ST. LOUIS – There was another big victory for St. Louis City, County, and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority (RSA) in their lawsuit against Rams owner, Stan Kroenke, and the NFL.
Also, for the first time in open court, Fox 2 learned just how much could be at stake for Kroenke and the league.
St. Louis Circuit Court Judge, Christopher McGraugh, denied their request for a change of venue to move the upcoming trial out of St. Louis.
Attorneys for the defense (the Kroenke-NFL side) smiled but left the courthouse without comment after another loss in the four-year-old lawsuit, Tuesday afternoon, now less than five months from trial.
They had argued for a change of venue away from the city where the Rams played and fans cheered them for more than two decades.
Attorney, Robert Haar, argued potential jurors in St. Louis could not set aside the plaintiffs’ (the St. Louis City, County, RSA side) claims of a loss of civic pride, jobs, and economic development from the Rams move in 2016 plus potential damages, specified for the first in open court to be 10-figures (at least $1billion).
The defense team was successful in having Judge McGraugh close the courtroom for part of the hearing to protect confidential and potentially inflammatory information.
First Amendment attorney, John Hessel, argued on behalf of our partners at the Post-Dispatch, to keep the hearing open.
“We have argued many, many, times that the closure of these courts proceedings cuts off all of us as far as information is concerned,” he told Fox 2 News. “This is a very significant matter from the First Amendment standpoint.”
New details did emerge, however, when Judge McGraugh allowed reporters to return to the courtroom as he questioned attorneys then denied the change of venue.
He said the defense presented no evidence to show all St. Louisans were biased against the Rams, Kroenke, and the NFL.
Instead, he said the defense appeared to be making two-sided arguments, for instance, claiming a lack of public interest in the Rams as a reason for the team’s leaving St. Louis while now claiming an intense public interest in the Rams as a reason for moving the trial.
He also said the jury selection process would help ensure a fair trial and that the court would send questionnaires to potential jurors, in this case, to identify any red flags before they ever set foot into the courthouse.
“The jury selection process is designed to identify if some jurors cannot be fair and impartial,” Hessel said. “As a result of that, they will not be selected.”
The trial is set for January of 2022.