Monday, August 31, 2015

Berman's Options: Siding With Arrogance Or Breaking Precedence

"...there has to be a powerful adrenalin rush in crouching by the side of the road, waiting for the next set of headlights to come along, then streaking out of the bushes with split-second timing and making it across to the other side just inches in front of the speeding front tires..."

In the quote above, Hunter S. Thompson was referring to how boring a life jackrabbits live, suggesting that in order to get their thrills, they play chicken with vehicles. Sometimes they live to dart out in front of another bus on another day, but sometimes they end up as dinner for scavengers that cling to the telephone wire, watching from above.

This analogy isn't necessarily limited to just jackrabbits, as squirrels, rouge dogs and similarly bored cats will dash in front of a car with zero notice at all - as will street punks, who will feign having a conscience by appearing to slow down as they reach the curb but step into the street anyway, the only difference between them and lower life forms is that the street punk will slow to a crawl once in the street, usually engrossed in a cell phone conversation...

...pausing just long enough to give you an indignant stare down while you ponder goosing the accelerator to throw the fear of twisted metal in their warped brains. Tempting as it is, however, you keep your foot on the brake pedal, sparing the dirtbag a case of road rash that he or she so richly deserves.

Ah, these demonic daydreams are going to be the end of me, but I don't suffer ignorance nor arrogance gladly, nor, it seems, does United States Second Circuit Judge Richard Berman.

On all three occasions when he has had the legal teams for both the NFL and Tom Brady in his courtroom over the past three weeks, his demeanor has suggested that not only is he annoyed that the NFL seemingly cannot dispose of its own business without haranguing the federal court system to make their decisions for them, but also that neither side is willing to budge from their original stances.

For Brady, that means that he is unwilling to settle the case unless the settlement is limited to a fine and, most importantly, that Brady doesn't have to accept guilt in deflating footballs - and for the NFL, it means that they will not go forward with a settlement if Brady will not accept the Wells Report as fact.

Berman has been particularly hard on the NFL, and for good reason. He has experienced the arrogance of the NFL in their never ending effort to make sure that that everyone understands that the powers of the Commissioner are absolute, with NFL lead council Daniel Nash going so far as to "remind" his honor that no one, not even he, has the authority to usurp that authority.

But that hasn't stopped the Judge from repeatedly questioning the NFL regarding their processes and flogging them with outright accusations of misrepresenting not only Brady, but their own base for discipline, but at the same time covering his tracks for possible appeal by advising all involved to not read too much into his harsh words for the NFL, and that he's just trying to gain a better understanding for their mind set.

Even more maddening is that fact that, in well-set law, Nash is absolutely correct - and it would take a resounding and clear cut establishment of over-reaching, evident bias and improper procedure to overturn Goodell's ruling. Berman is bound to precedence, but it doesn't mean that he can't make things as tough as possible on the league.

Likely, Berman sees the NFL as the street punk that has the arrogance to walk out in front of a moving vehicle because they know that the car will stop or the driver risks months of litigation and perhaps years in jail - in a case such as that, the Judge would know that the street punk is a dirtbag, will know that he or she likely is a menace to society, and his or hers lawyer is likely an ambulance chaser who is versed in extracting everything they can from the victim's rights language...

...meaning that the driver, though it be found that he did everything he could to stop, would still likely be found liable for damages, as pedestrians, even those who are a strain on society or criminals, would be found to be the victims.

In fact, Berman could be so incensed by the NFL's arrogance that he could order that the NFL do the entire thing over again or, more likely, simply find for the NFL but issue a stay of Brady's suspension until the appellate court comes to a decision, which could be months from now.

The entire world knows that the loser in this case will appeal the decision, but the the league has it within their purview to skip the appellate process and discipline Brady again, thereby side-stepping all of the land mines they created for themselves and launching a new investigation that would focus on a different angle and issue another suspension based on "new evidence".

At the same time, Berman has the power to send this entire thing back to arbitration, but to do so, he would have to find in favor of Brady - and not just find in favor of Brady, but also stipulate in his decision that the league can not punish Brady for any Deflategate centered matters, or at least limit how they go about it by ordering the case to be heard by a truly independent arbitrator.

As mentioned before, the more likely scenario is that the Judge may have no choice but to follow precedence and find in favor of the NFL, but he could save Brady the mess of trying to get an injunction to continue playing by issuing a stay of execution of punishment - either without prodding or by motion from the NFLPA - while the appellate process is heard.

To justify this, the Judge would have to find that even though the NFL is correct in their interpretation of the law, at the same time their processes of measuring discipline irreparably harm Brady.

Attorney Daniel Wallach has presented a scenario over social media that sets the scene for such a ruling, in that "courts have generally recognized that a professional athlete will suffer irreparable harm if kept out of competition for any extended period of time, even just a few games."

Wallach also points to other decisions made by federal courts have determined that "improper suspensions can undoubtedly result in irreparable harm." and that in the same breath, that "some players are central to a team's chances of making the playoffs," and that "the failure to make the playoffs and the effect of that failure on the players, teams and fans is not compensable monetarily and is therefore irreparable harm."

That scenario doesn't come without risks, however. Even though the court could drag its feet and send this into a vortex of filings and discovery, they could also expedite the matter to get it off the docket so that they can focus on real matters that are far more important, ruling against Brady which would negate the stay and impose the penalty immediately. If that comes during a crucial part of the schedule or - worse - during the post season, it hurts the Patriots and Brady far more than than the scenarios that Wallach invests in above.

Nobody but Berman knows how this is going to all go down, and with so many options open, all any of us have is speculation - which is exactly what this entire bag job has been about since the beginning.

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