Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Someone call Matlock!

The WaPo has an extraordinarily long article outlining the MASN v. Comcast television rights mess. Read it at your leisure---or, ideally, on the trans-Siberian railroad.

I could be wrong, but I think I remember a MASN attorney say awhile back that a hearing concerning MASN's motion to dismiss Comcast's complaint would be held in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County on, well, yesterday: June 27. I'm operating on the assumption that it was, at any rate.

I'm also assuming---though I don't know---that MASN moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim: Comcast's complaint, MASN would argue, was one upon which relief could not be granted. In essence, based on the pleadings, Comcast could not possibly win.

Well, lunch is almost over; I haven't much time for this, and I'm no authority on Maryland law, even if it appears to mirror the federal rules. So, just as a cursory matter, here's the standard for motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim:

In reviewing the complaint, we must "presume the truth of all
well-pleaded facts in the complaint, along with any reasonable inferences derived therefrom." Id. at 72; see also Bennett Hearing & Air Conditioning,Inc. v. Nationsbank of Md., 342 Md. 169, 174 (1996); Faya v. Almarez,329 Md. 435, 443 (1993); Berman v. Karvounis, 308 Md. 259, 264-65(1987). "Dismissal is proper only if the facts and allegations, so viewed, would nevertheless fail to afford plaintiff relief if proven." Faya, 329 Md. at 443; see also Bobo v. State, 346 Md. 706, 709 (1997).

MASN could have moved for dismissal as well as, in the alternative, for summary judgment---which is essentially the next stage in the process. In that analysis, there must not be any material facts in dispute and, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party (here, Comcast), the trial judge must determine whether the moving party (here, MASN) would be entitled to judgment as a matter of law (i.e., before it even reaches a jury or a bench trial).

I know no more about this litigation than you out there do, but it seems to me like MASN would probably have a hard time prevailing on a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, a motion for summary judgment. At the very least, it appears the question (a very material question, considering the nature of the dispute) of whether MASN was "in existence" way back in 1994 or '96 (just under a different name) is still in doubt.

At any rate, the Silken Scoop himself, Jim Williams, predicted a settlement way down the road, and that seems like a fairly likely result.

(Note: I'm not sure how MASN's complaint to the FCC plays into this mess, either. It might mean that Comcast's lawsuit is not ripe for disposition.)

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