Friday, February 20, 2015

Zuffa to Battle New York in Court on March 5, And What It Means


The tide of battle may have shifted on the legislative side of Zuffa's campaign to get MMA sanctioned here in New York, but the judicial angle still rages with the intensity of a bloody border conflict, and the next volley of Constitutional artillery is slated to be exchanged on March 5. What exactly is going down then?

If you'll recall, Motions for Summary Judgment were submitted at the end of the summer, with both sides arguing that their respective cases had been sufficiently made based on the evidence gathered in the discovery phase. Since then, it's been in Judge Kimba Wood's hands. Last Friday, she asked the parties to answer a few questions, which they'll do in writing (the deadline for that is February 23 for Zuffa and February 27 for the State Attorney General's office; limit 2,500 words) and in oral arguments on March 5.

In setting that date, Judge Wood also posed a few questions, and much like how one might try to divine what a jury is thinking by the queries that come out of their closed-door deliberations, it's possible to get a sense of where Judge Wood is leaning. (Note: you can't accurately tell what a jury is thinking - you can only speculate.)

Based on Judge Wood's questions, the lawsuit is boiling down to "standing".

Standing is the legal concept that the aggrieved party (i.e., the plaintiff, which is Zuffa in this instance) has a sufficient connection to the harm caused (which is the law banning professional MMA in New York) to warrant bringing the case to court. The State Attorney General has argued that, because Zuffa has never tried to put on a UFC event in New York and therefore never had a show shut down because of the law, they have no standing for the lawsuit.

Zuffa's attorneys are arguing that they are indeed an injured party, and that the statute's vagueness has prevented a UFC event from happening.

Judge Wood wants to hear examples of other cases where standing would exist in this scenario. She uses the phrase "preenforcement as-applied void-for-vagueness challenge", but that's just a fancy way of saying, "The UFC hasn't tried to put on a show here - does that matter?"

There are two sides to this standing coin, one bad and one good. The bad is that this can be a tough nut to crack for Zuffa's side. Not impossible, but at least tough. However, the positive aspect is that Judge Wood seems to have accepted that the State has constantly flip-flopped on its interpretation of the law over the years. In other words, she's buying the "as-applied void-for-vagueness" stuff. She just wants to see if Zuffa's attorney's can make the "preenforcement" bit work.

I will definitely be there in the courtroom on March 5, so expect some firsthand perspective once the bailiffs give me my phone back.

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