The New York Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the long-running dispute between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals over television rights fees.
The court, the highest in the state, on Sept. 2 granted the Orioles’ motion for permission to appeal.
MASN was established in March 2005 after the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington and became the Nationals, moving into what had been Baltimore’s exclusive broadcast territory since 1972. The Orioles have a controlling interest in the network.
MASN paid the Nationals for 2012-16 what the Orioles proposed: $197.5 million. Washington argued it should be paid $475 million.
An arbitration panel of baseball executives — Pittsburgh Pirates President Frank Coonelly, Tampa Bay Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and New York Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon — heard the case in 2012 and ruled in 2014 that the Nationals were owed $298.1 million.
The Orioles appealed, and that decision was thrown out by a New York Supreme Court justice, who ruled a law firm representing the Nationals was conflicted because it had worked for clubs of executives on the panel. The appellate division sent the case back to baseball to be heard by a reconstituted Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee.
A second panel of baseball executives — Milwaukee Brewers chairman Mark Attanasio, Seattle Mariners President Kevin Mather and Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro — ordered a slightly lower payment of $296.8 million. That decision was confirmed in August 2019 by New York Supreme Court Justice Joel M. Cohen.
The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court for the First Department unanimously affirmed Cohen’s decision last October, ruling the Orioles failed to establish evident partiality in the second arbitration panel. The First Department’s decision was by Justices Dianne T. Renwick, Cynthia S. Kern, Saliann Scarpulla, and Martin Shulman.
“The Court of Appeals’ decision to hear the Orioles’ and MASN’s appeal recognizes that this dispute implicates the key legal protections afforded to arbitral parties,” Jonathan Schiller, a lawyer for the Orioles and MASN, said in a statement Tuesday. “The Orioles and MASN look forward to presenting their case to the Court of Appeals, and to finally having this dispute decided before a fair, objective, neutral arbitral body, as the law requires.”
Stephen Neuwirth, a lawyer for the Nationals, did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Judge Michael J. Garcia did not take part in the Court of Appeals decision to allow an appeal.