Florida judge allows Evans Academy lawsuit to proceed, rejects baseball”s antitrust exemption

Credit: Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. – A Florida judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit by an umpires” academy against minor league baseball”s governing body, citing a 1994 decision by the state”s Supreme Court that limited the sport”s antitrust exemption to the reserve system for players.

Circuit Judge Lisa T. Munyon ruled the suit by the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring against the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues and the Professional Baseball Umpire Corp. can proceed.

Jordan Bieber, a spokesman for the Evans academy, said a trial date has been set for March 31 next year.

A big league umpire from 1971-99, Evans opened his academy in 1990 in Kissimmee. It was among two accredited ump training facilities until minor league baseball opened its own academy in 2011.

The Evans academy sued last August, claiming allegations that people in racist costumes attended a January 2012 bowling party were used by minor league baseball as a pretext to revoke its accreditation. The academy alleged violations Florida antitrust law and the state”s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Minor league baseball moved to dismiss the suit, citing the U.S. Supreme Court”s three decisions upholding baseball”s antitrust exemption, most recently in the 1972 Flood v. Kuhn case.

Munyon, in a decision dated March 28 and distributed Thursday by Evans” publicist, said the controlling case was Butterworth v. National League. Florida”s Supreme Court ruled then-state Attorney General Bob Butterworth could investigate whether NL owners conspired in 1992 to keep the San Francisco Giants from moving to St. Petersburg, Fla.

Butterworth”s probe became unnecessary when MLB voted in March 1995 to create a Tampa Bay expansion franchise.