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U.S. Orders Rose Case to Go on the Road : Saying State Court in Cincinnati Is an Improper Venue, Federal Judges Assert Authority

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

The court battle over Commissioner Bart Giamatti’s authority to determine the status of Pete Rose became even more complex Monday when the Cincinnati manager’s lawsuit was moved from a state court in Cincinnati to a federal court in Columbus, Ohio.

It was a victory for Giamatti’s legal staff, but the immediate ramifications were not clear. Reuven Katz, an attorney for Rose, said he would file a motion to send the case back to state court by Wednesday morning.

Otherwise:

--It is doubtful that a hearing on Rose’s request for a preliminary injunction against Giamatti will be held as scheduled Thursday in Cincinnati, because Judge Norbert A. Nadel of the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court no longer has authority and can regain it only if the Columbus federal court returns the case to the state.

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No one is certain now where or when that hearing will be held. A decision on a motion such as Katz is seeking, according to legal experts, can take up to 20 days, although Katz is certain to ask that it be expedited.

--It also seems likely that Katz and his staff will have to seek an extension of the 14-day restraining order that expires Sunday. It was originally granted to Rose when Nadel ruled that Giamatti had prejudged his investigation into Rose’s alleged gambling activities and should not be allowed to conduct the hearing. That hearing, scheduled at the time for June 26, might have resulted in Rose’s lifetime suspension for his alleged betting on the Reds.

All of this new confusion stemmed from a decision by judges Carl B. Rubin and Herman J. Weber of the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to move the case to a federal court in response to a motion by Giamatti’s attorneys.

Rubin and Weber wrote that because technical requirements had been met, the court was accepting the case even though it had “substantial doubt” the suit belonged in federal court.

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Because Rose is “closely identified with the Cincinnati Reds and the city of Cincinnati,” the judges said, the case would be moved to federal court in Columbus, Ohio, where it was assigned to Judge John D. Holschuh.

Katz said papers would be filed with Holschuh on Wednesday, asking that the case be returned to state court.

“We do not believe there is any merit to it,” Katz said of Monday’s decision. “The whole thing now is put on hold. . . .

“We’re not surprised. It was one of the alternatives they had available.”

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Alluding to the decision to exercise that alternative, Louis L. Hoynes Jr., baseball’s head lawyer, said that any challenge to the commissioner’s authority should be heard in federal court.

“The commissioner’s powers traditionally have been reviewed and upheld by federal court,” Hoynes said. “Federal court is a more appropriate forum.”

In addition, members of Hoynes’ staff said, the change of venue may remove the risk of a parochial decision and place it in the hands of an appointed magistrate rather than a state judge facing election in Rose’s hometown--as Nadel is.

Rubin, the chief judge among the three federal judges in Cincinnati and one of the two who wrote Monday’s decision, is at the heart of the dispute.

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On April 18, Giamatti sent a letter to Rubin, saying that Ron Peters, Rose’s alleged bookmaker and one of his chief accusers, “has been candid, forthright and truthful” with baseball investigators and “provided critical sworn testimony about Mr. Rose and his associates.”

Rubin, who was about to sentence Peters on charges of cocaine trafficking and tax evasion, criticized the letter and said he believed Giamatti was conducting a vendetta against Rose.

Rubin, in turn, was criticized by his judicial peers for those comments and removed himself from Peters’ case and that of Thomas Gioiosa, another former associate of the Reds’ manager.

However, in ruling that Giamatti had prejudged Rose’s status, Nadel cited the letter to Rubin and the comments that Peters had been “candid, forthright and truthful.” He said that to allow Giamatti to conduct the hearing with Rose would be “futile and illusory.”

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On Monday, in their two-page order, Rubin and Weber recognized the unusual aspects of Rose’s case.

“Plaintiff is not just another litigant,” they wrote. “He is instead a baseball figure of national reputation closely identified with the Cincinnati Reds and the city of Cincinnati. Under such circumstances, it would appear advisable that it be transferred to a city of the southern district of Ohio other than Cincinnati.”


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