The to-lift-or-not-to-lift-the-lockout fight currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit represents only the first battle in the war declared by the players via the Tom Brady antitrust lawsuit. Regardless of whether the lockout is or isn’t lifted, the case will continue.
As Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reported earlier today, the league wants to delay until July 6 its deadline for responding to the complaint filed on March 11. The players have opposed the request.
The league explains that the Eighth Circuit’s ruling will influence the strategy for defending the case, and that the NFL possibly will file a motion to dismiss the entire lawsuit. That’s fine, but it shouldn’t prevent the NFL from engaging in the fairly perfunctory process of creating an answer to a civil complaint. All the NFL has to do is respond to every numbered paragraph of the complaint by admitting that the allegation is true, denying that it’s true, or declaring that there’s not yet enough information on which an admission or denial can be based. Throw in the standard litany of so-called “affirmative defenses,” and it’s done.
If the Eighth Circuit allows the lockout to continue with a ruling that hints that the entire case could be scuttled, then the league can file (please pardon the legal jargon) a motion to dismiss, a motion for judgment on the pleadings, or a motion for summary judgment.
So there’s no reason to delay the filing of an initial response to the complaint. It’s a simple exercise that one of the many high-priced lawyers could bang out between the time of this posting at 5:00 p.m. ET, justifying the placement of, say, 6.75 hours on his or her timesheet for the day. (We’re not accusing any specific lawyer of putting his or her thumb on the scale when it comes to time worked or time billed. But the subtle overbilling of time is one of the most common — and ignored — manifestations of corruption in the practice of law.)
Is the tactic part of an effort to prolong the litigation, delaying the resolution of the case beyond the point at which the players will cry “uncle,” as they essentially contend in a rhetoric-heavy passage from the opposition to the motion? Quite possibly. (By the way, rhetoric is hardly uncommon in legal filings, and it’s no surprise given all the other rhetoric that this dispute has generated.) Still, it seems like a no-brainer that Judge Nelson will tell the NFL that it’s had plenty of time to prepare an answer to the complaint, and that the league doesn’t need to wait until July 6 to file one.