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Judge sacks lawyer Bob Blitz from St. Louis relocation lawsuit against Rams, NFL

Judge sacks lawyer Bob Blitz from St. Louis relocation lawsuit against Rams, NFL

From the Essential reading: St. Louis’ lawsuit against the Los Angeles Rams, NFL owners series

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis judge has disqualified one of the lead lawyers on the relocation lawsuit against the Rams football team and the NFL.

Circuit Judge Christopher McGraugh on Wednesday issued an order granting the NFL’s and Rams’ motion to disqualify plaintiff’s lawyer Robert Blitz from the case, in order to preserve their right to call him as a witness at January’s trial.

Blitz, who declined comment Thursday, served as general counsel for the Edward Jones Dome authority and as co-chair of a stadium task force that sought to build a new football stadium to keep the Rams in St. Louis. The franchise left for Los Angeles in 2016. The other member of then-Gov. Jay Nixon’s task force was former Anheuser-Busch President David Peacock.

Blitz has served as one of the lawyers for the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex authority that sued the NFL, Rams and team owners in 2017 alleging the league broke its own relocation rules and cost the city millions in revenue by allowing the Rams to leave St. Louis while misleading the public about staying here.

The Rams and NFL filed a motion to disqualify Blitz in September. That filing is under seal.

“Here, the court finds that defendants have shown that Mr. Blitz is likely a necessary witness at trial,” McGraugh’s order said. “Mr. Blitz was one of only two members on the Stadium Task Force, and was the sole representative of plaintiffs in key meetings and communications.”

The judge barred Blitz “from acting as an advocate at trial” but the order does not specify the extent to which he can participate in trial preparation or pre-trial hearings.

McGraugh denied the Rams and NFL’s motion to exclude all testimony from depositions Blitz conducted, saying the Rams and NFL hadn’t sought to disqualify Blitz until September, after Blitz took the depositions. The depositions Blitz took part in include NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff, Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney II, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke, former NFL executive Eric Grubman, New York Giants owner John Mara and former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

McGraugh said that although the Rams and NFL had previously objected to Blitz’s participation in the case, they hadn’t filed a motion to disqualify him until mid-September and that it was “untimely and is being used as an improper procedural weapon in that regard.”

The plaintiffs are expected to appeal the ruling.

Also this week, the NFL paid a court-ordered $24,000 fine for missing a September deadline to produce financial records of four team owners. The judge also ordered the NFL to pay $25,000 in legal fees and set a Dec. 3 court hearing requiring the owners to explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt.

Post-Dispatch columnists Aisha Sultan and Tony Messenger discuss the ongoing lawsuit between St. Louis and the NFL over the relocation of the Rams football team.

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