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Originally published October 10, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 24, 2007 at 12:29 PM

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Sonics push city's suit to federal court

Lawyers for the owners of the Sonics and Storm have pushed Seattle's lawsuit against them to federal court. Seattle officials, represented by...

Lawyers for the owners of the Sonics and Storm have pushed Seattle's lawsuit against them to federal court.

Seattle officials, represented by former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, filed a lawsuit last month seeking to force the Sonics to play out the team's KeyArena lease through September 2010.

Lawyers for the Sonics filed a motion late Tuesday to remove the case from King County Superior Court to the U.S. District Court of Western Washington.

The Sonics' motion cited the fact that the team's ownership group is based in Oklahoma City, making the lawsuit an interstate contract dispute appropriate for federal court.

Ruth Bowman, a spokeswoman for Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr, said she did not know whether the city will fight the move.

Today, the Sonics filed an additional court notice saying the case had been assigned to U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez with a hearing set for Oct. 19.

While the Sonics had no immediate comment on their legal strategy, the move may be calculated to find a less political environment for the high-profile case. Unlike Superior Court judges, who face re-election every four years, federal judges are appointed for life.

Seattle's lawsuit was prompted by principal Sonics and Storm owner Clay Bennett's announcement that the team was seeking arbitration to escape the last two years of the Sonics' lease at city-owned KeyArena.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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