Florida State vs. ACC: Takeaways from court hearing as FSU's lawsuit hits a snag (2024)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State's legal team returned to court Monday morning for the second meeting of the university's lawsuit against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After over four hours of debate, the Seminoles' case against the league hit a hurdle.

On Monday, Leon County (Florida) Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ordered FSU to amend its complaint to give more clarity on the issue of personal jurisdiction, which centers around whether FSU can bring forward a case against the ACC in Florida.

Judge Cooper said FSU wasn't clear in its complaint, ruling for a motion to dismiss with leave to amend the complaint, something he said was common in civil litigation.

The judge said he will extend a motion to stay until he is able to rule on a motion to dismiss, which will not happen until FSU files its amended complaint. Cooper also ordered both the ACC and FSU to attempt "good faith" mediation as a means of resolving the dispute.

He also reminded the courtroom that this is not the end of the proceedings.

FSU wants to exit the ACC without paying more than $500 million in exit fees and the cost of buying back its media rights.

"The case is not over; the case will continue," Cooper said.

Florida State vs. ACC: Takeaways from court hearing as FSU's lawsuit hits a snag (1)

Both the ACC and FSU agreed to leave the remainder of the agenda items to be heard when the case hearings resume, with the decision to postpone the remainder of the trial – meaning both parties will continue the hearing in Leon County Civil Court at a later date.

Here is what we learned from the hearing.

Lack of 'clear language' stalls case, forces FSU to file amended complaint

The biggest takeaway from the hearing was Judge Cooper's ruling that FSU needs to amend its lawsuit to keep its challenge alive.

What's at stake is the location of the hearing and the court's authority to hear a case and hand out a decision. The judge said FSU needed to sharpen its argument.

Peter Rush, FSU's legal representative in the case, told Judge Cooper he only needed a week to amend the complaint and file after a judicial order is given, though Cooper granted them 10 days.

Once that happens, the ACC will be given 20 days to respond to the amended complaint before a third hearing date is set.

The issue of jurisdiction was the topic of the day, much like "forum shopping" was during day one of the hearing on April 9.

Forum shopping is strategically filing a lawsuit in a court or jurisdiction that could lead to a favorable ruling – something FSU and even the judge indicated had happened when the ACC filed a first strike lawsuit in North Carolina.

The argument made by FSU during Monday's hearing centered around the ACC doing business in Florida due to the conference making payments to two member schools in the state, FSU and the University of Miami, and the three contracts it holds: The ESPN agreement, ACC constitution and the Grant of Rights.

Judge Cooper spent much of the jurisdiction portion of the hearing questioning Rush about the clarity of his comments and the lack of clear language in FSU's complaint.

Throughout proceedings, the ACC maintained that FSU's complaint did not contain any clear examples of "jurisdictional allegations"and the examples used by the Seminoles' legal teams were wrong "by matter of the law."

After hours of deliberation and Judge Cooper reviewing other cases that had similar issues, he agreed with the ACC about the lack of clear examples provided by FSU in its complaint, which led to his ruling.

"I just don't see that I have any other option," Cooper said at the end of Monday's hearing.

Another factor in Judge Cooper's decision was the weight this case holds for both parties involved. He said a case that is worth almost half a billion dollars needs a more "clear example of personal jurisdiction."

He ended the hearing by saying he didn't want to continue this case with his "eyes closed" and ignore the importance of the item of personal jurisdiction and its impact on the motion to dismiss. He said that forced his decision to ask for clarity from FSU's legal team.

ACC's motion to dismiss on ripeness denied

While FSU's case stalled with Judge Coopers' decision to dismiss the existing lawsuit, he did rule against the ACC and its motion to dismiss the case outright based on "ripeness."

The issue of ripeness revolves around whether facts in the case have become a substantial controversy that requires judicial intervention.

The ACC argued that FSU has yet to withdraw from the conference officially, and has not given any official notice of its intent to leave, and that it is using the court hearings to seek an advisory opinion from the court.

ACC legal representative Amber Nunnallyspent much of the day arguing the conference's case.

She said FSU is upset with the Grant of Rights now that it sees other conferences giving "big money" to member schools, and was perfectly fine with the agreement before that.

FSU's legal team disagreed, with Rush telling the court that FSU voted against raising the exit fee, something that was voted on in 2012 by ACC member schools.

After hearing hours worth of discussion from both the ACC and FSU, Judge Cooper ruled to deny the conference motion to dismiss based on ripeness, stating that the fact the FSU hasn't officiallywithdrawn from the ACCdoesn't mean the case shouldn't proceed.

Cooper calls in the mediator, wants 'good faith' talks to be done within 120 days

During his closing comments of Monday's hearings, the judge urged both the ACC and FSU to attempt "good faith" mediation as a means of resolving the dispute – and he wants it to be done within 120 days.

The judge mentioned he was a "fan" of meditation during the first day of the hearing, and he doubled down on Monday by again pushing for both sides to talk things out.

Judge Cooper said he uses mediation in every case he hears, except mortgage foreclosures, and that this case is no different. He sternly told both sides that they "have enough information" and "know what the issues are" regarding the current case.

The mediation between the conference and FSU would be voluntary according to Cooper and he wants both sides to get in the same room and discuss possible solutions to the issues of the lawsuit that both the ACC and FSU can agree to.

He originally wanted it done in 90 days, but due to the outcome of Monday's hearing, he extended it to 120 days.

Liam Rooney covers preps sports for the Tallahassee Democrat. Contact him via email at LRooney@gannett.com or on Twitter @__liamrooney

Florida State vs. ACC: Takeaways from court hearing as FSU's lawsuit hits a snag (2024)
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