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The ACC Is Throwing a Curve Into Florida State Lawsuit

Florida State v ACC

In a new maneuver in its battle with Florida State, the ACC is throwing a curve into the proceedings. With a hearing date looming in the case of Florida State v. ACC, the conference is already filing an appeal at the next level.

Late this week the Atlantic Coast Conference filed an appeal with the First District Court of Appeal in Florida. Specifically, the ACC is going after Judge John Cooper in his handling of the matter of Florida State v. ACC in his Leon County courtroom.

Florida State v ACC

Moving Toward a Third Hearing

The case is headed toward its third hearing, (June 18th), still on the ACC’s original motion to dismiss.  Last month, Judge Cooper found Florida State’s legal counsel to be engaging in oral arguments that did not directly match their written briefs. As is relatively common in complex contract court, he gave Florida State an additional bite of the apple, allowing them to submit a second amended complaint.

The attorneys representing the school met the deadline last month with about 24 hours to spare. The ACC then had 20 court days to file its response. And it did so Friday afternoon. But before it even got to that point, lawyers for the conference filed in the appellate court.

How We Got Here

In the second hearing, Judge Cooper said he believed the ACC was “forum shopping” when it filed its breach of contract suit in Charlotte, NC. The conference sued the school before Florida State had actually filed its suit to try to get out of its contract with the conference.

In that case, Judge Louis Bledsoe III denied Florida State’s motion to dismiss. The school has filed a notice appealing the ruling directly to the state supreme court. It is expected to be heard sometime in the Spring of 2025. In the meantime, Bledsoe ruled, that all other matters in the case are to cease until the jurisdictional question is resolved.

The ACC is now asking the appellate court in Florida to do the same to the Leon County version of the case. The conference is asking that the Florida case be stayed while the NC case moves on to the state’s high court. In its brief, the conference asked Judge Cooper to acknowledge the precedent of the NC case as the two matters are mirror images of each other.

ACC Makes FL Judge the Issue

In making their case, the attorneys for the ACC point out precise issues their side has with how Cooper has heard the case. They claim he is using case law from outside the state of Florida, and rulings that are not relevant in the state. They accuse Judge Cooper of “Cobbling together ‘all the factors throughout the country’ that no Florida court has ever deemed relevant to the priority inquiry in order to keep the case going in Tallahassee courts.”

File photo; Leon County Judge John C. Cooper

The ACC attorneys also claimed that Judge Cooper created 15 new standards or factors to determine that the conference did not have priority, despite the first filing in Mecklenburg County. “Instead the trial court relied on at least fifteen new factors as reasons to deny the ACC’s clear priority, each brand new to Florida law.”

Both cases have always boiled down to who has the jurisdiction to hear and determine the outcome of the issues. ACC’s attorneys say that is a particular problem with Judge Cooper contradicting a previous ruling by Judge Bledsoe. “The trial court then found that the filing of this case in North Carolina was an anticipatory suit in the nature of forum shopping-which is the exact opposite of what the North Carolina court ruled.”

Different Courts, Same Fight

The ACC claims that with Judge Cooper going on his own, it could lead to each state coming to different conclusions regarding the same contract and what is essentially the same case, just flipped over via current jurisdiction. That could lead to two different decisions in what is, in their opinion, the same case. “At risk is not only that two sovereigns will read the same contracts differently, but that the Florida trial court will enter an unprecedented ruling on the jurisdiction of the North Carolina court contrary to the North Carolina court’s previous ruling,” they wrote in the brief.

At the end of a lot of paperwork, the ACC is looking to have the Leon County case, with Florida State as the plaintiff, shut down, pending the North Carolina Supreme Court decision. That would sideline two out of four pending cases with schools trying to get out of the conference. It would leave only the suit and countersuit with Clemson as current. There is no date set for the appeals hearing.



Ruling on ACC Motion to Dismiss 



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