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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Federal judge tosses baseball scouts’ age discrimination lawsuit to New York

In a June 2023 complaint, more than a dozen former baseball scouts named all 30 MLB teams, which they said blacklisted the scouts due to their age.

DENVER (CN) — Pitched a group of scouts’ age discrimination claims against Major League Baseball, a federal judge on Monday ordered the case transferred from Colorado, where it was filed, to the MLB’s home field in the Southern District of New York.

"The role of a judge has often been described as 'calling balls and strikes.' This case is a ball: filed in a district outside the strike zone,” wrote U.S. District Judge Daniel Domenico in a 17-page opinion published Monday.

More than a dozen former baseball scouts over the age of 55 sued MLB in June 2023 in the U.S. District of Colorado, after they were unable to find work at a collective 30 baseball teams.

The scouts include lead plaintiff James Benedict, 63, who worked for the Chicago Cubs for 32 years before he was fired. Benedict said he was then turned down for jobs with the San Diego Padres, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Cleveland Guardians and Boston Red Sox.

The plaintiffs claim MLB shut down the organization’s centralized scouting bureau in 2018 and Commissioner Rob Manfred, the former CEO of the MLB, issued a directive to fire all remaining older scouts. Pandemic layoffs presented the perfect opportunity to cycle out the old guard, who found the remaining jobs soon filled by younger recruiters, the plaintiffs say.

MLB filed to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing it didn’t belong in the U.S. District of Colorado. Domenico agreed the venue was “dubious at best.”

Attorney for the scouts Eric Roberson argued in court earlier in May that he chose Colorado for purely logistical reasons and in hopes of avoiding the lengthy multidistrict litigation process.

While many scouts work in Colorado and all of the named teams have played in the state, only one of the teams — the Colorado Rockies — has rejected scouts for jobs in Colorado, Domenico wrote.

"Baseball fans in this forum enjoyed (to varying degrees, depending on their rooting interests) many games at Coors Field between the Colorado Rockies and each of the clubs during the time period identified in the complaint, games which were organized by the MLB defendants,” Domenico wrote. “But plaintiffs’ age discrimination claims are not derived from the playing of baseball or the somewhat broader act of putting on baseball games."

Still, Domenico stopped short of dismissing the case outright and declined to award MLB attorneys’ fees as requested. The case genuinely presented novel questions of jurisdiction, Domenico wrote, not an elaborate legal game.

Domenico found the case better suited for “the Southern District of New York, where the Commissioner of Baseball serves as a central hub for all clubs’ scout hiring activity, including approving contracts and regulating the labor market."

Claims against the Colorado Rockies, however, will remain in the Centennial State where the team’s hiring decisions affected five of the suing scouts.

Adam Lupion, an attorney with New York-based firm Proskauer Rose represented the MLB during oral argument earlier this month. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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