U.S. District Judge Richard Berman this week is expected to rule whether to uphold New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension for his alleged involvement in the “Deflategate” scandal little more than a month after the case was transferred to the court. The speed at which the case has moved forward is highly unusual, a legal expert said.
“In my career as a litigator, I’ve never observed or seen a federal district court judge inject himself into these proceedings so soon after a complaint was filed,” said Daniel Wallach, an attorney with the Becker & Poliakoff firm in Florida who specializes in sports law. “Rather than allow this case to languish, he positioned it for an expeditious resolution.”
The speed of the case is most likely due to the fact that Brady’s suspension was supposed to start in time for the Patriots’ first game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10, Wallach said. Both sides in the case had said they wanted a decision made in time for the contest.
Berman had tried to get Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to settle the case that began with the controversy over whether Brady deflated footballs used in the AFC Championship game in January in which the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts. Brady tried to appeal his four-game suspension, but Goodell upheld it. Brady, who has denied he or any other Patriots staff deflated balls, is looking to have the suspension thrown out, while Goodell wants the judge to say the NFL handled the case properly.
Berman is not always so quick to arrive at his rulings. In a case involving the way the Securities and Exchange Commission uses its in-house judges, his decision came about seven months after the case was first filed in court. Berman ruled that the SEC did not properly appoint its administrative law judges.
Some have questioned Berman’s handling of the Deflategate case, saying he was trying his hardest to get the case settled out of court and that a team owner, and Patriots competitor, should be brought in to help settle it. One legal analyst said Berman’s picking-apart of the report that led to Brady’s suspension was his attempt to show the NFL it might lose the case, forcing settlement talks.
Courtroom artist Jane Rosenberg tried a 2nd time to sketch Tom Brady. pic.twitter.com/kV4woX7M0R
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 31, 2015
To be sure, Berman has spent much less time on Deflategate than any other case he might have taken, Wallach said. Wallach attributed this to Berman’s law clerk staff, which does most of the background research for cases while the judge spends his time supervising trial proceedings.
“He and his law clerks have assuredly been working on the draft opinion since the middle of August or sooner,” Wallach said. “While it appears to the public that the judge is spending an inordinate amount of time on the case, the truth is he has only devoted three court appearances for a grand total of several hours in this case. The amount of labor that has gone into this case pales in comparison to other cases.”