New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady faces yet another Deflategate court date on Thursday, March 3, when the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals hears lawyers argue both sides of whether or not federal Judge Richard Berman was correct last September when he threw out National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell’s four-game suspension of Brady.
The NFL has accused Brady of masterminding a conspiracy to illegally deflate footballs prior to the 2014-2015 season’s AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts on January 18 of last year. The league then leveled a four-game suspension on Tom Brady, which Goodell upheld in an NFL arbitration hearing — a hearing in which Goodell himself acted as the abritrator.
In the following video, a New York University professor explains why he believes the NFL’s Deflategate case is full of holes.
Brady and the NFL Players Association sued the league – a few hours after the NFL itself sued in an attempt to get a federal court to “affirm” Goodell’s ruling — and the result was Berman ruling in the Patriots star’s favor, saying that NFL failed to give Brady a fair hearing for three reasons.
• The NFL never gave Brady, or any player, notice that tampering with footballs could be punished by a suspension lasting 25 percent of the football season.
• The league also refused to let one its attorneys, Jeff Pash, answer questions at Brady’s appeal hearing in front of Goodell — even though the league admitted that Pash helped author the Ted Wells Report, the very report that served as the league’s justification for suspending Brady.
• Finally, the NFL also refused even to share notes taken by Pash with Brady and the Players Association.
Three Second Circuit Court judges have been reviewing the case filed by both sides in the Deflategate appeal for some time now, and on Thursday, March 3, the trio will hear oral arguments in the case.
Those three judges are the court’s Chief Robert Katzmann, as well as Judge Barrington D. Parker and Judge Denny Chin. Katzmann and Chin were appointed by Democratic presidents — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, respectively. Parker was appointed by Republican George W. Bush, though he was originally appointed to the federal bench by Clinton and then given a promotion by Bush.
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Legal experts say that based on the past records of the three judges, Brady has good reason to be optimistic.
“You have a group a judges who appear, at least at the outset, good for Brady because if you are Brady you want judges that are going to be sympathetic to labor issues,” said sports law expert Michael McCann, who also writes about legal issues for Sports Illustrated.
“You’re going to want judges that are going to be sympathetic to union or management. Although these are not by any means far left or far right judges, they kind of are in the middle. Their track record suggests they are likely to rule for Brady. I say that because they tend to affirm the decisions of district court judges on arbitration matters. That is the key point because that is what Brady wants,” McCann told WEEI.com in Boston
Indeed, legal experts say, the Deflategate case at the appeals court level will not concern itself with the issue or deflated footballs at all. Instead, the sole issue before the three judges will be whether Berman made mistakes in issuing his ruling last year.
“It’s not necessarily Brady and the footballs on the hot seat, it’s Berman,” said New York attorney Jason Bonk, in an interview with The Boston Globe. “Was his conclusion of fundamental fairness being absent from the NFL’s arbitration proceeding valid enough to overturn the league’s decisions?”
According to McCann, the three judges, taken together, have ruled on Berman’s decisions 57 times between 2000 and 2015. In those cases, they have ruled against Berman only seven times. They have given him partial affirmations coupled with partial rejection in six other cases.
In other words, the three judges who will hear the Deflategate case have given a thumbs-up to Berman about three of every four cases — which should be great news for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots who, if the judges’ tendencies hold, will not have to play four games in 2016 without their Hall of Fame quarterback.
[Featured Photo By Steven Senne / Associated Press]