Deflategate isn’t officially over.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman’s decision to vacate Tom Brady’s four-game suspension is significant. The New England Patriots quarterback will play in the team’s season opener next Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. In fact, he’ll play for the foreseeable future.
But Deflategate litigation will continue. Perhaps for a while.
“Judge Berman?s order in no way signals the end of the Deflategate litigation,” Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann wrote after Thursday’s verdict came down. “The order only reflects the conclusion of one chapter in a case that will likely extend into 2016 and possibly 2017.
NFL attorney Daniel Nash already filed a notice of appeal with Judge Berman’s court. So, what’s next?
Well, according to McCann, three judges will be selected to serve on a panel that eventually will hear the NFL’s appeal. It’s impossible to say at this point whether the panel bodes well for Brady or the NFL. We don’t know the judges and therefore can’t assess each one’s track record with regard to relevant topics.
Nevertheless, the NFL faces an “uphill climb” in convincing at least two of the three appellate judges that Judge Berman misapplied the law, according to McCann.
“Although each case presents unique issues and facts, appellate courts typically do not reverse district court judges on their orders to vacate or confirm arbitration awards,” McCann wrote. “The NFL will nonetheless need to persuade at least two of the three panel judges that Judge Berman?s decision to vacate Brady?s suspension reflects a misunderstanding of Article 46 and a disregard of a lengthy set of case precedents where federal district judges almost always confirm arbitration awards.”
The appeals process will not include new evidence or any witness testimony. There will be time for brief oral arguments, according to McCann, but almost all of the appellate review will consist of the three appellate judges reviewing legal memoranda filed by attorneys for the NFL and NFL Players Association.
Many factors play into how long it takes to decide an appeal. But according to McCann, it’s “safe to say” the NFL?s appeal likely will not be decided until sometime next spring or summer.
So, while Thursday’s decision means Brady is free to suit up for the defending Super Bowl champions, a lengthy process still awaits as far as litigation is concerned.
The book isn’t officially closed. Yet.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images