Tom Melsheimer Takes It to the Hole (Update: We Talk to Cuban's Attorney About Filing)
[Update at 9:40 a.m.: Shortly after I posted this, Mark Cuban's attorney called to talk about the response to yesterday's filing. Our interview follows after the jump.]
We've written about and spoken to Fish & Richardson's Tom Melsheimer on numerous occasions, most often and most recently regarding his representation of Tom Hicks in those legal proceedings involving Liverpool FC. But at the moment, of course, he's best known for having written The Greatest Legal Brief in the History of Jurisprudence in the case pitting Ross Perot Jr. against Mark Cuban over his management of the Dallas Mavericks.
After we first posted the doc yesterday, Deadspin picked it up and rebranded it thusly: "The Ultimate 'Fuck You' Legal Brief." Barry Petchesky then called Melsheimer to ask if it was all a big giggle -- its centerpiece, after all, is the giant photo of Cuban and the Mavs hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The former assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas says, no, it's merely ... "pointed," let's say.
"It's a humorous twist," he says, "but it has legal force. It makes a serious point that allegations of mismanagement are ridiculous. A substantial part of our defense is that the Mavericks are successful, and what more obvious success for an NBA team than an NBA championship?"
Coudn't one make the argument that a minority partner's goal is to maximize profit, not to win a title? Melsheimer dismisses that one. "Fundamentally in sports the most valuable franchises are the ones that win," he says. "You building brand loyalty, you build your fan base and you've build a tradition. Winning is the key to doing that. It's a long term thing, if and Mr. Perot doesn't see that, he's clearly not a basketball guy."
Incidentally, what does Junior thin of the filing, as if we had to ask. Not much, reports the Associated Press:
"Ross Perot Jr. remains an owner of this team ... and no one is more delighted in the team's successes on the court," Perot spokesman Eddie Reeves said Wednesday. "That's a different issue than the business matters that remain between Mr. Perot and Mr. Cuban."
Now, jump for our Q&A.
Melsheimer called this morning to talk about the filing .... and the response that followed after we initially posted it Wednesday morning.
At what point did you realize this wasn't going to be seen as just your average motion for summary judgment?
It's funny. I started getting emails from people I hadn't heard from in 20 years. They said, 'I'm in Des Moines,' 'I'm in Portland,' 'Greetings from Nag's Head, North Carolina.' It got on all these blogs and other things with wide circulation. Lawyers were emailing it around their firms.
It was pretty remarkable how it went vital pretty quickly. I've been scratching my head a little bit: Why did this go so viral? What was it about the filing? Was it the involvement of two billionaires? Is it the basketball element? Is it Mark's notoriety? Was it the fact we used a picture in the brief, which is unusual? I don't think you can point to one aspect. Locally if you look at the media coverage on TV, its the bickering billionaires that seemed to be the theme. Channel 8 and 5, that was their spin on it. But I think when you combine something that has multi-jurisdictional interest, if you will, between sports and business and personalities ... I mean, TMZ called me. I didn't know if they were going to take a picture of me coming out of my house in the morning. I never thought TMZ would be interested.
You had to have been stunned.
I thought it would get a lot of coverage locally, but it got more nationally and internationally. The TV news was all over it, but it was interesting how it became a bigger issue outside of Dallas.
Were you concerned that people coming to this case fresh would think you were, oh, I don't know, making light of Perot's legal claims?
At the end of the day, although this was a colorful way of doing it, it fundamentally states our defense, which is the Mavericks have been successful, therefore they cannot be found to have been mismanaged. You can put up financial statements, evaluation and expert testimony, but since the name of the game is to win, the Mavericks having won the title for me is the best rebuttal. Are there other technical points Perot is raising? Yes. And we get that. But its a very odd situation.
This isn't about the alleged mismanagement of the Mavericks. This is about Perot wanting out of the team, because it was pretty dubious a year ago when he filed it, but a year later it looks silly.
The case has been dormant for months ...
That's often an indication of how the plaintiff views their case. If they're not doing anything, it typically means they're not sure they can win.