Mediator named to find peace between LA Dodgers and MLB

Mon Oct 3, 2011 5:45pm EDT

1 of 2. Los Angeles Dodgers batting helmets are seen in the dugout before the start of their American League MLB baseball game against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis June 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Miller

(Reuters) - A retired federal judge was appointed mediator on Monday to try to settle the battle for control of the bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers that has pitted Major League Baseball against team owner Frank McCourt.

Joseph Farnan, who retired as a Delaware District Court judge last year, was appointed retroactive to July 5, when he began working as a mediator in the case, according to an order from Delaware's bankruptcy court on Monday.

Farnan's role was not previously disclosed.

The former judge is charged with trying to bring the league's commissioner Bud Selig and the Dodgers to a settlement, although no time frame was given.

The team declined to comment on the appointment of the mediator. The league and Farnan did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy in June after the league rejected the team's proposed sale of rights to broadcast the team's games.

The team wants to again sell those media rights during its bankruptcy, while the league has said it will continue to reject any such sale and wants to force McCourt out as the owner.

The team plans to ask the judge to overrule the league's objection to a media rights sale on the grounds that Selig is essentially discriminating against the Dodgers.

Delaware bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross has set aside four days of hearings beginning later this month and called on Selig and McCourt to come answer questions about league rules and the sale of the television rights.

Gross also said the Dodgers will not be able to take discovery into other baseball teams to prevent the hearings becoming "a sideshow of all of MLB."

That decision limiting discovery could "unfairly impair (the Dodgers') ability to prove that the commissioner has not acted in good faith," the team said in court documents filed on Monday.

Some observers have said the Dodgers could gain leverage in the bankruptcy with the threat of airing other teams' financial troubles.

The Dodgers said on Monday it was critical that they be able to collect evidence on the league's dealings with other clubs.

"This will allow the court to determine whether the commissioner is using a different strike zone for the Los Angeles Dodgers than for other teams," the Dodgers said in a statement.

Gross' ruling on Friday also contained a warning to McCourt. The judge said he would strongly consider appointing a trustee to handle the team's bankruptcy if it is determined that the bankruptcy case was brought as a strategy to benefit McCourt, as the league has said.

The case is In re: Los Angeles Dodgers LLC, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 11-12010.

(Reporting by Tom Hals, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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