Rocket Center Appeals $1.4 Million NY Court Ruling

Last week attorneys for the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission (ASSEC) filed an appeal to a recent New York court judgment for $1.4 million dollars. The judgment was an affirmation of an award granted by an arbitration panel finding that the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, specifically CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart, was at fault for the early termination of a NASA grant to fund the cartoon series Space Racers.

In making the appeal, attorneys for ASSEC stated a familiar set of arguments as to why the affirmation should be reversed.

The Commission seeks reversal of each and every part of the Transcript of Decision confirming the Arbitration Award on the grounds that (1) the New York Supreme Court lacked personal jurisdiction over the Commission because the Commission’s only activity relating to New York was participating in the arbitration, over its objections; and (2) the New York Supreme Court and the AAA Panel lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because, under Alabama law, which is the governing law under the underlying contract, the Commission possesses sovereign immunity under Article I, Section 14 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901. Additionally, the New York Supreme Court improperly (1) entered a temporary restraining order preventing the Commission from pursuing vacatur of the arbitration award in Alabama State Court, and (2) refused to stay this action pending resolution of the Alabama vacatur proceeding.

ASSEC appeal to NY Appellate Division in Space Race vs ASSEC

This appeal comes shortly after news that ASSEC’s request to NASA for prompt payment of additional funds related to the grant had been approved. In mid April Louis Ramirez, USSRC VP of Finance, notified members of ASSEC’s Executive and Business Committees of the recent development but did not disclose an amount.

Meanwhile, in a North Alabama Federal District Court, both parties are also in the initial pleading phase of a second case. Attorneys for ASSEC had originally filed the motion to vacate in a Madison County District Court stating that the agency had sovereign-immunity and that Alabama was the proper venue. Soon after attorney’s for Space Race, LLC removed the case to federal court soon after and obtained a temporary restraining order preventing ASSEC from pursuing the federal case until after the New York court had made a ruling. At this point, it is not clear if Space Race, LLC will seek another temporary restraining order from the New York Court while the appeal is being heard.