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January 26, 2010
WASHINGTON, DC, January 26, 2010 — Over the span of eight days this month, Covington & Burling LLP lawyers presented oral argument before the Supreme Court in two significant business cases.
On January 13, Covington litigation chair Gregg Levy argued on behalf of the National Football League in American Needle v. National Football League, an antitrust case that has been described as the most important sports case in many years. The case considers whether the member clubs of a professional sports league operate as a single economic entity or whether they should be deemed competitors whose business decisions are subject to challenge under the “conspiracy” provisions of the antitrust laws. The specific League operation at issue in American Needle was the League’s decision to promote NFL Football through an exclusive license of marks and logos for use on apparel. The high court’s decision could have substantial implications for sports leagues and other joint ventures.
On January 20, Robert Long, head of Covington’s appellate practice, argued for Xerox Corporation’s pension plan in Conkwright v. Frommert, a significant case under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The Supreme Court is considering whether the lower federal courts should have deferred to the Xerox Plan Administrator’s interpretation of the language of the Xerox Plan. The Court is also considering whether it was appropriate for the court of appeals to defer to the district court’s interpretation of the relevant plan language. The case is significant because the appropriate standard of review is a key issue in ERISA benefit claims cases. An earlier case addressing deference to Plan Administrators is reported to be the most-cited ERISA case in history.
In all, Covington lawyers appeared in five of the ten cases that were argued during the Court’s January session. In addition to the NFL and Xerox cases, Covington was co-counsel for the respondent in United States v. Comstock and filed amici briefs for the American Petroleum Institute in Mac’s Shell Service v. Shell Oil Products Co. and for a leading British non-governmental organization in Abbott v. Abbott.