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Odds are against Alex Rodriguez in federal court, experts say



By RONALD BLUM

NEW YORK (AP) - The odds are against Alex Rodriguez in federal court as he tries to overturn his season-long drug suspension.

For the past five decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has set narrow grounds for judges to consider when evaluating lawsuits to overturn arbitration decisions. That position was reaffirmed in 2001 when it ruled against Steve Garvey in his suit against the Major League Baseball Players Association stemming from the collusion cases of the 1980s.

"I don't think he has very much of a chance," said Stanford Law School professor emeritus William B. Gould IV, the former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. "There are many cases that are appealed from arbitration awards, but the case law at the Supreme Court level makes success very much a long shot."

The Joint Drug Agreement between Major League Baseball and the players' association gives the sport's three-person arbitration panel - the independent arbitrator plus one representative of management and the union - jurisdiction to review discipline resulting from violations.

The union filed a grievance after baseball Commissioner Bud Selig suspended Rodriguez for 211 games last August, and arbitrator Fredric Horowitz presided over 12 days of hearings last fall and cut the penalty Saturday to 162 games plus the 2014 postseason.

Rodriguez is expected to sue under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, also known as Taft-Hartley, which allows actions for violations of collective bargaining agreements.

"There are very specific and narrow grounds for overturning an arbitration award," said Jeffrey Kessler, a partner at Winston & Strawn who has represented players and unions in many sports. "Either there has to be a showing of partiality by the arbitrator, or there has to be a showing that there as a manifest disregard of some settled legal principle, or there has to be a fundamental denial of what's called arbitral due process - the procedures were completely defective - or it could be in a collective bargaining context a decision that's contrary to what we call the essence of the CBA. So basically there are four targets and they have to hit one of them, and they're not easy."

Garvey had sought about $3 million from the $280 million settlement in the collusion cases. While the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for Garvey and overturned the decision by arbitrator Thomas Roberts, the Supreme Court reversed.

"Established law ordinarily precludes a court from resolving the merits of the parties' dispute on the basis of its own factual determinations, no matter how erroneous the arbitrator's decision," the court wrote in an 8-1 decision.

Rodriguez's lawyers are expected to request a preliminary injunction and attempt to depose Selig - Horowitz refused to compel Selig to testify at the arbitration, and Rodriguez then walked out of the hearing. MLB may attempt to quash a subpoena and force a judge to rule.

"There's a good arbitrator there, and I'm sure he was very careful to pay attention to the record," said George Nicolau, baseball's arbitrator from 1986-95. "No court is ready to overturn that, I think, based on longstanding decisions."

The Supreme Court ruled in 1960 that "the refusal of courts to review the merits of an arbitration award is the proper approach to arbitration under collective bargaining agreements. The federal policy of settling labor disputes by arbitration would be undermined if courts had the final say on the merits of the awards."

In that case, United Steelworkers of America v. Enterprise Wheel and Car Corp., Justice Stephen O. Douglas wrote "an arbitrator is confined to interpretation and application of the collective bargaining agreement; he does not sit to dispense his own brand of industrial justice."

That case was cited by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1976 when it refused a request by MLB to vacate the decision by arbitrator Peter Seitz overturning baseball's reserve clause in the Andy Messersmith-Dave McNally case.

A-Rod's Suspension Reduced to 162 Games

Join the discussion

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Scotty January 12 2014 at 11:43 AM

Baseball? Stop playing basesball? I'll bet you there are more drug users in basketball & football than any other sport. Look at the statistics over the years.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
jsrfire5 Scotty January 12 2014 at 12:37 PM

I agree. I believe that ALL sports should drug test their athletes on a random basis just like my profession does. They make WAY too much money for playing a game and should be held responsible for their actions.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Puckmeister January 12 2014 at 4:04 PM

Enough of this. Let him know that if he loses his punishment doubles, just for being a waste of space and wasting the courts time. Enough already......Man Up

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
maeddy2004 Puckmeister January 12 2014 at 7:21 PM

I hear he plans to show up at Spring Training. But than he's full of crap and doesn't appear to have the sack to do 1/2 of what he threatens to do. When he finally had his "day in court" and could have testified in his own arbitration - he blew smoke about Selig not showing up (no commissioner of baseball has EVER testified in a hearing of this sort) and made that his excuse for storming out. Taking his ball and going home. He's a crybaby and a big *****. He did it. He was caught. He's suspended for a full season at age 38. Dead man walking.

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bloveday36 January 12 2014 at 4:16 PM

Money, fame, crook, he has it made - just like the politicians -

Flag Reply +3 rate up
lefkl January 12 2014 at 4:17 PM

There is lesson here for everyone. Arbitration clauses are in many contracts, auto leases, warranties. etc. and they cut down on consumer rights and limit the role of courts.
Buyer beware!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Joan January 12 2014 at 4:33 PM

Poor Alex; he got caught cheating & lying and has to lose some money. What did Pete Rose do that was so much worse that he not only was banned from baseball but also banned from the Hall of Fame. I'm not a baseball fan but I sure am sick of athletes who feel they can lie, cheat, rape, & kill and they deserve to continue life as it has been.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
David January 12 2014 at 4:47 PM

If Barry Bonds has to be punished and banished..........Mark McGuire, Roger Clemons and yes even the great Alex Rodriguez, whom I've watched since he broken into the major leagues should receive the same considerations. Justice only works when it is fair across the board.

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1 reply
Mr. G David January 12 2014 at 5:54 PM

Barry Bonds was never officially "banished" from baseball......there just wasn't any team interested in signing him due to his advanced age, declining production, and controversial nature. I could definitely see ARod experiencing the exact same demise.

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1 reply
davidcmcclure Mr. G January 12 2014 at 6:58 PM

bonds hit 28 homers and led the league in bb and obp at age 43. arod hasn't had a season that good since he was 35

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lovett53 January 12 2014 at 5:05 PM

alex rodrigues is a cheater pure and simple hes been caught 3 times and this 4th should have banned him for life

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
mcgrawnrh lovett53 January 12 2014 at 6:31 PM

wish that would happen, but it won't.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
blueeyessing January 12 2014 at 5:52 PM

Is A-Rod another Lance Armstrong who actually believes that he is innocent and did nothing wrong?

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
mcgrawnrh blueeyessing January 12 2014 at 6:31 PM

Y-E-S!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
maeddy2004 blueeyessing January 12 2014 at 7:17 PM

Yeah - he appears to be even more delusional than Armstrong was. And he learned absolutely nothing by the mistakes made by others who went before him - including himself. ARod lives in a dream world. The Federal Court will do nothing to overturn the arbiter's decision and interfere with the Collective Bargaining Agreement that has served MLB well for decades. He might as well pile what money he has left into a pile and burn it as give more to Jor Tacopino and his herd of other mouthpiece attorneys.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
joanofarcnj January 12 2014 at 6:09 PM

just go away A-rod!!!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
mcgrawnrh January 12 2014 at 6:30 PM

every day, I have less respect for this dud(e) . . .

Flag Reply +4 rate up
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