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The latest on Florida State, ACC dueling lawsuits

The ACC says there was a unanimous vote to approve of its suit against FSU (among schools at the meeting).
 
Florida State and the ACC continue their lawsuits against each other.
Florida State and the ACC continue their lawsuits against each other. [ ERIK VERDUZCO | AP ]
Published Jan. 9|Updated Yesterday

The dueling lawsuits between Florida State and the ACC are playing out in courts: Florida State University Board of Trustees vs. Atlantic Coast Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference vs. Board of Trustees of Florida State University.

We’re using this as a landing spot for the latest updates with FSU’s case (filed in Leon County) and the ACC’s case (filed in Mecklenburg County, N.C.) as the Seminoles pursue a potential exit from the league — a move that could trigger another round of conference realignment.

The latest (Feb. 27, 2024): The ACC filed a brief with more technical arguments against FSU’s attempt to dismiss the conference’s North Carolina lawsuit. It discusses the definition of “all” and the practical legal difference between FSU and FSU’s board of trustees.

There were, however, two things of note. FSU previously argued the ACC failed to have its members vote to sue the Seminoles, thus breaking its own rules. The conference responded that it doesn’t have to, in part, because its ESPN contracts call for the league to “take all commercially reasonable actions” to defend them. That includes a lawsuit. The ACC also said its members approved the amended complaint it filed last month. According to an affidavit by a league official, the vote was unanimous. The document did not say how many schools were represented at the meeting.

The other is a response to FSU saying the ACC made a “race to the courthouse” to file its lawsuit first. The ACC’s response: “But FSU ignores the fact that if there was a race to the courthouse, FSU started it.”

Feb. 22, 2024: ESPN wants a North Carolina court to seal documents and information related to its contracts with the ACC. This is tangentially relevant to the FSU-ACC lawsuits because Florida State has been seeking copies of some of those records. FSU has also shared information from documents that, according to ESPN and the ACC, are confidential.

The notable line from Thursday’s filing by ESPN: “Whether FSU and its lawyers have committed a felony by knowingly disclosing ESPN’s trade secrets is a question for another day, but, relevant here, there is no question that trade secrets are carefully guarded throughout the United States, including in Florida.”

Feb. 16, 2024: The ACC has asked a Leon County judge to dismiss Florida State’s suit. One of its main arguments is that Florida isn’t the proper jurisdiction for the dispute. North Carolina (the ACC’s home state) is.

From the filing: “Florida State alleges no facts in support of its bare-bones venue allegation.”

Our full story on this update is here.

Feb. 9, 2024: The first formal court hearing has been set. It’s scheduled for March 22 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, and will focus on the suit filed by the ACC. The judge, Louis A. Bledsoe III, ordered the hearing on the ACC’s motion to seal parts of the case over details (like ESPN contract information) it says are confidential. FSU’s motion to dismiss the case will also be heard.

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Feb. 7, 2024: Florida State has asked a North Carolina court to dismiss the ACC’s complaint against the Seminoles. In a court filing Wednesday, FSU argued the conference submitted its suit before any controversy arose and didn’t get the necessary support from member schools. FSU also said the case should be in Leon County, not Charlotte. The full story is here.

Jan. 30, 2024: FSU filed an amended complaint in Leon County last night. The Seminoles accuse the ACC of “self-dealing.” That appears to be a reference to now-former ACC commissioner John Swofford making sure Raycom Sports was included in TV deals at a time when his son, Chad, worked for Raycom.

The 59-page complaint also (again) bashes the conference’s decision to accept SMU, Cal and Stanford. FSU cites TV viewership, where the three newcomers lag far behind the Seminoles. FSU’s filing states: “This alone demonstrates the ACC missed the point of conference realignment, and that its leadership deliberately decided to completely ignore its duty to the members to exploit their media rights. Indeed, the leadership chose the exact opposite and diluted those rights.” Our full story is here.

Jan. 17, 2024: The ACC filed an updated, 191-page complaint against FSU. There was enough in there to warrant its own, expanded story, which you can read here.

Jan. 13, 2024: FSU’s trustees have a North Carolina-based legal team in the ACC’s complaint against FSU. The attorneys named in court records filed Friday are Christopher C. Lam and C. Bailey King from the Charlotte office of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP.

Both are experienced attorneys, but the most interesting part for college football fans is King’s background. He played football at Wofford and has been on the board of directors for its Terrier Club, which raises scholarship money. He has also served on the host committee for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. King was part of the legal team that helped St. Petersburg get a $10.4 million jury verdict from Wachovia Global Securities/Wells Fargo four years after Lehman Brothers’ 2008 collapse.

Lam’s bio includes a role as “lead North America product liability counsel” for a major manufacturer. He also won a jury trial for a NASCAR owner in a $27 million case involving alleged defamation and a contract dispute.

Jan. 11, 2024: The ACC has hired a Florida-based legal team to represent the conference in the Leon County suit. It’s Lawson Huck Gonzalez, PLLC.

This procedural update from a Wednesday filing is noteworthy because of some of the names involved. Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Alan Lawson is one of the attorneys. So is Raymond F. Treadwell, who previously spent time as the chief deputy general counsel to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Jan. 9, 2024: The ACC served FSU its complaint within minutes of the school approving its own case against the conference, according to newly public North Carolina court records.

A Tallahassee official gave a copy of the ACC’s suit to FSU’s vice president for legal affairs and general counsel, Carolyn Egan, at 10:59 a.m. on Dec. 22. That’s about six minutes after FSU’s emergency board of trustees meeting ended and less than 20 minutes after trustees unanimously approved its own case. Those details come from an ACC legal filing dated Friday and processed by the court system this week.

Florida State’s suit was submitted at 11:26 that morning, according to Leon County court records. The ACC filed its case the day before.

The ACC also served copies of the suit to Jack Campbell — the State Attorney for the Tallahassee area — on Dec. 27 and to the state’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, on Jan. 3. A day later, Moody sent her own request to the ACC, asking for “financial, business and membership records” related to FSU along with some of the ACC’s communications and contracts with ESPN.

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