Judge Chosen in Ray Rice Appeal

Former U.S. District Court judge from New York Barbara S. Jones will oversee the Ray Rice appeal for the NFL (National Football League) as a neutral, third party arbitrator.

Ray Rice was a star running back for the Baltimore Ravens until video surfaced of him violently attacking his then fiancée Janay Palmer. The brutal attack landed him in legal trouble as well as professional. The Ravens initially suspended Rice for only two games, greatly angering fans, sponsors, and women’s rights activists across the country for their light punishment. When further videos of Ray Rice knocking Palmer unconscious and dragging her body out of the elevator came to light, the Ravens swiftly dropped him and ended his $35 million contract, pulling all of his merchandise from their shops as former fans lined up to exchange their Ray Rice jerseys.

Pressure from major sponsors and a growing amount of anger in the media over Ray Rice’s violent attack on Palmer finally convinced the NFL commissioner, Roger Godell, to issue an indefinite ban against Rice, barring him from playing for any team in the league. Ray Rice appealed the decision in spite of the enormous media backlash against him. The union for the NFL’s players asked for the appointment of a neutral third party arbitrator to handle Rice’s appeal on his behalf.

Barbara S. Jones, the judge chosen in the Ray Rice appeal, was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the southern district of New York by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and served on the bench until 2013 when she retired to go into private practice at the law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder. While on the bench, Jones was noted for her rather liberal rulings, namely, in the case of United States v. Windsor in which Jones ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman was in violation of the U.S. Constitution and ruled in favor of same sex marriage.

The Ray Rice appeal hinges on an argument that Rice was initially suspended for two games. When the indefinite suspension was then handed down in September, it was a second punishment for the same offense, according to Rice. Ray Rice and the union are claiming that this is punishing him twice and they say it is a violation of the rules. The NFL, however, cites the surfacing of the video as additional evidence that came to light which was not available initially and which justifies the harsher punishment.

Initially, Ray Rice tried to claim that the video which was published by TMZ was a fake; when that claim proved to be false, he then blamed alcohol for his actions. Although the grand jury indicted Rice for third-degree aggravated assault, the charges were later dropped on the stipulation that Rice agreed to attend court supervised counseling and the D.A.’s office suffered a lot of backlash for what many called a mishandling of the Ray Rice case. Even President Obama strongly condemned Rice’s actions so even if the Ray Rice appeal is successful in overturning the indefinite ban, given the heavy pressure from sponsors and fan that led to the ban in the first place, it is unlikely that any team will be willing to pick Rice up any time soon.

How do you think Judge Jones will rule in the Ray Rice appeal?