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February 3, 2011 8:00 PM

The Score: Redskins' Snyder Sues City Paper, Madoff and the Mets, and More

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE, 2/4/11, 1:25 p.m. A 365-page complaint against New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon and his Sterling Equities investment fund has been unsealed. Trustee Irving Picard claims that Madoff victims are owed at least $300 million, according to ESPN.com. Davis Polk litigation partner Karen Wagner, senior counsel Robert Fiske, Jr., and corporate partner David Caplan have released this statement on behalf of Wilpon and Sterling.

The past two weeks have been busy ones for Am Law 200 firms representing clients usually found in the sports pages. The Am Law Daily has a quick rundown on the legal eagles suiting up for various players and teams.

SNYDER HIRES GLASER FOR SUIT AGAINST CITY PAPER

It's no secret that Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is not especially popular in D.C. Five years without a playoff victory for one of the National Football League's most storied franchises has made him a lightning rod for criticism among the team's diehard fans.

But when the Washington City Paper published a story last November that compiled what his critics perceive as his most egregious offenses, the owner decided to slap back.

Represented by New York's Carter, Ledyard & Milburn and Los Angeles's Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, Snyder filed a 13-page complaint in New York State trial court on Wednesday against the City Paper's parent company, Creative Loafing, and its owner, private equity firm Atalaya Capital Management.

In court documents, Snyder's lawyers lash out at the City Paper and writer Dave McKenna, accusing both of publishing "numerous outrageous, false, and defamatory statements" about their client. The suit contends that the City Paper has published more than 50 columns that derided, ridiculed, or vilified Snyder, who took particular umbrage with an illustration of him complete with devil horns, bushy eyebrows, and a goatee.

"Simply put, no reasonable person would accept the publication of these types of false, malicious, and/or defamatory statements about them or their spouses," states the complaint. "Nor would any reasonable person tolerate an anti-Semitic caricature of himself or herself prominently displayed on the front pages of a newspaper containing false and malicious allegations."

Above the Law points out that Snyder himself owns a team whose name and logo are considered by many to constitute an ethnic slur, with Snyder employing a team of seasoned litigators to protect that trademark in a battle that reached the nation's highest court.

Carter Ledyard managing partner Judith Lockhart and senior counsel John Walsh are representing Snyder in the suit against Atalaya. A call to Lockhart was forwarded to Glaser Weil name partner Patricia Glaser, who declined to comment on how she came to be involved in the case. (Glaser's other high-profile clients have included Conan O'Brien.)

A four-page letter from former Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr partner and current Redskins general counsel David Donovan that is included with the complaint lays out Snyder's objections to the City Paper piece. The letter, which was sent to three top Atalaya executives shortly after the story was published in November, threatens litigation unless the City Paper takes unidentified steps to resolve the situation. Snyder's complaint seeks $2 million in damages.

Curtis Krasik, a partner at K&L Gates in Pittsburgh representing Atalaya in the matter, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Click here for an early December letter from Krasik to Donovan regarding the City Paper column and here for a letter from the paper itself.)

MADOFF AND THE METS

The Am Law Daily reported this week that a former managing partner of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips was advising New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon and his Sterling Equities investment firm on a potential partial sale of the team.

The sale is connected to a clawback suit filed against Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, team president Saul Katz, and Sterling by Baker & Hostetler's Irving Picard, the trustee tasked with recovering funds for victims of Bernard Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme. Davis Polk & Wardwell is representing the Wilpons and Katz in the Madoff matter.

On Thursday, Davis Polk litigation partner Karen Wagner said to the court that a steady stream of leaks related to Picard's suit made it impractical to keep documents sealed and asked U.S. bankruptcy judge Burton Lifland to unseal the Picard complaint, according to NBC New York. David Sheehan, a Baker & Hostetler lawyer working with Picard, also asked Lifland to unseal the 365-page complaint, as the two sides have apparently ceased settlement negotiations. (Click here for more on Thursday's unsealing of a similar suit filed by Picard against JPMorgan Chase, courtesy of The Am Law Litigation Daily.)

The request by both sides to make Picard's complaint public follows a string of stories on the close financial ties between the Mets and Madoff, which contradict claims by some team executives that the team and convicted Ponzi schemer had a close relationship. The Wilpons and Katz met with baseball commissioner Bud Selig this week to discuss the team's finances.

