ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments for March 14 in the long-running dispute between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals over television rights fees.
After agreeing in September 2021 to consider the case, the state’s highest court said this week that it will hear arguments on the question of “whether courts have the power, after vacating an arbitration award based on ‘evident partiality’ related to the forum, to order rehearing in a forum other than that provided for in the parties’ arbitration agreement.”
The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network was established in March 2005 after the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington and became the Nationals, moving into what had been Baltimore’s exclusive broadcast territory since 1972. The Orioles have a controlling interest in the network.
MASN paid the Nationals for 2012-16 what the Orioles proposed: $197.5 million. Washington argued it should be paid $475 million.
An arbitration panel of baseball executives — Pittsburgh Pirates President Frank Coonelly, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon — heard the case in 2012 and ruled in 2014 that the Nationals were owed $298.1 million.
The Orioles appealed, and that decision was thrown out in 2015 by New York Supreme Court Justice Lawrence K. Marks, who ruled a law firm representing the Nationals was conflicted because it had worked for clubs of executives on the panel. The case was sent back to baseball to be heard by a reconstituted Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee.
A second panel of baseball executives - Milwaukee Brewers chairman Mark Attanasio, Seattle Mariners President Kevin Mather and Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro - ordered a slightly lower payment of $296.8 million. That decision was confirmed in August 2019 by New York Supreme Court Justice Joel M. Cohen.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the First Department unanimously affirmed Cohen’s decision in October 2020, ruling the Orioles failed to establish evident partiality in the second arbitration panel. The First Department’s decision was by Justices Dianne T. Renwick, Cynthia S. Kern, Saliann Scarpulla and Martin Shulman.
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