Whoa. The court came back with rulings from the Status Conference held last week. And boy…I wasn’t expecting this. I assumed we’d just get some scheduling orders with regard to when the motions would be argued. We got more than that. A lot more. Judge Jeffrey M. Brown has: 1) Granted, in-part, the Plaintiffs’ motion to toll the six-month period, 2) Granted, in-part, the motion of the Defendants to stay discovery (with a massive caveat), 3) Held in abeyance the motion to compel discovery, and 4) deferred ruling on the motion to dismiss. On top of that, Judge Brown then set up a procedure by which the parties must comply with the order, and ordered the parties into conference to discuss potential resolution of the case. Like I said, whoa. Let’s break down this significant ruling.
Motion to Toll:
First up is the motion to toll, and we’ve got a ruling which has tolled the six-month waiting period for 90 days.
This lines up with some of the rulings which I’ll talk about later. The issue of *when* the notice period started is up for later argument, though PSV/MLS haven’t filed any sort of formal motion on that issue to outline their actual position with legal support.
Motion to Stay Discovery:
The Court has granted the defendant’s motion to stay, with a major caveat. PSV/MLS are required to turn over documents which would allow bona fide purchasers to assess the value of the team for a potential purchase. And in short order no less.
Nothing short of a massive win for the plaintiffs here. While the rest of us would have liked for the plaintiff to get their hands on the MLS articles of formation and the Soccer United Marketing agreement, that is not really a “time-is-of-the-essence” issue in the context of a valuation/sale (well, maybe the SUM agreement is; watch this space). Now we’ll see how hard MLS fights to limit what they are required to turn over. Again, a huge win for the plaintiffs.
Motion to Compel:
In light of the ruling from the court regarding the stay of discovery, it’s not a surprise the motion to compel discovery requested by plaintiffs has been held in abeyance. I’m guessing the plaintiffs will be busy with the documents they’ll be getting from defendants related to the valuation issues for quite some time, so I doubt they are overly concerned.
Motion to Dismiss:
We’ll have some time to discuss the motion to dismiss, as it looks like we won’t have a ruling on this case until after the tolled period has expired (unless the court rules otherwise). The defendants’ reply in the motion to dismiss is due Friday, so we’ll have a long time to pour over this motion in full.
During this time period, the court will be conducing meetings with each side to see if there is the potential for a resolution. In the meantime, any bona fide purchasers should start counting their pennies to get an offer ready.
One last important thing re: the meetings that will occur over the next several weeks with regard to potential settlement and (failing that) valuation of the team. This provides pressure for both sides. PSV/MLS are probably stinging from this defeat, and have to be worried about an adverse ruling against them at trial (and potentially an injunction to prevent the move in the meantime). The Plaintiffs now are on “notice” to get their bona fide purchasers in line to make a bid after a review of relevant financials. Big question: Does a bona fide purchaser include funding for a stadium? Several sites have been offered by the city, but now they’re going to have to put out there what exactly that means. If there are no bona fide purchasers, or if the stadium solution is not right, this whole thing could be mooted very quickly.
But an incredible turn of events here. Plaintiffs really won in every way that matters at this stage. But the case is far from over. You can bet that PSV/MLS will be looking for ways to turn this pretty clear defeat around (maybe in a different venue?). But right now, the plaintiffs and #SaveTheCrew can savor this pretty clear victory.