When reviewing a written ruling from a court, lawyers have a habit of going to the last page and working backwards. Judge Richard M. Berman surely knows that this happens, which means there’s a chance he included a specific message for the league’s lawyers at the very end of Thursday’s ruling in the Tom Brady case.
And the message may have been, “Appeal this decision at your own peril.”
Appearing at the top of the last full page of the 40-page ruling is the list of claims from Brady and the NFL Players Association that Judge Berman saw no need to address, including: (1) whether Commissioner Roger Goodell was “evidently partial” in presiding over the appeal of Brady’s suspension; (2) whether Goodell’s conclusions regarding Brady’s knowledge of and involvement in the alleged deflation scheme exceeded the findings of the Ted Wells report; and (3) whether Goodell undermined his competency to serve as arbitrator by publicly praising the work of Ted Wells.
So if the NFL, which already has filed a notice of appeal, pursues the appeal, wins the appeal, and forces the case back to Judge Berman for proceedings consistent with the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Judge Berman can take up those issues — and once again scrap the suspension. Or, at a minimum, he can order that a second appeal hearing occur.
Which means that the case could be tied up even longer in the courts, and that the eventual ruling (if the NFL wins its appeal) could directly undermine the Commissioner’s powers in future suspensions.
The NFL may not have thought of this. Frankly, I hadn’t thought of it until someone smarter than me (it’s a low bar) alerted me to the angle.
The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. The NFL should consider the situation carefully before deciding whether it makes sense to continue with its appeal.