Major League Baseball has hired prominent San Francisco attorney John W. Keker to be lead counsel in the lawsuit filed last month by San Jose that challenges MLB's antitrust exemption with the goal of opening the door to an A's move to the city.
Keker, recognized by several publications as one of the top trial lawyers in the nation, specializes in antitrust, commercial and intellectual property cases. His firm of Keker & Van Nest LLP will work in conjunction with New York-based Proskauer, MLB's longtime counsel.
San Jose filed its suit against MLB on June 18, hoping it will lead to the Athletics' move to the urban center at the south end of the San Francisco Bay, about 40 miles south of O.co Coliseum in Oakland, where the team currently plays. The San Francisco Giants currently own territorial rights to San Jose, preventing the A's from moving there, and an MLB committee has been studying the situation for four years.
"It's time for someone to take on this supposed baseball exemption from antitrust laws," said attorney Phil Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, the law firm representing San Jose, when the suit was filed.
MLB responded to the suit in a statement, with executive vice president for economics and league affairs Rob Manfred saying, "The lawsuit is an unfounded attack on the fundamental structures of a professional sports league. It is regrettable that the city has resorted to litigation that has no basis in law or in fact."
Now that the case is being litigated, MLB has brought on Keker to challenge San Jose's legal team.
A former Marine lieutenant in Vietnam who earned a Purple Heart as a platoon leader, Keker has been litigating cases for four decades, defending such companies as Google and Standard & Poor's in recent years and serving as chief prosecutor in the Iran-Contra trial involving Lt. Col. Oliver North in 1989. He also recently won a verdict for an employee who was targeted by the Securities and Exchange Commission and was lead counsel for the U.S. legal adviser to a group of Ecuadorian citizens that won an $18 billion judgment in an environmental case.
Keker also served as the lead defense attorney for cyclist Lance Armstrong in the federal case that was dropped by prosecutors last year. That case was closed prior to Armstrong being banned by the sport and admitting to using performance-enhancing substances.
Keker, 69, graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School and clerked for former Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren. He founded Keker & Van Nest in 1978.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.