The Buzz and the Trappers agree on one thing: The Buzz's lawsuit against the Trappers doesn't belong in federal court.
But the two teams have different solutions. The Trappers want a federal judge to throw the case out altogether and order the Buzz to pay the $552,000 tampering damages a national arbitration board ordered the Buzz to pay.The Buzz want the judge to send their suit back to 3rd District Court, a state court, where it was filed in the first place.
Both teams have filed motions asking U.S. District Judge David Sam to see it their way. In addition, Buzz attorneys are expected to file a motion this week asking Sam to permanently seal thousands of pages of documents detailing early negotiations between city officials, the former Portland Beavers and the Pacific Coast League to bring the Beavers to Salt Lake City to become the Buzz.
The Buzz's lawsuit marks the first time in 93 years that a member of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues has challenged binding arbitration, the Trappers say. Such an overt violation of league rules should not be tolerated, the Trappers told Sam.
The Buzz specifically agreed not to challenge the arbitration findings when they agreed to arbitration, the Trappers say in their brief.
"The court must dismiss the complaint and enforce the final, binding and unappealable nature of the arbitration awards," the motion says. The Buzz's lawsuit is not allowed under the Federal Arbitration Act or the Utah Arbitration Act.
The Trappers have got it wrong, said Robert Campbell, attorney for the Buzz. "There isn't any language in the agreement that says the parties waive any right to appeal. . . . The right to seek a review is the most fundamental due process we have in this country."
The only thing baseball teams can't appeal is a decision by the association's president, Campbell said. The Trappers claim the arbitrator's decision was, in essence, a decision by the association's president.
In October, the arbitration board ordered Joe Buzas and his team to pay the Trappers $1.2 million to compensate the team for the loss of the Salt Lake City terrority. The Buzz was also ordered to pay $552,152 as tampering damages for the former Beavers' failure to abide by National Association rules in the team's initial negotiations with Salt Lake City.
The Buzz lawsuit challenges that tampering award, saying the tampering damages and the compensation are paying the Trappers twice for the same injury.
"It's a double dip. The arbitrator made a huge, egregious error and paid them twice. . . . No one is allowed to double dip in life."
In addition to damages mentioned, the arbitrator also ordered the Buzz to pay $200,000 to the Pioneer League as compensation and an additional $117,216 in damages.
The Buzz's lawsuit raises the same arguments the team raised - and lost on - before the national arbitration board, the Trappers said in their motion.
Sam should reject those arguments and order the Buzz to abide by its own arbitration agreement, the team urged.
If people who agree to binding arbitration are allowed to challenge the arbitration results in court, the whole purpose of binding arbitration is lost, the brief says.
Sam must first rule on whether the case should be remanded back to state court, Campbell said. If Sam rules on the Trappers' motion to dismiss first and an appeals court later decides the case didn't belong in federal court to begin with, everyone will have to start over, Campbell said.
"The motion to remand is critical right now," he said.