It might only be pre-season in Hunter v. Fisher, but there's now a score on the board: 0-1.
On Thursday, an Oakland judge bumped Billy Hunter's lawsuit against the National Basketball Players Association out of Alameda County to Los Angeles, where the union and its president — former L.A. Lakers star Derek Fisher — had fought to move the case.
Judge Frank Roesch's ruling is a procedural victory for the defense. But Hunter's attorney suggested it could backfire.
"Derek Fisher wants his dirty laundry aired in his hometown in Los Angeles," said David Anderson, a partner at Sidley Austin. "And that's what's he's going to get."
Hunter filed suit earlier this year against the union, Fisher and his publicist, Jamie Wior, for alleged breach of contract and defamation stemming from Hunter's much-publicized ouster this past February as the association's executive director. Anderson said Hunter, a past U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, will not contest the ruling.
"The court's decision properly recognized what the California courts call an 'ancient and valuable right' of an individual defendant to defend an action in his home county," said Kirkland & Ellis partner Andrew Kassof, who represents Fisher and Wior.
Kassof's change-of-venue motion filed in June included e-mails between Hunter and Alameda County Superior Court Presiding Judge C. Don Clay about Fisher, who as NBPA president had clashed with Hunter.
Roesch did not mention the e-mails in his order, which concluded the suit's mixed causes of action warranted a change of venue. Hunter's defamation claim against Fisher, Roesch wrote, arises from Fisher's public statements and should be tried in Los Angeles, where Fisher lives.
"It is now for the court in Los Angeles to hear and decide the defendants' pending motions to dismiss the case," said Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Christina Sarchio, counsel for the NBPA.
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