.″
It may have been the most one-sided court loss the owners have been handed in their battles with the players over the past 23 years. Casey spoke first and there hardly was a need for the National Labor Relations Board or the union to respond.
``Do you like the way the argument’s going so far?″ Winter said when union lawyer George Cohen got up to make his presentation.
Players ended their 232-day strike last Friday after Sotomayor issued the injunction.
Casey and Cohen said their sides were prepared to resume bargaining. On Monday night, President Clinton pressed the sides to continue bargaining and reach an agreement.
``I still hope they can get together and work out these differences,″ he said on CBS during halftime of the NCAA championship basketball game. ``We don’t need a cloud hanging over baseball for another whole season. They ought to be able to do it. They’re not that many people. There’s lot of money out there. They can figure out how to divide it and give us the sport back.″
Management lawyer Rob Manfred and union lawyer Lauren Rich on Monday signed an 11-page back-to-work agreement that called for at least 144 games this season and for spring training to start Wednesday.
The back-to-work agreement provides for expanded rosters of 28 players (instead of 25) until May 15. And free agents attending the union’s spring training camp in Homestead, Fla., may play exhibition games as a team against big league clubs.
``If we can schedule exhibition games, we will play them,″ said Judy Heeter, the union’s director of licensing. ``If they’re played in Homestead, we’ll play them for charity.″
Players also agreed for this season to relax restrictions on doubleheaders, one-day series, night games before doubleheaders, West Coast-to-East Coast travel and the prohibition on playing more than 20 days in a row. It also is likely that games will be played on the day following the All-Star game in July.
The back-to-work deal pushes back all of baseball’s business deadlines. The sides will exchange salary arbitration figures April 28 instead of Jan. 18. The hearings, which usually take place during the first three weeks of February, won’t be held until May at the earliest.
The unilateral salary renewals that clubs made in early March all were rescinded Monday. If free agents are offered salary arbitration this Friday by their former teams, there won’t be a cutoff date for them to re-sign.
The sides didn’t address service time, which will be an issue in the overall resolution of the dispute, or payments to the union’s pension plan. Because owners failed to make a $7.8 million payment following the All-Star game last summer, it is highly unlikely players would play the All-Star game or postseason without agreements calling for payment.