3 Federal Judges Appointed to Hear NFL's Appeal of Deflategate Ruling

Tyler ConwayFeatured Columnist

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leaves federal court following a hearing in his
Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Federal Judges Robert A. Katzmann, Barrington D. Parker and Denny Chin have been appointed to hear the NFL's appeal of an independent arbitrator's decision to overturn the four-game suspension of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.  

ESPN.com reported on Feb. 25 the three judges will hear the appeal March 3 in New York. The panel will decide whether Judge Richard Berman was correct in overturning Brady's four-game suspension regarding the Deflategate scandal. The NFL immediately appealed the Sept. 3 decision.

“We are grateful to Judge Berman for hearing this matter, but respectfully disagree with today’s decision,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement at the time, per NFL.com's Kevin Patra. “We will appeal today’s ruling in order to uphold the collectively bargained responsibility to protect the integrity of the game.

“The commissioner’s responsibility to secure the competitive fairness of our game is a paramount principle, and the league and our 32 clubs will continue to pursue a path to that end,” Goodell added. “While the legal phase of this process continues, we look forward to focusing on football and the opening of ​​the regular season.”

Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal reported Brady is not on the list of people who will be in the courtroom for the appeal.

Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated spoke with WEEI's Mustard and Johnson, via their colleague Ryan Hannable, who discussed what the appointments might mean in regards to a potential ruling:

You have a group a judges who appear, at least at the outset, good for Brady because if you are Brady you want judges that are going to be sympathetic to labor issues. You’re going to want judges that are going to be sympathetic to union or management. Although these are not by any means far left or far right judges, they kind of are in the middle. Their track record suggests they are likely to rule for Brady. I say that because they tend to affirm the decisions of district court judges on arbitration matters. That is the key point because that is what Brady wants.

Brady wants the judges to say, ‘Yeah, Judge Richard Berman got it right’ and based off some of the research I did, these judges usually find Judge Berman got it right. About 75-80 percent of the time they agree with Judge Berman and the instances where they haven’t, aren’t really relevant. They are constitutional, criminal law issues.

Overall, it’s a favorable picture for Tom Brady, but I would caution you never know with what’s going to happen. Judges have lifetime tenure, they do what they want. They call it like they see it.

The NFL originally suspended Brady when its investigation into the Deflategate scandal found it was "more probable than not" that the former league MVP was complicit in a scheme to deflate game balls below league standards. He has denied involvement.  

“I never thought about the inflation level, Lorin,” Brady said in the hearing with Berman, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “I never in the history of my career, I never thought about the inflation level of a ball.”

The March 3 date was set in November, though it's unlikely the NFL will win the case. McCann noted that Berman's decisions have been overturned just 17 times in 204 tries on appeal. That's certainly good news for the Patriots, who obviously want Brady on the field for as long as possible.