back to news July 13, 2011

Curt Flood's Lawyer Dropped Ball

The Curious Case of Curt Flood, a new HBO Sports documentary, suggests that Flood’s legal challenge to baseball’s reserve clause fizzled because of lazy lawyering by Arthur J. Goldberg, a former associate U.S. Supreme Court justice. Goldberg delivered the oral argument against the reserve clause and on Flood’s behalf before some of his former colleagues on the Supreme Court.

David Stebenne, professor of history and law and Goldberg’s biographer (Arthur Goldberg: New Deal Liberal), said Goldberg admitted that he had not prepared the case the way he should have, incorrectly assuming that the justices who had served with him would see the error of sticking by past decisions — and not wait any longer for Congress.

Stebenne had lengthy conversations with Goldberg, who told him that “the intensity of the questioning startled him; he was over his head.” Stebenne quoted Goldberg saying, “If I had understood the nature of the challenge, I would have prepared better.” The documentary on Curt Flood's suit against baseball indicates his lawyer was not prepared before the Supreme Court. “His mental picture was this was a case ripe to be overturned,” Stebenne said. “He was utterly surprised that it went the other way.”

Read more in the New York Times article, “Not Ready to Change Baseball History?’ featuring Stebenne.