The latest chapter in the Deflategate saga unfolded in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday as the three judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit questioned lawyers for both the NFL and NFLPA in a hearing to determine if they will uphold Judge Richard Berman’s ruling that set aside Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.
Observers in the courtroom noted that NFLPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler faced stiff inquiries during his turn in front of the panel, including queries from Judge Barrington Parker about Brady’s destruction of his cell phone.
“Why couldn’t the commissioner suspend Brady for that conduct alone?” Judge Barrington Parker said, via the Providence Journal. “You have one of the most celebrated players performing in that fashion? Anybody within 100 yards of this proceeding knew that would raise the stakes.”
Parker went on to say that Brady’s explanation that he routinely destroys his phone “made no sense whatsoever.” Federal court reporter Max Stendahl of Law360 tweeted throughout the hearing and noted that Judge Denny Chin called evidence “compelling, if not overwhelming.”
Stendahl — his entire reporting from the hearing is well worth a look — also reported “tough questions” for NFL lawyer Paul Clement during the proceedings, including ones about why the issue was not handled as an equipment violation and whether deflating balls provide “any advantage on the field.” In the end, though, Stendahl and others in attendance felt the day went better for the league than for Brady.
Those interpretations won’t necessarily be reflected in the decision of the appeals court, however. Their decision will not be known for several months and could affirm Berman’s decision, send it back to Berman’s court, back to an arbitrator or find for the league. The losing side would be able to request a hearing from the entire Second Circuit or the Supreme Court, so, in other words, we may not be close to the end of the road yet.