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Judge allows Bill Bowlen lawsuit against Broncos trustees to move forward

But 18th District Court Judge Charles M. Pratt also leaves door open for NFL arbitration in the ownership dispute.

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The latest development in the Broncos ownership saga has Bill Bowlen’s lawsuit against the trustees moving forward but possible NFL arbitration still on the table.

District judge Charles M. Pratt on Friday denied three different motions, including the trustees’ request to dismiss Bill Bowlen’s lawsuit filed against them last fall.

That lawsuit — which will now continue to court — argues that the trustees have not followed his brother Pat Bowlen’s wishes regarding operation of the team and selection of a new owner.

But the 18th District Court judge also denied two motions by Bill Bowlen — the main one being his request to stay possible arbitration by the NFL.

This means the NFL — at the request of the trustees — could still decide the plan of ownership succession even while Bill Bowlen’s lawsuit over the trustees’ management of that plan goes on trial.

The NFL has not stated whether it would enter into arbitration, but Roger Goodell did hint as much in a brief comment during his annual news conference during Super Bowl Week.

“As you know, this is an ongoing dispute,” he said. “It is one that our office and myself in particular may be involved with, so I’m limited in how much I can say at this point in time.”

Pratt also denied Bill Bowlen’s motion that the Pat Bowlen Trust should stop paying the trustees their compensation as well as their attorney fees while this is being decided.

This fight over ownership began nearly a year ago when Pat Bowlen’s second-oldest daughter, Beth Bowlen Wallace, announced her interest in becoming controlling owner despite the trustees’ insistence that she was not qualified.

The trustees have thrown their backing behind daughter Brittany Bowlen, daughter from his second marriage to current wife Annabel Bowlen. Brittany publicly noted her interest in ownership last October during a charity event with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation.

“I do have ambitions and goals to one day become controlling owner of the Denver Broncos,” she said. “I’ll keep working toward those goals. I’m not there yet, but I really believe I can get there.”

Broncos president Joe Ellis noted in December at the end-of-the-year news conference that Brittany Bowlen would have a place in the front office.

“I don’t know what the near future is exactly (for Brittany),” Ellis said. “It’s going to sort of be on her timetable as well as our conversations with her. She’s taking a lot of good steps moving forward.”

At least for now, that plan is still up to the courts and perhaps the NFL.

Here is our series on the ownership dispute from early February. Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.