The Supreme Court of the United States returned from its summer recess to grant appeals on the approximately 2,000 petitions submitted to it over the break, but took no action today on City of San Jose vs. Major League Baseball, a strong indicator that it will allow the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stand. The Supreme Court announced approval of 13 petitions Thursday morning after its "Long Conference" last Monday to discuss requests for Supreme Court review that had accumulated during the Court's summer break. Four of the nine justices must vote to approve a case.
The Ninth Circuit ruled last January that it agreed with a federal district court's decision to dismiss the City of San Jose's antitrust lawsuit regarding MLB's delay in deciding whether to approve moving the Oakland Athletics to San Jose. The Ninth Circuit decided that franchise relocation is "in the heartland of those precluded by" previous Supreme Court precedent.
While the Supreme Court has not yet formally denied San Jose's petition for a writ of certiorari, the legal name to require a Supreme Court review of the Ninth Circuit's decision, FanGraphs legal analyst Nathaniel Grow sets out why the Court's failure to act makes a grant more unlikely than ever:
For context re San Jose v MLB, last year the Court granted 10 cases on the Thurs. following its 1st conference, and only 2 the following Mon— Nathaniel Grow (@NathanielGrow) October 1, 2015
The other ~1,700 appeals were all denied on that following Monday. So in other words, it's not looking good for San Jose.— Nathaniel Grow (@NathanielGrow) October 1, 2015
Grow also indicates it is possible, though unlikely, for the Court to call for the views of the Solicitor General of the United States, the executive branch's primary representative to the Court, asking whether the executive branch believes the Court should weigh in on the case.
A denial of a petition for review does not speak to the merits of baseball's antitrust exemption or even whether the Supreme Court would have agreed with the Ninth Circuit's decision had it taken up the case. If the Supreme Court wants to reconsider its precedents regarding baseball's antitrust exemption, there are other cases the Court could bring up that have a less messy posture.
Last April in a separate case, a state court in Santa Clara County invalidated the land option agreement that the A's would exercise if they did move to San Jose. The state court ruled that the option was invalid because such an agreement required voter approval. The invalidity of the option damaged San Jose's standing to sue, as it could be argued that San Jose had suffered no injury due to MLB's failure to decide whether to allow the A's to move to San Jose.
San Jose's standing to bring the case was also hampered by A's ownership reversing its desire to move to San Jose, with managing partner Lew Wolff calling San Jose "not worth the nasty battle."
What's next for the A's on the new stadium? Floyd Kephart is reportedly out of the Coliseum City development with the City of Oakland and Alameda County declining to further extend the exclusive negotiating rights deal. The A's may have to wait for the Raiders to decide what they are going to do with the possibility of moving to Southern California as soon as next season. If the Raiders are out of the way, then the A's will effectively have complete site control, and it will be on them to finally provide the plan A's fans have been waiting so long for to finally exit the Coliseum.