Mediator assigned in Maryland vs. ACC lawsuit

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The University of Maryland and the Atlantic Coast Conference, in the latest step in their ongoing litigation, have mutually agreed upon a mediator to discuss the possibility of a settlement, according to the latest court filing issued Monday morning.

Judge John R. Jolly Jr., the Chief Special Superior Court Judge for complex business cases in North Carolina, signed the order, which appointed the Bethesda-based arbiter Jonathan A. Marks to meet with the two sides as a neutral party. Such developments are common, particularly in business cases, and the mediator cannot force the sides to settle. However, his job is, according to the court’s rules, “designed to focus the parties’ attention on settlement rather than on trial preparation and to provide a structured opportunity for settlement negotiations to take place.”

According to a source, no meeting date has been finalized yet, but the order mandates it must happen before July 10, nine days after Maryland officially migrates from the ACC to the Big Ten, a move announced in November 2012. Shortly thereafter, the ACC filed suit against its longtime member institution, seeking enforcement of a withdrawal payment worth approximately $52 million.

This January, Maryland filed a 53-page counterclaim alleging antitrust violations by the ACC, which was viewed by one individual with experience in college realignment litigation as an application of “serious settlement pressure.” It stands to reason that neither side would want this lawsuit to drag beyond Maryland’s July 1 departure date, given that the ACC will welcome newcomer Louisville on that date and the Terrapins have already been forging full-steam ahead with their Big Ten move, handing out prizes to fans on each day this month and already changing conference logos on campus.

Marks has provided mediation in his current position since 1981. He holds his undergraduate and law school degree from Harvard and has been a neutral party in disputes ranging from antitrust issues to, according to his resume, litigation involving Microsoft.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | April 25