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NHL lawsuit assigned to 2nd-year federal judge, former federal prosecutor

Don Fehr, executive director for the National Hockey League Players Associations, is surrounded by hockey players as he speaks to reporters, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 in New York.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

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Don Fehr, executive director for the National Hockey League Players Associations, is surrounded by hockey players as he speaks to reporters, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 in New York.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The NHL's lawsuit against its players was assigned to a relatively new federal judge who is a longtime New York Yankees fan and a former federal prosecutor.

The sides didn't talk Sunday, the 92nd day of a lockout that is threatening to wipe out an entire NHL season for the second time in nine years. NHL players started voting on whether to have their union give up collective bargaining rights, a "disclaimer of interest" that could be a precursor to an antitrust suit.

The league argued in a 43-page suit Friday in federal court in Manhattan that the union's actions were a bargaining manoeuvr and asked that the lockout be declared legal. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer, who joined the bench in July 2011.

The 51-year-old is a graduate of Horace Mann School, Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

He spent a year between college and graduate school as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. After clerking for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, he had two stints in the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, rising to chief of the major crimes unit. He also worked in the Solicitor General's office in Washington, D.C.

One of his more prominent cases occurred in 1999, when he led the prosecution of Lawrence X. Cusack III, convicted on 13 counts on mail and wire fraud stemming from the sale of forged documents claiming President John F. Kennedy paid hush money to keep secret an affair with Marilyn Monroe. Cusack was sentenced to 10 years, 3 months in prison and ordered to pay $7 million restitution.

Two years earlier, Engelmayer prosecuted a Los Angeles woman, Autumn Jackson, who was convicted of conspiracy and crossing state lines to commit a crime for threatening to tell tabloids she was Bill Cosby's out-of-wedlock child unless he paid her $40 million. Jackson was sentenced to 26 months in prison. Cosby denied he was Jackson's father but admitted having an affair with her mother and providing more than $100,000 in financial support.

Engelmayer worked from 2000-11 with the New York law firm now known as WilmerHale before he was nominated for the bench by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate.

In his most notable decision thus far, Engelmayer ruled a provocative ad that equates Muslim radicals with savages is protected speech under the First Amendment. New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority initially refused to run the ad, saying it was "demeaning."

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