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Ruling Favors Anaheim

Times Staff Writer

The Anaheim Angels might yet take the field this season. The California Court of Appeal on Tuesday ordered the team to show why its name change should not be blocked, raising the possibility that the Los Angeles name could be stripped from the Angels on the verge of the season opener.

Such a decision, just as national media outlets have started referring to the Los Angeles Angels, could spark another wave of ridicule about the team’s identity, force the team to abandon its chosen name and wreck its business strategy, at least for the 2004 season.

“It would be marketing’s best version of a twilight zone,” said Paul Swangard of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

The appellate court set a hearing for March 28 -- eight days before the Angels open their season -- and demanded the team explain why it should not be prevented from playing as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim until a trial to decide whether that name violates the stadium lease. The trial is set to start Nov. 7.

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The city of Anaheim two weeks ago filed a petition for writ, an emergency appeal that asked the court to overrule Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Polos, who refused to put the name change on hold pending trial. Although writs are rarely granted, the vast majority of petitions are denied without a hearing.

“This is where you’re in the realm of the unusual. In effect, they’ve granted the writ and they’re going to review the merits of the judge’s decision,” said Sheldon Eisenberg of the Santa Monica law firm Bryan Cave. “It doesn’t mean there’s necessarily going to be a reversal, but this is clearly bad news for the Angels.”

Angel spokesman Tim Mead said the team had no comment on Tuesday’s court order. If the city prevails, the team is expected to ask the California Supreme Court for a stay, which would put the ruling on hold until that court can consider the issue.

In their appellate court filing, the Angels argued that a court order blocking the name change would result in “incalculable loss due to the disruption of a successful marketing plan that has been in full progress.”

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The city countered that it would suffer greater harm as the Anaheim name disappeared -- as it has since the start of spring training games -- from references to the Angels in standings, scores and stories across the country.

Eisenberg said the appellate court has acted with “lightning speed” on this case. While the three-judge appellate panel typically rules within a month after a hearing, he said, the court might well wish to resolve this issue by opening day.

“I’m pleased the court has acted with incredible speed,” Anaheim co-counsel Andy Guilford said. “I’m hopeful we’ll get a ruling from the Court of Appeal before opening day -- hopefully before the Freeway Series so we don’t see Los Angeles vs. Los Angeles in Anaheim’s stadium.”


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