Thursday, June 9, 2005
S.C. to Rule on Raiders’ Bid for New Trial in Suit Against NFL
By Kenneth Ofgang, Staff Writer/Appellate Courts
The state Supreme Court yesterday agreed to decide whether a Los Angeles Superior Court judge was correct in granting the Oakland Raiders a new trial in the team’s $1.2 billion conspiracy lawsuit against the National Football League.
All seven justices, who held their weekly conference yesterday in San Francisco, voted to review a February ruling by Div. Two of this district’s Court of Appeal, which overturned the new trial order by Judge Richard Hubbell and reinstated the jury’s verdict.
Jurors concluded the league did not interfere with the team’s negotiations to build a stadium at Hollywood Park in the mid-1990s, and that the Raiders did not own the right to put an NFL team in Los Angeles and thus were not entitled to compensation from the league for freeing up those rights by moving to Oakland.
Hubbell, who has since retired, granted the Raiders a new trial on the ground of juror misconduct. Such rulings are usually reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard, but Justice Kathryn Doi Todd, in her opinion for the Court of Appeal, said the decision was subject to de novo examination in this case because Hubbell did not adequately state his reasons.
The trial judge’s statement that “the objectively ascertainable acts of Juror misconduct were prejudicial to the Oakland Raiders’ right to a fair trial,” Doi Todd wrote, did not comply with Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 657’s requirement that the court “specify the ground or grounds upon which it is granted and the court’s reason or reasons for granting the new trial upon each ground stated.”
Both sides expressed confidence they would eventually prevail.
“Had that juror not been biased, the NFL would not have won its case,” Raiders attorney Larry Feldman told the Associated Press. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded that “the jury ruled in our favor in this case and the appellate court upheld that decision unanimously.”
“We are confident that when the California Supreme Court reviews the case, it will reach the same conclusion,” Aiello said.
The Raiders moved back to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995—13 years after the team moved south.
After that move, the Raiders sued the NFL and Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, claiming, among other things, that the league interfered with their plans to move from the Los Angeles Coliseum to a new stadium by insisting that the new facility also host a second NFL team.
The Raiders sued on theories of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, civil conspiracy, bad faith, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference with business relations. All of the team’s claims, however, were rejected either by the judge—who granted the league summary adjudication on several causes of action—or by the jury after a six-week trial and 15 days of deliberations.
But the judge later ordered a new trial on the five causes of action that went to the jury, finding in favor of the Raiders on their claim that a juror was biased because he said to fellow jurors during deliberations that he hated the team and its owner, Al Davis, and would never find in their favor in the case.
The juror responded in a declaration that he made the statement as a joke because he once lost a small bet on the team in Las Vegas.
In an unpublished portion of her opinion, Doi Todd said the juror’s declaration, supported by the declarations of several other jurors who said they did not hear the statement or took it as a joke and that the embattled juror did not express bias, adequately refuted the claim of bias, as to which the Raiders had the burden of proof.
In other conference action, the justices:
•Agreed to decide whether a delay in taking a defendant to a county in which he had a case pending, until after his case in the county in which he was held was completed, prejudiced the defendant by denying him the opportunity for a concurrent sentence and thus violated his rights to a speedy trial, as ruled by the trial court and the Sixth District Court of Appeal in People v. Lowe, H026889.
•Agreed to decide whether a defendant, whose conviction of attempted kidnapping in commission of a carjacking was erroneous because there was no completed carjacking, should have the verdict modified to reflect convictions for both attempted kidnapping and attempted carjacking, or only for attempted carjacking. The Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled in People v. Navarro, F044291, that imposing two convictions—but only one sentence, pursuant to Penal Code Sec. 654—was appropriate.
•Agreed to decide whether the determination of a whether sexual offenses occurred on separate offenses, subjecting the defendant to enhanced sentencing under the One-Strike Law must be submitted to a jury under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Blakely decision.
The First District’s Div. Two ruled in People v. Saphao, A103716, that the issue should have been submitted to the jury, but that the failure to do so was harmless where no reasonable jury could have found that the offenses, the second of which was committed 53 minutes after the first and after the defendant admittedly had time to reflect on the gravity of what he had done, and after he had left the house and returned, were committed on separate occasions.
•Agreed to decide whether enhancement allegations must be taken into consideration when determining whether an offense is necessarily included within another for purposes of prohibiting multiple convictions under Sec. 654. The Third District Court of Appeal answered that question in the affirmative in People v. Sloan, C042448, holding that corporal injury on a spouse necessarily includes aggravated assault and battery with serious bodily injury if a great bodily injury enhancement allegation is pled.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company