New York files opposition to UFC’s Preliminary Injunction

December 12, 2015

Last week, New York filed its opposition to the UFC’s request for a preliminary injunction to allow the organization to hold an event in the state in April 2016.  The briefing cites legal authority opposing the injunction in preventing UFC 198 in New York’s Madison Square Garden.  New York cites the UFC-MSG “conditional agreement” which purportedly states that MSG may cancel the event if the NBA or NHL Playoffs conflict with the night of the intended UFC PPV as a showing that there is no imminent threat of harm to the company.

The filing comes after two continued due dates requested by the state of New York.

In its brief, New York argues that as a “threshold matter” the UFC lacks standing which precludes a Court from deciding an issue where a party has no injury.

New York argues that the UFC’s reliance on the conditional agreement with MSG for an event on April 23, 2016 does not establish standing.  Moreover, New York argues that if there is no injunction granted, there is no event in MSG and no “imminent threat of prosecution.”  Although the UFC contends that it has made a deposit for the event at MSG (reported at $25,000), New York argues that MSG may elect to return it.

According to New York’s brief, MSG may elect to return the deposit of the UFC if the NBA and/or NHL playoffs conflict with the Saturday, April 23, 2016 event date.  MSG, the primary venue for the Knicks of the NBA and the Rangers of the NHL are anchor tenants of the building.  If either or both teams are in the playoffs, they get primary rights to the building per New York’s brief.

New York has several arguments against the UFC preliminary injunction:

-As stated above, New York argues that the UFC lacks standing as it asserts that there will be no event without the injunction.  Without the injunction, MSG has the right to terminate the agreement.  It also argues that the economic injury is speculative.

-It also argues that the local district attorneys for the state of New York are not parties to the lawsuit.  The state has a right to enforce the New York ban on MMA and since they are a non-party, they would not be bound by the preliminary injunction.  Hence, the drawback of filing in federal court.

-New York also argues that the claims are not “ripe” for adjudication.  Essentially, New York states that the state AG nor the athletic commission have issued a cease and desist letter to the UFC regarding holding an event in New York.  Thus, it claims that the UFC cannot claim a “credible, imminent threat of prosecution” which is a requirement for a court to grant an injunction.

New York also claims that the U.S. District Court should abstain under the Pullman doctrine.  Under this case, where a state law is allegedly vague, a federal court should abstain from interpreting the law until the state courts have a reasonable opportunity to construe the statute.

Railroad Commission v. Pullman Co. is a 1941 U.S. Supreme Court Case which dictates that a federal court should stay (i.e., hold off on deciding) a decision on state law when the state court has yet to interpret.  It bases the decision on three factors:

  1. The case presents both state grounds and federal constitutional grounds for relief;
  2. The proper resolution of the state ground for the decision is unclear; and
  3. The disposition of the state ground could obviate the need for adjudication of the federal constitutional ground.

In addition to these arguments, New York attacks the UFC’s argument for a preliminary injunction.  Among its arguments against granting the injunction, New York claims that “[s]elf-inflicted harm cannot form the basis for injunctive relief.”  Specifically, entering an agreement with MSG to hold an event in April 2016 cannot be cause to grant the injunction.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC will have the opportunity to file a reply brief to oppose New York’s argument.  Notably, the Pullman doctrine which states that a federal court should abstain until a state court clarifies the allegedly vague could be the reason why Judge Wood stated in her March 2015 order dismissing Zuffa’s first lawsuit that they might want to refile in state court.

Under the Pullman doctrine, New York claims the court need not address the constitutional claim asserted by Zuffa that the ban on MMA in New York is vague.  Rather, it can wait until a New York state court interprets the state law.  Thus, the constitutional claim might be clarified by the state court and thus the federal court need not intervene.

The argument that the NBA or NHL might cancel a possible UFC event seems unlikely.  Usually venues have reserved dates for the NBA and NHL playoffs well in advance (that is, prior to the start of the 2015-2016 season).  Thus, MSG knew before the UFC asked for April 23, 2016 that it might conflict.  But, there are always work-arounds for this.  The games could be played earlier in the game.  Moreover, MSG should have contingent plans as the NBA and NHL have been juggling schedules for decades.

2 Responses to “New York files opposition to UFC’s Preliminary Injunction”

  1. Gabriel Toribio on December 12th, 2015 11:36 AM

    Someone has to ask the state of New York why does it put up so much adversity over to a national subject of sport, that has more less, worldly, been resolved.

  2. d on December 13th, 2015 8:42 AM

    New York is really embarrassing themselves here. This is getting ridiculous. The Pullman Doctrine shouldn’t really have any bearing on this when it comes to the federal gov’t getting involved, because what NY is doing is so blatantly corrupt and illegal it is unreal.

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