Plenty of things could have happened during Friday’s hearing in the bounty lawsuits. In the end, nothing happened at all.
Judge Helen G. Berrigan issued no ruling of any kind, taking the various pending motions and requests under advisement, according to the Twitter account of Tulane law professor Gabe Feldman.
She urged the parties to try to settle their differences, and she said that it could take some time to make a decision. During the hearing, Judge Berrigan suggested that she may have to wait until the August 30 appeal of arbitrator Stephen Burbank’s decision that Commissioner Roger Goodell’s jurisdiction isn’t superseded by the labor deal’s rules regarding salary-cap violations.
As Judge Berrigan said during the hearing, she wants to find for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, if she can find a legal basis for doing so. Later in the hearing, Judge Berrigan said of the league’s process, “This makes me crazy because I don’t think [the league's process] was fair.”
The problem is that Judge Berrigan needs to come up with a way to connect the dots leading from the legal theories raised to the outcome desired. Undoubtedly, she’ll give her team of law clerks the task of searching for a path through the maze. If they can, Vilma and company will win. If they can’t, the league will.
And any judgment will be subject to appeal. That’s really the lens through which Judge Berrigan will craft her decision. Judges don’t like to be told by other judges that they were wrong; Judge Berrigan will ultimately want to be right — and to be vindicated.
Whether she’ll be vindicated for vindicating Vilma and the Saints remains to be seen.