Let’s meet Joe Cotchett.
Cotchett, as lawyers are wont to do when filing high profile lawsuits, was full of bluster, using terms like “economic rape and pillage” and “moral outrage” in the first minute of his interview with NBC Bay Area‘s Raj Mathai. By the end of the interview, Cotchett dialed down his rhetoric a tad, admitting that the real goal of the lawsuit was to force a settlement, not a wholesale teardown of MLB’s antitrust exemption. Though if MLB remained recalcitrant, Cotchett would certainly relish the opportunity to tear down AE himself.
While making the media rounds earlier in the week, Cotchett was also on The Game with John Lund and Greg Papa. Apparently Papa wasn’t aware of Cotchett’s role as attorney for the NFL and the Rams when the then-Oakland Raiders forced a move to Los Angeles in 1981. Cotchett’s involvement in pro sports is quite long and varied, though most of it is with the NFL, not MLB.
- 1981-82 – Cotchett represents NFL & Rams in Al Davis and LA Memorial Coliseum’s antitrust lawsuit against the league. After a mistrial, Davis wins, paving the way for the move.
- 1994 – Billy Sullivan, who had recently sold the Patriots to Victor Kiam, sues the NFL for not approving a public offering deal that would’ve provided Sullivan with more operating cash. The lawsuit is settled for just over $11 million. Cotchett represented the NFL.
- 1995 – Cotchett attempts to put together a group to keep Rams in LA. Instead, team owner Georgia Frontiere takes $300 million deal to move Rams to St. Louis.
- 2004 – This time representing the Raiders, Cotchett successfully defends Davis against a lawsuit by Raiders minority partners attempting to remove Davis as managing partner. Cotchett and the Raiders win using argument that minority partners have no standing.
As you can see, Cotchett has plenty of experience on both sides of the franchise move and antitrust issues, winning and losing some while settling others. While antitrust is Cotchett’s game, he was also successful going up against Charles Keating in the Lincoln Savings & Loan scandal and Bernie Madoff. The State Bar of California named Cotchett their Antitrust Lawyer of the Year in 2011. He’s also made a habit of taking numerous cases on either a pro bono or contingency basis, with attorneys fees to be paid by the losing defendants (as has indicated for the San Jose-vs.-MLB case).
MLB is a different ball of wax, as shown by its still preserved antitrust exemption. Cotchett will argue that MLB is no different from the NFL or any other pro sports league and is subject to the same commerce laws and regulations as the others. Chances are that he won’t get to make that argument given what San Jose and baseball are looking for, but you never know what can happen if/when a trial starts. One thing that can be universally said about the new lawsuit: It’s anything but frivolous.