Court refuses to halt FSU-ACC fight

by | Jul 1, 2024

An appeals court denied the Atlantic Coast Conference’s (ACC) request to temporarily halt a lawsuit filed by Florida State University (FSU) over media rights and potential financial penalties if the university leaves the conference.

An appeals court Friday rejected a request by the Atlantic Coast Conference to at least temporarily put on hold a lawsuit filed by Florida State University about media rights for athletic events and potential financial penalties if the school leaves the conference.

Without explanation, the 1st District Court of Appeal denied a motion for a stay that the ACC filed on June 13. Florida State this week urged the Tallahassee-based appeals court to reject the motion.

Friday’s order was one more development in a legal battle that began in December when the ACC and FSU filed dueling lawsuits against each other. The North Carolina-based ACC filed its lawsuit in Mecklenburg County, N.C.; a day later, FSU filed its lawsuit in Leon County.

Both lawsuits involve similar issues and play out amid widespread speculation that FSU wants to leave the ACC and go to a more-lucrative athletic conference such as the Big Ten or the Southeastern Conference. FSU essentially contends in the lawsuits that the ACC has shortchanged its members through television contracts.

Attorneys for the ACC have sought a stay of the Leon County lawsuit, saying that the North Carolina case should move forward first to avoid a legal “collision course.” But Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper refused to grant a stay or to dismiss FSU’s lawsuit.

The ACC on June 5 filed what is known as a petition for writ of certiorari at the 1st District Court of Appeal that argued Cooper erred when he denied the conference’s request for a stay. The conference followed up June 13 by filing a motion at the appeals court seeking a stay of the case while the petition for writ of certiorari is decided.

Friday’s order rejected that motion and set a timeline for both sides to make filings about the petition for writ of certiorari, which remains unresolved.

In its June 13 motion, ACC attorneys warned of problems if a stay was not issued. They have said a legal “principle of priority” should allow the North Carolina case to proceed first because it was filed before the Leon County case.

“Failure to stay this action pending certiorari review would subject the ACC to irreparable harm because the trial court (Cooper) and the North Carolina court may continue to reach inconsistent rulings in the parallel proceedings over the same dispute,” the motion said.

But the school’s attorneys argued in a Tuesday filing that Cooper correctly ruled the North Carolina case should not have priority. FSU echoed Cooper’s conclusion that the conference’s lawsuit in North Carolina was an “anticipatory” filing to effectively get to court before Florida State did.

FSU contends that it could face “unconscionable” financial penalties if it leaves the ACC. But the conference has defended its handling of media-rights agreements that are at the center of the dispute.

Louis Bledsoe, chief business court judge in Mecklenburg County, in April rejected a request by FSU to dismiss the North Carolina case or to stay it. Bledsoe wrote that the “ACC did not engage in improper conduct or ‘procedural fencing’ in filing this action in North Carolina. Accordingly, considering all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the filing of this action and the Florida action, the court concludes, in the exercise of its discretion, that the ACC’s choice of forum is entitled to deference on this record.”


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