Washington Redskins General Manager Charley Casserly and former team president John Kent Cooke asked a federal court here to dismiss Howard Milstein's lawsuit against them in motions filed yesterday.
Casserly and Cooke were responding to the lawsuit filed May 17 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Milstein, the New York real estate developer who withdrew in April from the NFL's approval process of his proposed $800 million purchase of the Redskins and Jack Kent Cooke Stadium from the Cooke estate. Milstein's lawsuit accuses Casserly and Cooke of improperly sabotaging Milstein's bid for the team, and asks for unspecified damages.
In their responses, both Cooke and Casserly denied the allegations made in Milstein's lawsuit. Both of their motions stress that Milstein withdrew his bid before the NFL's team owners voted on it -- meaning, Cooke and Casserly argue, that Milstein should not be entitled to damages. Both motions also argue that the lawsuit must be dismissed because the federal court does not have jurisdiction in the matter because of Cooke's status as a resident of Bermuda.
"The complaint should be dismissed both because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and because plaintiff's factual allegations, even if taken as true for the purposes of this motion, fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted," Cooke's Washington-based attorneys, headed by Joseph Hassett, wrote on his behalf.
Casserly's attorneys, headed by Robert Bennett, wrote that Milstein's lawsuit is designed to "harass" Casserly. Casserly's motion said: "This action should be dismissed because it is legally without merit. It is nothing more than a mean-spirited and vindictive lawsuit against Charley Casserly for ulterior purposes having nothing to do with the allegations in the complaint."
Casserly referred questions to Bennett, who declined to comment. Hassett declined to comment, and Cooke was not available. Members of the Milstein group did not return telephone messages.
Milstein withdrew his bid to purchase the team and the stadium April 7 amid indications that he would not get the minimum 24 votes among the 31 NFL teams necessary for approval. Casserly and Cooke argue that Milstein's withdrawal should ensure that he does not receive damages.
"If this case were to proceed, the court and the litigants would have to try to divine what might have happened if the plaintiff's acquisition had proceeded to a vote, and how each of the 31 NFL teams might have acted absent the interference alleged by defendants," Casserly's motion said. "The grossly speculative nature of such an inquiry is self-evident."
The motions argue that Cooke was a resident of Bermuda -- not the District, as Milstein's lawsuit asserts -- when the lawsuit was filed, so a federal court does not have jurisdiction based upon the "diversity" concept of the principals being citizens of different U.S. states.
Milstein's lawsuit did not name the NFL or the trustees of the Cooke estate as defendants, but Cooke's motion said Milstein's "real complaint" is with them.
Bennett said in his 20-page motion that Casserly shouldn't be held liable because, even if Milstein's claims are true, Casserly merely was performing his job duties. Hassett said in his 30-page motion that Cooke had no duty to support the Milstein bid because he recused himself as a trustee so he could bid on the team. Cooke's motion pointed out that Milstein has been offered a refund of his $30 million deposit to the estate and his expenses from his pursuit of the team, and said the Milstein group "is pursuing claims in this case despite the fact that it has suffered no real economic injury."