Get your beignet-flavored popcorn ready.
According to the Associated Press, Judge Nicole Sheppard has ruled that Commissioner Roger Goodell and three game officials can be questioned under oath in the lawsuit filed regarding the blown pass interference call in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship game. The depositions will occur, barring a successful appeal, in September.
Late in the fourth quarter of a game the Rams won in overtime, L.A. defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman wiped out Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis near the goal line before a pass arrived. The non-call relegated the Saints to a field goal. If a flag had been thrown, the Saints would have been more likely to score a game-clinching touchdown.
Attorney Antonio LeMon filed the lawsuit, which seeks only $75,000 in damages in order to avoid the removal of the state-court proceedings to federal court. He said Monday that any proceeds will be donated to former Saints special-teams standout Steve Gleason’s charity promoting ALS research and supports ALS patients.
The difference between state and federal court decisions can be significant and, in many cases, outcome-determinative. State-court judges are elected; federal court judges are appointed for life. What better way for a Louisiana judge to ensure re-election in Louisiana than to exercise discretion in a way that supports Louisiana interersts?
The mere fact that federal law permits certain cases to be removed from state court to federal court acknowledges this reality of state-court home cooking. One of the two paths to federal court relies on the presence of exclusively out-of-state defendants and an amount in controversy of more than $75,000. By capping his potential recovery at $75,000, LeMon ensures that the case will remain in state court.
The NFL surely will pursue all avenues to appeal the ruling. Business executives like Goodell usually make for bad witnesses, especially when they have no legal training. They aren’t used to submitting to authority, they resent when they are required to, they get impatient and frustrated when asked tough questions, and they believe that they can talk their walk out of any jam.
The end result often is a swordfight that the witness thinks he’s winning until he realizes he’s been dismembered.