Law of Cards: The Kobe Byrant Memorabilia Auction Gets Messy

Law of Cards: The Kobe Byrant Memorabilia Auction Gets Messy

The Battle of Kobe's Stuff is getting messy, and it's clear there will not be a quick resolution in the courts.

It started off with Goldin's lawsuit against Kobe in federal court in New Jersey. Goldin's motion for an injunction was set for May 14 (a few days after Mother's Day) and would determine whether or not Kobe's stuff was actually Kobe's mom's stuff and, hence, able to be auctioned off.

Kobe's lawyers, however, moved quickly, and filed a lawsuit against Goldin in state court in California. There, Kobe claimed the items are undoubtedly his, and he asked for an injunction to stop the auction. His attorneys were also able to get a hearing date in state court for May 10.

Goldin then filed papers with the state court, and got the case removed to federal court.

Legal translation: It's easy to move a case from state court to federal court. Really, just filing a paper does it. After being removed to federal court, cases can be remanded back…but that takes a little more time. Here, where both sides are jockeying for an earlier hearing, it's a useful strategy to make sure you're hearing goes first.

Goldin's removing the case certainly disrupted the May 10 hearing.

Kobe then filed his response to the first lawsuit in New Jersey, and argued 1) I don't have sufficient contacts in New Jersey to be sued here and 2) even if I can be sued here, I should win because it's my stuff!

When I read Kobe's mom's declaration contained with the first documents filed to start off this whole mess, I thought for sure Goldin would win. Then, I read Kobe and his wife's declarations that were just filed. Now I'm not so sure. Both sides' declarations in isolation (and without the ability for a lawyer on the other side to ask questions) are convincing, and when put together, they are irreconcilable.

So, what's that mean for the case?

It won't be resolved quickly.

First, the New Jersey court has to sort out whether or not it can even hear the case. And if it's not the right court to hear the case, that delays a final ruling more.

Second, even if the New Jersey court gets to the "meat" of the case, there are too many believable and inconsistent facts to wade through. That's bad for the auction going forward because a "slam dunk" is typically what's needed to get an injunction. Especially here where Goldin wants an injunction allowing it to sell these items to third parties. If a court messes that up, it'll be nearly impossible to track down those items, let alone retrieve them in their current condition.

In view of this, the court will want to rule on a complete record, after both sides have taken discovery (including depositions of all of the relevant witnesses). And all of those items that are up for auction, they're evidence. No court will let someone auction off evidence while a case is proceeding.

This is all bad news for Goldin and its auction. It's going to take months of discovery to determine who owns these items.

That's good for Kobe because months of discovery are expensive.

Kobe has already stated that these items are irreplaceable, so he's likely willing to spend more money than they are worth to make sure he keeps them. While they are priceless to Kobe, they do have a price for Goldin. They aren't running a business to lose money.

And since this case looks like it'll cost more than Goldin's price, it'll likely end before a judge addresses the "meat" of the case.

So, I'll go out on a limb and predict that this case will settle prior to a final judgment, and Kobe will likely retain his items.

For those interested in Kobe's mom's declaration, check it out in my first article on this matter. For those who want to see Kobe's position, here's his response, and here is his and his wife's declarations. See if you agree with me that all of the declarations are pretty convincing.

The information provided in Paul Lesko's "Law of Cards" column is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in the sports industry. This information is not intended to create any legal relationship between Paul Lesko, the Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC or any attorney and the user. Neither the transmission nor receipt of these website materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the readers.

The views expressed in the "Law of Cards" column are solely those of the author and are not affiliated with the Simmons Law Firm. You should not act or rely on any information in the "Law of Cards" column without seeking the advice of an attorney. The determination of whether you need legal services and your choice of a lawyer are very important matters that should not be based on websites or advertisements.

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Paul Lesko is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy and the chair of its Intellectual Property Department (http://www.simmonsfirm.com). Don’t hold the fact that Paul is a lawyer against him, he’s also a rabid baseball and college basketball fan, and an avid baseball card collector. Paul can be found on Twitter @Paul_Lesko and Google+.

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