A federal judge yesterday upheld baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn's decision to suspend Atlanta Brave owner Ted Turner for a year, but he overruled Kuhn's depriving the club of a first-round draft choice in next month's draft.
Judge Newell Edenfield in Atlanta ruled Kuhn had the authority to suspend Turner for tampering with free agent Gary Matthews last October, but he found taking away the draft pick was a punitive action not listed among Kuhn's options to penalize Turner.
The decision was the second significant legal victory in two months reaffirming Kuhn's sweeping powers to take action "in the best interests of baseball."
Kuhn won a suit brought by Oakland A's owner Charles O. Finley challenging his authority to void the sale of three players, two of Boston Red Sox and one to the New York Yankees.
Kuhn was not immediately available for comment last night. Turner said he would not appeal the decision.
Turner, a maverick owner who enjoyed a brief fling as team manager this month before being stopped, contended the penalty was too severe and he was joking when he told San Francisco Giant owner Bob Lurie at a cocktail party he would outbid everyone for Matthews.
In both the Finley and Turner cases, the judges ruled Kuhn had the authority to punish clubs and personell and had done so without malice. In both cases, the judges also said it was not the court's role to second-guess the commissioner.
Richard J. Wertheimer, Paul S. Reichler and Leonard B. Simon of Washington, Kuhn's attorneys in the Turner case, declined to comment until they receive a copy of the ruling.