New York and Zuffa file Summary Judgment Motions in lawsuit

August 2, 2014

The state of New York and Zuffa filed Motions for Summary Judgment in the ongoing lawsuit which seemingly has no end.  The filings, which were filed Thursday of last week, each hope to bring a resolution to the lawsuit filed by Zuffa in November 2011.

As most know that have been following this legal fight, Zuffa and other named plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General of New York in an effort to strike down the existing legislative ban on professional MMA in the state.  The Court dismissed most of Zuffa’s claims including a legal claim suggesting it infringed against its First Amendment rights.

The remaining claims before the Court are whether the statute is unconstitutionally vague and the state liquor law which allows for liquor to be sold at events.  Both parties have requested the Court to rule in its favor on the remaining claims.

For New York, it is requesting the Court to dismiss the challenges made by Zuffa.  If granted, the case would effectively be over pending an appeal to the Circuit Court.

For Zuffa, it is requesting the Court to strike down the law banning professional MMA in the state.  This would effectively allow for professional MMA in the state since the law would no longer exist.  Of course, we’ll speculate on this later.

The standard for a Court to grant a Summary Judgment has the party filing the motion having to prove that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact” and that the person bringing the motion “is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Basically, the Court must find that based on the facts presented, there is no reason to hear anything else about the dispute because the facts show there is no dispute.  This certainly can be a tough threshold for any party bringing a motion.

New York’s Summary Judgment Motion

New York strategically argues that most of the named Plaintiffs must be dismissed because they have no standing.  Essentially, they cannot bring the lawsuit because there is no injury (i.e., damages).  In this scenario, if there are no damages, there is no standing to bring the claim.  Plaintiffs cannot bring a claim on hypothetical damages, rather the damages must be “actual and imminent.”  New York argues that most of the named Plaintiffs including Jon Jones, Gina Carano, Frankie Edgar, Matt Hammill and Brian Stann do not have the requisite standing because each have not suffered an actual injury and thus have no damage claim.  The parties had agreed that Jones, et al would not be deposed if they would not provide any evidence of the vagueness allegation.  Thus, New York now brings the motion to dismiss them.

It argues that the “only still surviving Exempt Organization,” the World Kickboxing Association (WKA) has only a “tentative” relationship with Zuffa.  It also points out that Zuffa and WKA have no formal agreement to run an event or future plans to do so.  Thus, Zuffa cannot claim injury.

Arguing that the Plaintiffs have no standing means the Court does not need to rule on the substantive legal issue-whether § 8905-a, the law banning professional MMA (or the New York “Liquor Law” which prohibits licensees who serve alcohol for on-premises consumption) is unconstitutionally vague.

While this may be cynical, arguing the procedural issues rather than the substantive content allows the Court an “out.”  Courts would not have to decide on the constitutionality of a law if the procedures to address the actual issue are not met.  Rather, Courts could allow the legislative branch the chance to address the law.  And, as we know Zuffa has been trying to do this for a while with no success.

If you are looking for a recent case that reflects a Court ruling on procedural grounds rather than substantive, look at the U.S. Supreme Court case which ruled on California’s Proposition 8.  In that case, the Supreme Court did not rule on the legal issues as it determined that the private parties that brought the lawsuit had no “standing” to bring the lawsuit because they had no injury.

Here, New York argues that the Plaintiffs have no “standing” to bring the lawsuit because they lack the requisite “injury.”

Zuffa’s Summary Judgment

Zuffa filed its Summary Judgment motion seeking that the Court determine that Section 8905-a and the New York Liquor Law is unconstitutionally vague as to professional MMA.  It cites the uncertainty of state officials as to the application and interpretation of the law.  It notes oral argument in which the Attorney General for New York admitting that professional MMA could be sanctioned by an Exempt Organization under the law.  The AG later explained away his statement.  Zuffa also argues that the law is vague and it encourages arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.

Zuffa’s moving papers hammer away that the law banning professional MMA has many interpretations and these multiple interpretations even trip up those that enforce the rules.

Payout Perspective:

The following summary is just a cursory look at the papers and does not even delve into the deposition excerpts and exhibits.  At this point, we’ll wait on the opposition briefs which should include more declarations and deposition transcript excerpts.  And then there will be more in the reply to the opposition briefs.  The final pleadings for the motion will not be filed until early September.  Based on the amount of paper to read, one might not expect a decision until December, or early 2015.

But let’s assume New York wins and the case is dismissed.  Zuffa will have to consider its options which may include an appeal to the Circuit Court on the decision.  It would cost more money and take much longer and unless there is movement in Albany, no MMA in New York.

But what if the Court sides with Zuffa and grants its motion for summary judgment?  This would mean that the law banning MMA will be determined unconstitutional and essentially strike down the law.  One might expect a stay and/or the state of New York filing a preliminary injunction to stay the ruling in an effort to appeal the ruling.  The effect of an injunction would be a way to prevent pro MMA in the state before an appeal to the ruling is heard by another Court.  The last time most of us heard about a preliminary injunction was in the Eddie Alvarez case.  In the meantime, legislators in New York that are anti-pro MMA could draft new legislation which would clarify the vagueness issue and have it ready for Albany in 2015.  We could be completely off on this scenario and we haven’t even seen opposition briefs but I thought I’d throw this theory out there.

MMA Payout will have more on these motions in the coming days.

One Response to “New York and Zuffa file Summary Judgment Motions in lawsuit”

  1. Saldathief on August 3rd, 2014 12:25 PM

    zzzzz zzzzzz zzzzzzz who cares anymore both sides are acting like little girls!!

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