New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces another court hearing on the “Deflategate” case next week, this time as the result of an appeal filed by the NFL. Federal Judge Richard Berman ruled last September that Commissioner Roger Goodell exceeded his authority when he suspended Brady for four games, allegedly for conspiring to deflate footballs before the AFC Championship Game on January 18, 2015.
Brady may have received even more good news on Thursday, as he continues to battle against the league’s attempts to uphold his suspension.
The NFL appealed Berman’s ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, contending that Article 46 of the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the Players Association gave Goodell unassailable power to punish players at his discretion, and without regard to established labor practices.
The Second Circuit court, which hears appeals from courts in New York state, and the two New England states of Connecticut and Vermont, has 13 judges but like all federal appellate courts, selects “panels” of three judges each — picked at random from the full 13 — to hear individual appeals.
The video below gives further background on the Deflategate case, as seen from inside the New England Patriots organization.
If the NFL wins the Deflategate appeal, the case will likely go back to Berman with new instructions from the higher court. At that point, Berman may be forced to change his ruling and the New England Patriots may have to play four games in the 2016 season without their superstar quarterback.
With the Deflategate appeal hearing scheduled for next Thursday, March 3, at the Second Circuit courtroom in Thurgood Marshall Federal Courthouse in Manhattan, New York, the three judges who will hear the NFL appeal against the Patriots quarterback have now been selected and publicly posted.
And if historical trends hold up, the three-judge panel spells good news for Brady.
Statistically, federal judges who have been appointed by Democratic presidents are more likely to side with workers in cases that pit labor against management and corporations. But judges appointed by Republican presidents side more frequently with businesses and corporate interests.
If you believe that a federal appeals judge nominated by a Democratic President is good for Tom Brady’s case, then you’re pleased right now.
— Michael McCann (@McCannSportsLaw) February 25, 2016
Of course, those historical tendencies are just that — tendencies. They are far from iron-clad predictors.
“Before predicting Brady wins, remember federal judges often hard to predict,” noted sports law expert Michael McCann Thursday. “They have lifetime appointments, they’re not elected officials.”
The three judges who will hear the NFL Deflategate appeal will be the court’s Chief Judge, Robert Katzmann, 63, a 1980 graduate of Yale University Law School; Judge Barrington D. Parker, Jr., 71, also a Yale Law grad; and Judge Denny Chin, 62, a native of Hong Kong who emigrated to the United States at age two. Chin grew up in New York City and graduated from Fordham University Law School.
Katzmann and Chin were both appointed to the Second Circuit by Democratic presidents, Katzmann by Bill Clinton in 1999, Chin by Barack Obama in 2010.
Parker was appointed to the Second Circuit by Republican President George W. Bush in 2001. But he was originally appointed to the federal district court by Clinton in 1994, making him a rare case of a judge appointed by a Democrat and promoted by a Republican, or vice-versa.
Chin is perhaps best known for a 2009 ruling, while still a federal district court judge, in which he sentenced convicted Wall Street swindler Bernie Madoff to 150 years behind bars.
Katzmann and Parker sat on a Second Circuit panel together in 2012 to hear an appeal brought by a Vermont prison inmate who sued the state saying that his forced labor while in prison amounted to human slavery. A lower court threw out the inmate’s lawsuit, but Katzmann, Parker, and a third judge unanimously overturned the lower court’s decision, allowing the inmate to continue suing Vermont.
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Parker was part of Second Circuit panel in 2013, in a case involving a man who took topless pictures of his teenage daughter to aid her modeling career and was subsequently convicted of making child pornography. A court sentenced him to wear an electronic device on his penis that would record occasions when he became sexually aroused.
Parker co-authored the court’s opinion throwing out the bizarre sentence, calling it an unwarranted invasion of privacy and adding, that there was “no reasonable connection between fluctuating penis size and public protection.”
The judges’ ruling on the NFL Deflategate appeal, and the fate of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, will likely not be known for several weeks after the March 3 hearing.
[Featured Photo By Joe Mahoney/Associated Press]