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Judge again says he will not step down in Eli Manning memorabilia lawsuit

Eli Manning of the Giants looks on from

Eli Manning of the Giants looks on from the sidelines late in the fourth quarter against the Lions at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 18, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The New Jersey judge overseeing the lawsuit that accuses the Giants’ Eli Manning of memorabilia fraud has declined a second request that he step down because he is an admitted longtime Giants fan who owns two personal seat licenses at MetLife Stadium.

In a ruling issued Oct. 13 and obtained by Newsday, Superior Court Judge James J. DeLuca said he is staying on because the dozens of decisions that he’s issued thus far in the case have not been biased toward either Manning or the Giants. He also said his ownership of two PSLs for Giants games does not constitute a financial interest that could be affected by the case’s outcome.

Brian Brook, an attorney for the memorabilia collectors who are suing Manning and the Giants, previously argued in an August motion that the resale value of the judge’s PSLs could be negatively affected if Manning were to be potentially suspended as a result of what comes up at trial. Brook also cited recent changes to New Jersey’s code of conduct for judges require them to step aside from cases if they have “a financial interest in an enterprise related to the litigation.”

Judge DeLuca disagreed.

“The PSL gives the holder the right and obligation to purchase tickets to football games; it is neither an investment or a financial interest,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Two years ago, DeLuca declined Brook’s initial request that he recuse himself, saying his ownership of two PSLs for Giants home games “has nothing to do with” the lawsuit.

The judge also noted in his Oct. 13 ruling that he has issued 35 to 40 decisions in the case since then, with some favoring the memorabilia collectors and others favoring the defendants. None of those decisions, he said, have been appealed.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2014 by sports memorabilia entrepreneur Eric Inselberg, alleges that Manning and Giants equipment manager Joe Skiba passed off regular Giants helmets and jerseys to be sold as game-used by sports memorabilia company Steiner Sports, which also is named as a defendant. Other defendants include Giants co-owner John Mara, general counsel William Heller and assistant equipment manager Ed Skiba.

A trial had been set for Sept. 25, but DeLuca indefinitely postponed that in June because of discovery delays. No new trial date has been set. Another Oct. 13 ruling by the judge regarding discovery issues also revealed for the first time that many of the principals involved in the case, including Manning, have already given depositions.

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