The NFL Players Association will attack the Tom Brady suspension both on the question of whether NFL rules permit the punishment and on the issue of whether fair and appropriate procedures were used by the league.
On the latter point, the NFLPA will focus on the role of Paul, Weiss, Rifkin, Wharton & Garrison. Initially hired to conduct an “independent” investigation via partner Ted Wells, the firm eventually became an advocate for the NFL’s position, participating in the appeal hearing.
Specifically, the NFLPA claims that Paul, Weiss partner Lorin Reisner (pictured) sat at counsel table with the NFL, “conducted the vast majority of witness examinations (including Brady’s), and otherwise defended Brady’s discipline even though his personal work on the Wells Report was being reviewed, and even though his law partner Wells testified at the hearing.”
“We were frankly stunned when Paul, Weiss showed up as counsel for the NFL defending the discipline,” NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler told PFT by phone on Thursday.
The NFLPA contends that the involvement of Reisner as counsel for the NFL, coupled with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s refusal to make the investigative files generated by Wells and Reisner (including notes of witness interviews) available to the NFL, make the procedure fundamentally unfair.
NFL outside counsel Gregg Levy, who served as the Commissioner’s legal adviser at the Brady appeal hearing, told PFT by phone that notes generated by NFL security officials before the hiring of Ted Wells were given to the NFLPA. Levy confirmed that notes of interviews conducted by Wells and his team were not made available to the NFLPA.
“The substance of the interviews was reflected in the Wells report,” Levy said.
The problem, as the NFLPA would explain it, is that the notes become necessary to ensuring the accuracy of the report. Information from the notes possibly were omitted from the report. Information not in the notes possibly were present in the report. Information in the notes possibly contradict statements in the report.
With Reisner having access to the notes as NFL counsel at the appeal hearing and the NFLPA not having access to the notes at all, the imbalance becomes one of the key arguments the NFLPA will be advancing in court.