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Vilma v. Goodell officially assigned a judge

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With all the various lawsuits and other legal maneuverings in the NFL, it’s easy to forget some of them.  One case that won’t quickly disappear from public eye is the matter of Vilma v. Goodell, a rare attack by an active player against the Commissioner of his sport, with no other plaintiffs or defendants involved.

Jim Varney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the case has been assigned to Judge Helen Ginger Berrigan of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  A New York native, Judge Berrigan attended law school at LSU and never left.  She was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton in 1993.

Judge Berrigan has a reputation for being very liberal, which means she’ll be more naturally inclined to relate to Vilma’s perspective than Goodell’s.

Goodell has not yet filed a response to the complaint.  He most likely will submit a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that Vilma must pursue any rights or remedies under the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s grievance process.  Goodell and the NFL undoubtedly will advance other arguments in support of ending the case before it ever really gets rolling.

If/when the merits of the defamation claim are addressed, Vilma’s biggest hurdle will be the legal standard that applies to public figures.  He’ll have to prove that Goodell acted with malice.  While this doesn’t require evidence that Goodell spent hours in his secret lab plotting to harm Vilma, it means that Vilma must prove Goodell knew the bounty allegations publicly made about Vilma were false, or that Goodell acted with reckless disregard to whether the allegations were true or false.

Either way, survival of the lawsuit beyond the early efforts to get it kicked out of court will give Vilma and his lawyer the ability to investigate the bounty investigations, developing all evidence of guilt — and any evidence of innocence.

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23 Responses to “Vilma v. Goodell officially assigned a judge”
  1. horsecore says: May 26, 2012 5:02 PM

    Does anyone else miss the days when football was football?

    The last two or so years of BS like this are asinine.

  2. lovetron says: May 26, 2012 5:19 PM

    More and more it’s becoming hard to relate to these guys as human beings. They already live in a completely different world than we regular folks do, but it’s really gotten out of control. The hurt feelings over trivial matters, the prima-donna attitudes, the senses of entitlement, the lack of accountability… none of this would ever fly where I come from. Suddenly in this billion-dollar industry it’s become the norm. Makes it tough to want to spend one of my days off rooting for them four months out of the year.

  3. butthatmakestoomuchsense says: May 26, 2012 5:19 PM

    horsecore says: Does anyone else miss the days when football was football?

    I blame Goodell.

  4. jfinn5 says: May 26, 2012 5:33 PM

    I hope Vilma wins!

  5. hpeters77 says: May 26, 2012 5:47 PM

    Go vilma

  6. firedup1 says: May 26, 2012 6:26 PM

    Goodell will win.

  7. exsquidao says: May 26, 2012 6:28 PM

    lovetron says:May 26, 2012 5:19 PM

    More and more it’s becoming hard to relate to these guys as human beings. They already live in a completely different world than we regular folks do, but it’s really gotten out of control. The hurt feelings over trivial matters, the prima-donna attitudes, the senses of entitlement, the lack of accountability… none of this would ever fly where I come from. Suddenly in this billion-dollar industry it’s become the norm. Makes it tough to want to spend one of my days off rooting for them four months out of the year.

    So you’re rooting for Goodel?

  8. omniscient48 says: May 26, 2012 6:29 PM

    “She was appointed to the federal bench by President Clinton”

    “Judge Berrigan has a reputation for being very liberal”

    Isn’t this redundant?

  9. ampats says: May 26, 2012 6:30 PM

    Vilma will never win and this just cost him any shot of a future in the NFL.Regardless what side of the table you are on about bountygate does anyone really believe Vilma made the right decision sueing Goodell/NFL and what owner will want a aging over the hill “tainted” player on his team?

  10. bearsstillsuck says: May 26, 2012 7:35 PM

    The nfl is going the way of Rome; it’s own growth will be its downfall and it’ll implode.
    The smart thing to do would be to come up with a new sport to take its place.

  11. icdogg says: May 26, 2012 8:35 PM

    I think the CBA pretty much constrains Vilma from pursuing this claim in court. His attorney better have an exceptional reason that this should not be handled by the process agreed to within the CBA, and it has to be a better reason than his failure at that level.

  12. vikingamericann says: May 26, 2012 8:43 PM

    If Vilma’s lawyer gets to depose Goodell under oath, Vilma wins.

