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In this litigation research project, History Associates’ historical research helped attorneys at Covington & Burling, LLP, to obtain a successful summary judgment in an antitrust suit against the National Football League.
The National Football League was involved in an antitrust suit brought by the Hamilton County (Ohio) Board of Commissioners challenging the league’s franchise relocation policies with regard to the Cincinnati Bengals. The suit alleged that the league used its monopoly over professional football to obtain a heavily subsidized lease for the Bengals’ newly built Paul Brown Stadium.
Among the defense strategies pursued by Gregg H. Levy, a partner at Covington & Burling LLP and the NFL’s principal outside counsel, was a statute of limitations argument that the challenged conduct was “common knowledge” in the 1990s and therefore the county had not filed the lawsuit in a timely manner.
To support this argument, Covington & Burling engaged History Associates to discreetly and cost-effectively identify and collect documents that were publicly available in Hamilton County, Ohio, from 1995 to 2000 that spoke to widespread, common knowledge of the challenged conduct with a particular focus on documents that could be directly linked to the Hamilton County Commissioners, the plaintiffs in this case.
In conducting this research, History Associates initially used print and electronic indices to review national and local newspapers, periodicals, and radio and television newscasts from the time period, locating dozens of articles and newscasts that were widely accessible in Cincinnati during the 1990s.
A team of historians then traveled to Cincinnati to review records in various local records repositories. There, our research focused on Cincinnati City Council minutes, as one of the County Commissioners suing the NFL had previously served on the council.
After digging through unindexed volumes of council minutes, History Associates uncovered minutes from council meetings in 1995 and 1996 in which this individual had submitted to the council’s attention several newspaper and periodical articles reflecting the same conduct that was challenged by the County Commissioners’ complaint.
According to a Covington & Burling associate, History Associates’ research played a “significant role in the ultimate outcome” of the case. Indeed, the district court decision granting the NFL summary judgment noted that one plaintiff who was “inarguably the initial impetus behind the initial suit introduced voluminous materials detailing the NFL’s alleged monopoly . . . into the Cincinnati public record in January 1996 while a member of City Council.”