The Battle Not The War: Trevor Bauer’s Ongoing Legal Fight
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
(Photo Credit: The Sun)
After a four-day hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, it was announced on Thursday that the Judge denied a request to extend a restraining order against the Los Angeles Dodgers star Trevor Bauer. The court “[found] there is no supporting evidence that the respondent [Bauer] would cause any harm or even have [future] contact with [petitioner.]”
The woman bringing accusations against Bauer was seeking a five-year extension to the restraining order originally filed on June 29. She had come forward and accused the MLB pitcher of assault during two sexual encounters in April and May.
However, contrary to what headlines in the media are saying, Trevor Bauer is by no means exonerated from his conduct. In fact, it’s more than likely that the worst is yet to come.
So, what exactly did Bauer gain from the Judge’s denial then?
It is crucial to understand that the central question in the Judge’s ruling was whether Bauer should be restrained from contacting his accuser in the future. As was pointed out by Sheryl Ring, all this means is that Bauer has the right to not be prohibited from contacting the woman who accused him of sexual assault. The ruling merely indicates that the woman’s temporary restraining order has now officially expired and she will have no further protection. In the grand scheme of things, this may be the only “win” Bauer gets as both police and MLB investigations into the allegations continue.
Bauer is still facing potential criminal charges in two states, California and Ohio, and the evidence presented at the restraining order hearing did not do Bauer's reputation any favors. Not only did Bauer’s lawyer say he choked a woman until she was unconscious and then punched her while she was unconscious, but Bauer himself admitted to the same on a recorded telephone call played in the courtroom.
“Consent” is defined to mean positive cooperation in act or attitude pursuant to the exercise of free will. The person must act freely and voluntarily and have knowledge of the nature of the act or transaction involved. California Penal Code § 261.6. However, as stated previously, the issue central to this particular type of hearing was not whether Bauer received consent from the woman to the alleged sexual acts, but whether Bauer should be restrained from contacting his accuser in the future. While the transcript of the hearing may potentially be used against Bauer in later civil proceedings, his attorney was successful in this particular action.
Let’s also not forget that it was recently revealed that an Ohio woman, who alleged that Bauer punched and choked her without consent while they were having sex, requested a temporary restraining order against him in June 2020. Among the reasons why that woman sought an order are a series of threatening text messages he had allegedly sent her.
The Washington Post's investigation revealed one particularly disturbing message which reads, "I don't feel like spending time in jail for killing someone... And that's what would happen if I saw you again."
Both the California and Ohio women may still pursue civil remedies and that message will not help Bauer's case. As I stated previously, restraining orders protect a petitioner from future conduct, and thus do not bar the women from filing civil cases for money damages because money damages give compensation for past conduct. A future civil action is where the issue of consent would be of utmost importance.
As for MLB’s investigations, Bauer has been on paid leave from the Dodgers since July 2. MLB was quick to make clear that the Judge’s decision does not suggest Bauer will be taking the field anytime soon. Following the ruling, MLB and the players’ union agreed to extend Bauer’s leave for a sixth time, until August 27.
MLB’s ongoing investigation of Bauer is totally separate from any legal proceedings. MLB will independently decide whether the sexual assault allegations by the woman warrant an MLB suspension. The domestic violence policy outlined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement defines sexual assault quite clearly.
In a case that is centered around “consent,” this definition is imperative given the woman’s specific allegations against Bauer. On Wednesday during the court hearing, Ms. Hill explained "I did not consent to bruising all over my body and going to the hospital… and having things done to me while I was unconscious." As the policy unequivocally states, if the victim is asleep, incapacitated, unconscious or legally incapable of consent, lack of consent is inferred and thus Bauer will face an uphill battle trying to argue MLB should not follow its own policy.
The policy further requires Bauer to submit to an interview with MLB as part of league investigation. As of now, MLB has not yet interviewed Bauer. This is a mandatory part of its procedure which means it is also a major clue into the timing of his administrative leave, and how long it may be until he is (or far more unlikely isn’t) disciplined.
Per the CBA, in certain cases, the Commissioner may decide that he is not in a position to impose discipline until the resolution of a criminal or legal proceeding, but that allowing the Player to play during the pendency of the criminal or legal proceeding would result in substantial and irreparable harm to either the Club or MLB. In such cases, the Player may be suspended with pay pending resolution of the criminal or legal proceeding (or until the Commissioner determines that he has just cause to impose an unpaid, disciplinary suspension).
As the police have not yet concluded their investigation on Bauer, it’s likely that Commissioner Rob Manfred is waiting until they decide whether or not to formally charge him. However, even if police find that there is not enough evidence to charge Bauer with a crime, MLB’s policy gives Commissioner Rob Manfred the power to suspend him for just cause regardless.
So, for those who think the Judge denying a restraining order was the end of the legal fight for Bauer, think again.
Stephanie is a recent graduate of New York Law School and a law clerk at Geragos & Geragos. She is also a Website Editor and Guest Host for Conduct Detrimental. You can find her on Twitter @SWeissenburger_ and Instagram @Steph_ExplainsItAll