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Lawyers and Fantasy Baseball Insanity

by Ryan McKeen

Everything started innocently enough.

Once upon a time, after the first semester of law school, 9 classmates decided to form a fantasy baseball league. It made sense because we liked baseball, were friends, and moreover we were still kind of normal.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment it happens but at some point in law school a student hits a point of no return. A point at which it becomes impossible to look at the world the same way one did prior to the moment. I think it usually happens around 1L finals. In this case, that would have been a few months after we started our league.

Fast forward 7 years.

Each team in our league keeps 8 players each year. The rule is clear and everyone knows it. There is no express penalty published for the violation of this rule.

This year, one owner kept 9 players and it was caught by a commissioner about a month after the keeper deadline.

The commissioners meet (via email) and decide to fine the owner a draft pick for his non-compliance.

If you’re sane, you’re probably thinking why in the world would anyone argue about fantasy baseball.

If you’re a lawyer you start making due process arguments.

Seriously, insane.

Arguments went something like this:

“The fine is unfair because the penalty was clearly published.”

“The fine was fair because the rule was clear and so long as the rule is clear the Commissioners have the authority to levy a reasonable penalty.”

“The punishment didn’t fit the crime!”

“In this case, enforcing rules serves both a general and specific purpose of deterrence.”

“There’s no precedence for this action. Dave’s roster was illegal 3 years ago and he wasn’t fined.”

Yep, insane and it gets worse:

“He shouldn’t be punished because he didn’t have the requisite mens rea when he kept Jay Bruce.”

“This is an administrative proceeding and principles of criminal law do not apply.”

“Let’s put this to league vote.”

“There’s no right to trial by jury.”

“He should have the right to appeal!”

“Mutual mistake!”

Really, everything short of the Rule in Shelley’s case was argued. It was like a toxic jumbalaya of bar review legal terms thrown together to argue about Jay Bruce!

We have no written due process clause in our league. I’m waiting for owners to start arguing that due process is a fundamental natural law or something.

In the end, 3 owners quit. Our league nearly dissolved. Everyone’s Blackberrys and iPhones were pushed to the limit with mini email briefs. 2 owners came back. People unfriended each other on Facebook. All true and to the best of my knowledge nobody was working on retainer.

All over Jay “Bleeping” Bruce.

Now we’re going to draft a league constitution or so they say. A constitution is a broad and flexible document. What we’re going to end up with is something resembling the Napoleonic code.  Which maybe a good thing because none of us are licensed in Louisiana.

Pride, ego, and wanting to win were the cause of this chaos. Hmmm……

Anyhow we’ve got a new owner and he’s not a lawyer. Maybe he should have a public defender.