SBJ/October 6 - 12, 2003/Labor Agents

Judge’s ruling keeps Dunn in the game

A U.S. District Court judge has again thwarted the NFL Players Association's attempts to suspend agent David Dunn, upholding an earlier decision by a Bankruptcy Court judge.

District Judge Harry Hupp denied motions by the NFLPA to lift the administrative stay that automatically goes into effect when a debtor files for bankruptcy protection, nor would he let the union hold a hearing on its disciplinary committee's decision to suspend Dunn for two years. In March, Bankruptcy Judge Robert Alberts also denied the NFLPA's request to lift the stay.

Dunn

"The Bankruptcy Court has a lot of discretion on lifting stays," Hupp told lawyers in Los Angeles federal court last week. "I couldn't say the bankruptcy judge abused his discretion."

Dunn, who was in the courtroom for the decision, wouldn't comment. Mark Humenik, general counsel for Dunn's company, Athletes First, said, "We are obviously pleased, but not surprised, by today's ruling."

Richard Berthelsen, general counsel for the NFLPA, and Jeffrey Kessler, the union's outside counsel, said the decision could be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the union did not yet know if it would do so.

Under NFLPA regulations, in most cases agents who are being disciplined can appeal to an arbitrator before the discipline takes effect. Joby Branion, an agent who works with Dunn at Athletes First, is appealing the union's decision to suspend him for one year.

Hupp also noted that Dunn was appealing a $44.66 million verdict against him and Athletes First, which led Dunn and his company to file for bankruptcy protection, and that the union's discipline was based on testimony in that case.

But Kessler argued that the union's discipline was based not only on the jury's verdict that Dunn broke California business laws, but on other issues the jury did not decide, such as having a conflict of interest with his players.

"One of the charges [in the union's disciplinary case] is that [Dunn] elicited perjury," Kessler said. Regardless of whether the appeals court judges reverse or affirm the verdict, "the discipline will go forward," he said.

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