  13. txxxchief says: May 26, 2012 8:50 PM

    It is truly amazing how these frivolous lawsuits wind up in front of liberal, activist judges who are yearning to subvert the legislative process and create new law via the concept of precedent.

    Plaintiffs’ attorneys and the judges they have installed are slowly destroying our country.

  14. Justin says: May 26, 2012 10:07 PM

    I watch football and wonder what will ever knock them from being america’s most popular sport.

    Stupid crap like this and all the other stuff the last few years will be its downfall if there ever is one.

  15. covercorner says: May 26, 2012 10:19 PM

    I hope Goodell has to pay millions.

  16. guppies66 says: May 26, 2012 11:28 PM

    Vilma should be in jail and banned for life.

  17. ksm31311 says: May 26, 2012 11:31 PM

    Goodell has been installed as an early 3 – 5 favorite by Vegas…

  18. stairwayto7 says: May 27, 2012 12:56 AM

    Goodell has her in his pack pocket!

  19. critter69 says: May 27, 2012 4:51 AM

    “which means she’ll be more naturally inclined to relate to Vilma’s perspective than Goodell’s.”

    Why? Because ‘libby’ judges are for the worker, while ‘CONservative’ judges are for the employer?

    Always?

    Actually, liberal judges are for the even distribution of justice, and for the following of established rules, while CONservative judges look for any way to give the employer an advantage.

  20. CKL says: May 27, 2012 1:47 PM

    Seriously guys? Ok then.

    Hey critter, ever looked at EEOC laws? They protect workers like CRAZY. (including alcoholics, etc)..it’s tough to fight them because a lot of companies settle even the spurious claims rather than have protracted, expensive and PR damaging legal battlers with even ne’er do wells. I’ve seen it first hand. It sickens me. If that’s your idea of “justice” that says more about you than it does about anyone else.

  21. mizzgee4 says: May 28, 2012 3:01 PM

    Whew!, I’m just glad they didn’t appoint Goodell judge!

  22. juliusanonymous says: May 29, 2012 2:18 PM

    It’s becoming annoying to see political nonsense in half the replies here. People, leave the politics for CNN. I don’t care if you are a Prius-driving bleeding-heart liberal or a pickup-driving gun-totin’ conservative. Shut your yapper, nobody cares about your politics, you have nothing unique or intelligent to say so just keep it shut.

    Vilma can’t do anything about the discipline so he sues Goodell for defamation, over statements Goodell made to the media. Problem is, the plaintiff (Vilma) is required to prove that the statements made by Goodell are false. That will be nearly impossible. How could he actually prove that the statements are false? Then he will have to prove that Goodell made the statements with the intent to do financial or physical harm to Vilma. Laughably weak claims on both counts. Even if Vilma loses pay over his suspension, that is an entirely different issue with no relevance on the defamation case. He would have to prove that employers don’t want to hire him because of the claims made by Goodell, but that is not true – he is being paid, is still on contract, and has lost no money due to Goodell’s “defamation”.

    Vilma needs to find better counsel, who should have warned him that he had no case and that suing the NFL will probably make his problems worse, rather than better. Instead, Vilma throws a childish tantrum and sues in federal court, which the taxpayers will pay for. Way to waste our tax money, Vilma. Now go get a real attorney and get your head straight.

  23. sec315 says: Jun 1, 2012 5:09 AM

    Actually juliusanonymous, you’re mistaken on many points.
    1) Vilma does not have to prove that Goodell made the statements with intent to do financial or physical harm – he only has to prove actual malice, which does not require proof of either of the things you mentioned.
    2) Although Vilma may still be under contract, he can prove loss of pay or future earnings by various other means. For example, he could argue that companies may be less likely to sponsor him due to a tainted image, or argue that there’s the potential for loss of revenue due to the possibility that fewer people may purchase his jerseys, etc.
    3) Loss of income is actually entirely relevant to proving damages in a defamation suit.
    4) Vilma can seek to prove the falsity of the statements during Discovery. However, proof of actual malice actually only requires proof that either Goodell knowingly published false statements OR proof of reckless disregard for the truth.

    Please reference La. R.S. 14:47 and 14:49 and next time do a little research before pretending like you know what the law is.

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