High Court Blows Whistle on Oakland in Suit Over Raiders

Times Staff Writer

Dealing what may be the final defeat for Oakland in its effort to win back the Raiders, the state Supreme Court let stand Thursday a lower-court ruling that the football team could remain in Los Angeles.

Only Justice Cruz Reynoso voted to review the Court of Appeal decision ruling that Oakland could not invoke the power of eminent domain to force the Raiders back to the East Bay city.

Oakland officials could not be reached for comment, but lawyers involved in the case said the city is likely to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Raiders attorney Joseph Alioto predicted that “the chances of getting review (by the U.S. Supreme Court) have got to be about 5 million to 1.”


‘The End of the Line’

“For all practical purposes they are at the end of the line,” Alioto said. “The conspiracy between (National Football League Commissioner) Pete Rozelle and Oakland is over. . . . They’re at the end of the road.”

The president of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, William R. Robertson, said he was “ecstatic with the refusal of the Supreme Court to entertain the eminent domain case.”

He said the decision “removes one of the final barriers” to the planned construction of luxury suites that would increase county revenue from Raiders’ games.


Los Angeles City Councilman Gilbert W. Lindsay, a member of the commission, issued a statement saying the decision “confirms again that the Raiders belong in Los Angeles . . . and the commission and the city acted properly in negotiating with Al Davis and the Raiders to come here.”

In its November ruling, the appellate court had turned down Oakland’s plea that it be allowed to buy the franchise and move it back to Oakland, saying that such a move would violate the federal constitutional prohibition against a local government action that unduly interferes with interstate commerce.

“This is the precise brand of parochial meddling with the national economy that the commerce clause (of the U.S. Constitution) was designed to prohibit,” the court said, noting that the NFL is a nationwide business and that franchises share their revenue with other teams across the country.

The appeals court agreed with Oakland that cities are damaged when sports teams move away. But the state court said that Congress would have to pass any regulation that would restrict NFL teams from moving.


The Raiders spent 19 years in Oakland before moving to Los Angeles in 1982 over the objections of other NFL teams.

$50-Million Judgment

The team won the right to move to Los Angeles in 1982 after a series of state and federal court battles. In a federal antitrust case in Los Angeles, the Raiders and the Coliseum Commission won a $50-million judgment against the football league for its effort to block the move.

At the same time, Oakland pressed its suit in state courts. At one point, the state Supreme Court allowed the suit to proceed to trial by ruling that under certain extreme circumstances, a city could invoke the power of eminent domain to take over a private business. Once the case went to trial, however, a Superior Court judge ruled against Oakland.


Justices Edward A. Panelli and Allen E. Broussard did not participate in Thursday’s case.