Las Vegas ‒ UFC® has retained Paul Clement, former United States Solicitor General, to spearhead the organization’s appeals process after Judge Kimba Wood of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a lawsuit challenging the legality of New York’s ban on professional mixed martial arts (MMA) matches and exhibitions.
The judge’s dismissal of the UFC’s case against the State of New York in March was based on a technicality, and the decision confirms the state is misapplying the law. UFC was advised by the judge to “consider filing new vagueness claims.” Wood also stated the New York Attorney General’s “recent statements that the Ban prohibits sanctioned MMA” were made “despite [the law’s] plain language to the contrary.” UFC also believes that Judge Wood erred in failing to recognize the serious First Amendment problems with the New York law.
“We retained Paul Clement, one of the nation’s most highly respected appellate lawyers, to aggressively appeal the lower court’s technical dismissal of this matter,” UFC Chief Legal Officer Kirk Hendrick said. “Clement shares our view that New York’s law is unconstitutional and dangerous, and we will get the decision overturned.”
The State of New York passed legislation in 1997 banning professional MMA events, citing concerns for the lack of safety regulations. Since that time, the UFC has been on the forefront of athlete safety and implemented some of the most effective and strictest safety regulations in sports, resulting in 49 states and numerous countries legalizing MMA. Because New York’s law is vague, misapplied, and both overbroad and underinclusive, unsanctioned amateur MMA events—wholly unregulated and lacking necessary safety standards—have been allowed to take place.
“I am delighted to be representing the UFC in this important challenge to New York’s outdated and unconstitutional law,” Clement stated. “Even New York officials are confused about the scope of this hopelessly unclear law, and by targeting professional MMA matches and exhibitions, the law raises First Amendment problems of the first order,” he added.
Clement is a partner at Bancroft PLLC and represents a diverse range of clients in both federal and state appellate courts. He represented the National Basketball Association during labor negotiations in 2011 and the National Football League during a potential lockout season. Throughout his legal career, Clement has argued more than 75 cases in front of the United States Supreme Court and is regularly regarded as one of the most influential lawyers in the country. Confirmed by the United States Senate, Clement served as Solicitor General from June 2005 to Jun 2008. He also serves as a Distinguished Lecturer in Law at the Georgetown University Law Center and a Senior Fellow of the Law Center’s Supreme Court Institute.
The plaintiffs are also being represented in this action by Barry Friedman, the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, and Jamie A. Levitt of Morrison & Foerster LLP in New York.