Fisher's lawyer claims Hunter has conflict of interest with judge

UPDATED 11:54 a.m. ET, June 18

Attorneys for Derek Fisher and his assistant filed a motion for a change of venue Monday in the lawsuit filed against them by Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the National Basketball Players Association.

Among other things, the motion presented evidence of an alleged conflict of interest between Hunter and the presiding judge in the Oakland, Calif., court where the lawsuit was filed.

According to the attorney for Fisher and assistant Jamie Wior, Hunter had no legal basis to sue in the Superior Court of Alameda County because neither defendant lives there and because the NBPA is headquartered in New York City. Hunter sued Fisher, Wior and the NBPA on May 16, claiming defamation and breach of contract stemming from his dismissal from the NBPA in February.

"Plaintiff Billy Hunter filed his complaint in the wrong court," said the motion, obtained by CBSSports.com. Andrew Kassof, attorney for Fisher and Wior, argues in the motion that the case should be transferred to Los Angeles County, where both Fisher and Wior live.

"The suit has no merit and my clients, Mr. Fisher and Ms. Wior, plan to defend it vigorously," Kassof said. "First, however, it must be moved to the appropriate court."

In an exhibit filed with the motion, Kassof presented a record of emails exchanged between Hunter and C. Don Clay, the presiding judge of the Superior Court of Alameda County, where Hunter filed his lawsuit. The emails in April 2012 indicated a friendly, sympathetic relationship between Hunter and the judge.

In one email, Clay wrote to Hunter, in an apparent reference to Fisher: "This guy and his advisors still think that they can out think you! They will never give up! You know always to be on the alert! Keep up the fight! We will continue to pray for you!"

Hunter responded: "C Don thanks so much for the support. I now know how Obama feels, since he has to contend with this bs on a daily basis. I have urged the [board] to conduct an extensive audit to shutdown Derek Fisher. Keep me in your prayers."

Hunter's attorney, David Anderson of Sidley Austin, said the case is not pending before Clay and characterized the inclusion of the emails as an attempt by Fisher and Wior to "deflect attention from their own bad behavior."

The audit Hunter was referring to resulted in a nine-month investigation and a scathing report by the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. The report accused Hunter of failing to properly manage conflicts of interest and putting his own personal gain ahead of the union's interests.

An interim executive committee elected at All-Star weekend this past February voted unanimously to oust Hunter as executive director. A search is under way for his replacement. Fisher, who finished the 2012-13 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder but who does not have a contract for next season, remains the union's president.

Hunter, 70, alleged in his lawsuit that Fisher and Wior conspired to have him ousted as executive director during the 2011 lockout and improperly inserted themselves into the negotiations with the owners.

 
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