Let’s Get This Thing Rollin’: Second Circuit Grants Motion for Expedited Appeal in Deflategate

On Friday September 25, 2015, the NFL filed a motion in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals requesting that its appeal of the district court’s “Deflategate” decision be expedited. Circuit clerk Catherine O’Hagan Wolfe granted the NFL’s motion on September 29, 2015, therefore reducing the ordinary 10-12-month appellate period.

The district court’s decision, issued by Judge Richard Berman on September 3, 2015, vacated the NFL’s 4-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady. The NFL superstar was alleged to have been involved in a scandal to deflate footballs, making them easier to throw.  In vacating Brady’s suspension, Judge Berman held that the NFL did not provide Brady with proper notice, and therefore, the punishment (i.e. the suspension) was arbitrary. The NFL immediately appealed Judge Berman’s decision to the Second Circuit and filed its pre-argument statement on September 17, 2015.

Under the expedited appeal grant, the deadline for the NFL’s opening brief is October 26, 2015, and the NFLPA’s reply brief is due by December 7, 2015.  The court stated that it is not available for oral arguments, however, until the first week of February 2016.  That circumstance could mean obvious trouble for Brady should the Patriots make the Super Bowl, which is scheduled for February 7, 2016. Nevertheless, the NFL’s success on appeal does seem improbable at this point; Judge Berman has been reversed or vacated by the Second Circuit on appeal only 8 percent of the time.

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