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Seahawks, County Ask For Ruling Supreme Court Examines Who Filed First In Nfl Dispute

Thu., March 28, 1996

Lawyers for King County and the Seattle Seahawks asked the Washington Supreme Court on Wednesday to decide who won last month’s “race to the courthouse” after the team announced intentions to move.

The two sides filed lawsuits within 30 minutes of each other on Feb. 2, a day after Seahawks owner Ken Behring informed King County officials that he intended to take the team to Southern California, contending the Kingdome was unsafe in an earthquake.

But the lawsuits were filed in different counties. Seattle officials went to King County Superior Court in an effort to prevent the team from leaving immediately, while the Seahawks rushed to neighboring Kittitas County in an effort to break their lease with the Kingdome. That lease runs for another 10 years.

The two sides agreed to let Washington’s high court choose the venue. The case was put on an expedited calendar, but it is not known when the nine-member court will rule.

The issue could be moot if the team is sold. KOMO-TV in Seattle reported Tuesday that Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen had made an offer of more than $200 million to buy the team. But both Allen and Behring spokesmen adamantly denied the report.

The basic argument before the high court is simple: King County lawyer Art Harrigan said the county’s lawsuit takes priority because it was filed 28 minutes before the team’s action. He cited case law that gives a court jurisdiction over a case as soon as it is filed.

But Seahawks attorney Catherine Smith cited other case law that says a court does not gain jurisdiction over a case until the lawsuit has been filed and served on the party being sued. If that’s the case, the team’s action in Kittitas County would take priority because it was served on King County first.

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