Friday, August 17, 2012

Court GRANTS New York Attorney General and District Attorney's Motion to Dismiss Counts IV and V of Zuffa et al.'s Complaint Challenging Constitutionality of Ban on Mixed Martial Arts in New York

As you may recall from my post here, the New York Attorney General and District Attorney for New York County were invited by Judge Kimba Wood to move to dismiss as an initial matter Zuffa et al.'s due process and equal protection challenges to the law banning mixed martial arts in New York. 

Specifically, as set forth in my earlier post:
"'Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge Kimba M. Wood: Status Conference held on 1/5/2012. Defendants will submit a limited motion to dismiss addressing only the issue of whether due process and equal protection analysis requires the Court to determine whether there was a rational basis for the law at issue only at the time it was passed, or whether the Court must determine whether there is a rational basis for the law at present (in other words, whether the Court should take into account a change in factual circumstances that makes the law no longer rational, even if it had a rational basis at the time of passage). Defendants' motion is due 1/27/12. Plaintiffs' reply is due 2/17/12.Defendants' response is due 3/2/12. (js) Modified on 1/9/2012 (tro). (Entered: 01/06/2012)'
'Essentially, as predicted, the New York AG and New York County DA's offices will be submitting a motion to dismiss. Having said that, I was surprised that the motion is so limited.
Specifically, the minute entry focuses only on the due process claim and the equal protection claim, i.e. whether those claims survive rational basis analysis--the lowest level of scrutiny the Court will pass on the law. The Minute Entry makes no mention of the First Amendment claim. The narrow issue the parties will brief involves whether the Court should determine whether the law is rational now given the current state of the sport or if the court should focus on whether the law was rational as of 1997 when the ban was implemented.'
In subsequent posts, I provided the briefs filed by the parties in connection with the motion.

Yesterday, Judge Wood issued her Opinion and Order GRANTING the AG and DA's motion.
Specifically, she held, in relevant part, as follows:
This Court need not decide whether changed circumstances are relevant: even assuming that the Court could consider the evolution of MMA’s rules and safety record, the ban would satisfy rational basis scrutiny. As described herein, the Court finds that: (1) the law had a rational basis when passed in 1997, and (2) even if developments in MMA are relevant, the law continues to have a rational basis today.
I am not surprised by the decision because rational basis is highly deferential to the legislature.

Notably, the Judge has not yet addressed the First Amendment challenge, i.e. the "expressive conduct" component, to Zuffa et al.'s complaint.  During an earlier conference, however, Judge Wood seemed to think that Zuffa's primary (perhaps better) argument was on the due process and equal protection challenges. 

I encourage you to read the decision that I am posting below.

Fight Lawyer
Order on Mtd Zuffa