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Knicks’ Owner Dolan Again Presses to Sanction Charles Oakley

Dec. 6, 2021, 10:00 PM

The dismissal of retired NBA player Charles Oakley’s suit against Knicks owner James Dolan over his removal from Madison Square Garden doesn’t strip the court of jurisdiction to consider a sanctions motion against the former player, Dolan told the Southern District of New York.

It is well established that federal courts may consider collateral issues such as imposing sanctions after an action is no longer pending, Dolan told the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Dec. 3.

And the U.S. Supreme Court has instructed that sanctions may be imposed years after a judgment on the merits, Dolan said.

Dolan filed the letter to the court in response to Oakley’s argument that sanctions “cannot be entertained, as the court has already dismissed plaintiff’s claims at summary judgment and has closed the case.”

Dolan notified the court Nov. 29 that he would be seeking sanctions, after Oakley filed notice he would appeal the dismissal of his long-running suit.

“Oakley and his counsel continue to burden defendants and the federal judiciary by pursuing this frivolous, vexatious litigation,” Dolan said.

The trial court dismissed Oakley’s assault and battery claims after finding he failed to show that the security guards used “objectively unreasonable” force to remove him from New York’s pro-basketball arena.

The video footage conclusively showed the MSG guards “giving Oakley ample opportunity to leave the arena peaceably,” and under his own power, the court said. The video also showed that Oakley “ignored the guards’ entreaties and repeated attempts to direct him toward the exit,” the court said.

The video also refuted Oakley’s assertion that the guards pushed him to the ground, showing instead that he tripped, “nearly dragging down an MSG guard with him,” the court said.

The trial court previously dismissed the suit in February 2020, but it was revived by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit last November.

Oakley, an All-Star and longtime fan favorite, filed the lawsuit after he was thrown out of Madison Square Garden and arrested during a game on Feb. 8, 2017.

Oakley played for the Knicks from 1988 to 1998. He also played for the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, and Houston Rockets.

Judge Richard J. Sullivan is assigned to the litigation.

Wigdor LLP and Petrillo Klein & Boxer LLP represent Oakley. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and Walden Macht & Haran LLP represent Dolan.

The case is Oakley v. Dolan, S.D.N.Y., No. 17-cv-6903, 12/3/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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