A diverse group of six jurors, comprising four women and two men, was selected today as the U.S. Football League's $1.32 billion antitrust suit against the National Football League at last moved to front and center.
Attorneys for both sides will present opening statements Wednesday morning, with each expected to last between 60 and 90 minutes. Harvey Myerson will present the USFL's side first and will be followed by the NFL, represented by Frank Rothman and Robert Fiske.
The USFL likely will call its first witness in the early afternoon. Attorneys for the USFL already have notified the NFL that they will call NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle as the first witness. Rozelle could remain on the witness stand for several days.
U.S. District Judge Peter K. Leisure is presiding over the case, in which the USFL alleges the NFL violated Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by "tying up" all three television networks. Since it decided to move from a spring schedule to the fall in 1986, the USFL has been unable to secure a network contract.
Besides damages, the USFL is seeking injunctive relief to force the NFL off at least one network so the USFL might negotiate a deal with that network. The trial is expected to last about two months.
Leisure has told attorneys that he will rule Wednesday morning on whether to allow into evidence documents pertaining to the move of the NFL's New York Jets to New Jersey in 1983. The NFL filed a motion Monday to exclude such documents, but the USFL filed a counter-motion today. It is unclear how the documents relate to the case.
Both sides said they were pleased with the jury selection and reiterated that there would not be any settlement that would preclude a jury verdict.
"I think it will go the distance," said USFL Commissioner Harry Usher. "I don't know of any possibility for settlement ."
Joe Browne, a spokesman for the NFL, said, "There have been no settlement talks since the early part of the year and we don't expect any." Two NFL owners, Art Modell of Cleveland and Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, made courtroom appearances today. Donald Trump of the USFL's New Jersey Generals sat in the courtroom Monday.
The composition of the jury reflects great diversity. The panel comprises a radio station newsroom clerk, a nurses' assistant, a computer technician at a brokerage firm, a telephone company reference clerk, a public high school teacher who specializes in literature and Spanish, and a post office distribution clerk.
During screening, only three of the six acknowledged being a "sports fan" and only one acknowledged being a "football fan." Six alternate jurors also were selected, and this panel also comprised four women and two men.
Leisure today instructed jurors not to discuss the case with anyone and not to read newspapers or listen to television or radio accounts of the case. He reminded jurors that "it is important to keep an open mind.
"A case can only be presented piece by piece, witness by witness, before the totality is before you."
Leisure had excused two jurors Monday because one "had a language problem which might cause difficulty in comprehending the testimony during the trial as well as the charge" and another who "gave an appearance during jury selection of a vacant stare and, based on the court's observations, it seemed she might have a problem understanding and concentrating during the trial."
The NFL approved of the dismissal of these two prospective jurors, and the USFL opposed their dismissal.