Members of the public may get to decide the fate of the owners of the New York Mets in their high-stakes battle over hundreds of millions of dollars with the trustee in the Bernard Madoff case, a judge has ruled.
In a six-page decision Wednesday, Manhattan federal Judge Jed Rakoff said trustee Irving Picard has the right to have a jury trial in his lawsuit against the Wilpon family members and their partners in Sterling Equities to recover nearly $84 million in profits and $295 million in principal. The case is slated for a trial in early 2012.
The Wilpons and the their partners had argued that Picard had no right to have a jury decide the facts in his suit to recover so-called fraudulent transfer involving alleged profits received from Madoff's fraudulent scheme.
But Rakoff wasn't convinced by the Wilpons' argument and said Picard under the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution had the right to request -- as he has done -- that a jury hear the case. Spokesmen for Picard and the Wilpons couldn't be reached for comment.
It is still unclear that a jury, composed of between six to 12 members of the public drawn from a pool of residents within the confines of the federal Southern District -- where Yankee Stadium but not Citi Field is located -- will actually get to hear the case. Picard and the Mets owners have been in mediation before former Gov. Mario Cuomo for several months trying for a settlement.
But the case has resulted in tough legal skirmishes. Picard had originally sued the team owners late last year for up to $1 billion in profits and original investments, alleging they knew or should have known Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme. The Wilpons denied the charges and successfully got Rakoff in September to knock out much of Picard's case.