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that the Mets would consider selling part of their sports television network, SportsNet New York, if such a deal would help attract a minority partner willing to invest in the team. According to The WSJ, the Mets are seeking new capital to offset "uncertainties" caused by Picard's clawback suit.

NIXON PEABODY STICKS UP FOR ST. ANDREWS

When it comes to golf, the Scots are not to be trifled with. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland is one of the oldest and most prestigious clubs in the world. It's home to the world's oldest course, which hosts the British Open every five years, and is considered hallowed ground to many golf fanatics.

Perhaps that's why St. Andrews hired Nixon Peabody to request that St. Andrews Links in Dunedin, Fla., change its name or pay $75,000 for the privilege of keeping it. The St. Petersburg Times reports that the city's par-3 golf course had used the name for decades before receiving a letter from Nixon Peabody last year notifying them that they were infringing on St. Andrews' trademark.

Faced with a costly litigation battle, Dunedin hired William Larson of Largo, Fla.-based Larson & Larson to negotiate a settlement, according to the St. Pete Times. Larson told the paper that litigation costs would run to at least $200,000, something that Dunedin simply couldn't stomach.

"Sticker shock. It was just an insane amount," he told the paper. "In the U.S., you're entitled to all the justice you can afford."

As a result, the Dunedin course will change its name to Dunedin Stirling Links, a suggestion made by local Scottish-American groups. Dunedin itself was founded by Scottish settlers and takes its name from the Gaelic name for Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city. That doesn't mean that Larson, who charged Dunedin a discounted rate of $5,000 for his services, is happy to have the matter is behind him.

"To me, it was kind of personal," he told The Times. "That outsiders would come down here to try and bully a local municipality, I don't think it was right."

A Nixon Peabody spokeswoman says that David May, an IP partner from the firm's office in Washington, D.C., represented St. Andrews in Scotland. For more on the dispute, check out this story from Scotland on Sunday.

AROUND THE HORN

--Disgraced financier R. Allen Stanford might not be competent to stand trial, but that doesn't mean that a receiver seeking to recover funds for victims of his $7 billion Ponzi scheme is on hiatus. Ralph Janvey, a name partner at Dallas's Krage & Janvey, sued the Miami Heat last week over $1.3 million in allegedly ill-gotten gains that Standord and his associates paid to the team, Bloomberg reports. (Click here for Janvey's 19-page complaint, courtesy of Courthouse News.) Heat general counsel Raquel Libman did not respond to a request for comment on who is serving as the team's outside counsel in the matter.

--Former baseball star Roger Clemens has agreed to waive a potential conflict involving one the lawyers representing him in a federal obstruction of justice case, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal. Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin once represented Clemens's former teammate Andy Pettitte--set to announce his retirement on Friday--during a brief period in 2007 prior to the release of baseball's famous Mitchell Report. Prosecutors had sought to disqualify Hardin based on his past representation of Pettitte, who could be called as a government witness in the case. Hardin told the court that Clemens's cocounsel, Cooley partner Michael Attanasio, had been brought on to avoid just such a conflict.

--Jason Bailey, a right winger currently playing for the Binghamton Senators, an affiliate of the National Hockey League's Ottawa Senators, is suing the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Bakersfield Condors, a minor league affiliate of that team, for discrimination. According to a 20-page complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court on January 25, Bailey's former coaches made anti-Semitic remarks and denied him ice time based on his heritage. Keith Fink, Sarah Hernandez, and Jennifer Misetich of Los Angeles's Fink & Steinberg are representing Bailey. Fink said in an e-mail that counsel for the Ducks and Condors were not yet available.

--The Am Law Daily reported last week on the $194.5 million malpractice claim filed against King & Spalding by the joint owners of Atlanta Spirit, a group whose holdings include the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers, Atlanta Hawks, and operating rights to Atlanta's Phillips Arena. Now the Fulton County Daily Report, a sibling publication, reports that proving that claim could be tough for the plaintiffs, especially since they continued to retain King & Spalding even after problems arose with a sales contract.

--Former USC running back Stafon Johnson is suing his alma mater and former strength coach Jamie Yanchar over a weightlifting accident in September 2009 that almost ended his career. The suit, filed in L.A. County Superior Court, accuses the defendants of negligence. Carl Douglas of the Beverly Hills-based Douglas Law Group is representing Johnson in the suit. Douglas, who is also representing Elgin Baylor in a discrimination suit against the L.A. Clippers, did not respond to an e-mail requesting counsel for USC and Yanchar.

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