ACC gets legal victory in lawsuit against Clemson from N.C. judge

The Atlantic Coast Conference earned a legal victory against Clemson on Wednesday.

North Carolina chief business court judge Louis A. Bledsoe III denied the school’s motion to stay and rejected, in part, its motion to dismiss the conference’s countersuit. His decision came after a hearing between both parties on July 2 at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte.

Bledsoe’s denial of Clemson’s motion to stay — a stay is a ruling by a court to stop or suspend a proceeding or trial temporarily or indefinitely — means the ACC’s lawsuit against Clemson in North Carolina will proceed. He also ruled the arguments over who owns Clemson’s’ TV rights if it leaves the conference and the penalty for withdrawal from the ACC will proceed in litigation.

Bledsoe rejected Clemson’s motion to dismiss on ‘sovereign immunity’ grounds, also, writing Clemson ‘waived’ that by engaging in commercial activities, rather than governmental activities, in North Carolina.

‘The only court that has jurisdiction over FSU, Clemson, and the ACC — and thus the only court that can assure a consistent, uniform interpretation of the Grant of Rights Agreements and the ACC’s Constitution and Bylaws, the determinations at the core of the Pending Actions — is a North Carolina court,’ wrote Bledsoe, who cited conflicting conclusions in different courts would create ‘procedural chaos and tremendous confusion.’

‘Only a North Carolina court, most likely in a single consolidated action in North Carolina, can render consistent, uniform determinations binding the ACC, FSU, and Clemson concerning the documents that are at issue in all four Pending Actions.’

This gives a perceived home-court advantage to the ACC, but it doesn’t mean a North Carolina court’s ruling will supersede a South Carolina ruling, if that happens.

Bledsoe dismissed many of the ACC’s claims like the league seeking declaration about whether the conference’s grant of rights agreements are ‘valid and binding contracts.’ He also rejected the league’s arguments that Clemson breached its contract with the league, that the school did not act in good faith with the conference’s constitution and that it owes fiduciary responsibilities to the conference.

Following Wednesday’s ruling, the ACC released the following statement:

‘We are pleased with today’s ruling as it confirms that only a North Carolina court can render a decision that would apply to both Clemson and Florida State. The opinion also reinforces what the ACC has clearly articulated from day one – the North Carolina courts are the proper place to enforce and interpret the ACC’s arguments.’

A Clemson’s athletic department spokesperson on Wednesday said the university has no comment on the ruling.

There are now three court battles happening between the ACC and Florida State, respectively, and the league’s countersuit against Clemson.

Another could join them when Clemson and the ACC have a hearing July 12 at the Pickens County Courthouse. Judge Perry H. Gravely will rule on the university’s motion for summary judgement and the conference’s motion to dismiss.

The legal battle started March 19 after the university filed its initial complaint against the conference in Pickens County over the conference’s grant of rights deal and withdrawal penalty. The decision was seen as an initial legal step to potentially depart the conference to join the SEC or Big Ten. The ACC responded a day later with its countersuit in Mecklenburg County.

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