Plaintiffs Mike Vrabel, Ben Leber, Vincent Jackson, Brian Robison and Von Miller were joined in court by veterans Tony Richardson and Charlie Batch, members of the union’s executive committee prior to dissolution. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, the three highest profile players named on the lawsuit, did not attend.
Hall of Famer Carl Eller, the lead plaintiff in a separate, similar case filed by retirees, former players and rookies, was also present. Nelson approved a motion to consolidate those cases, and attorney Michael Hausfeld _ on behalf of the Eller group _ took turns with Quinn arguing against and rebutting Boies.
Nelson listened to arguments from lawyers for the players and the league Wednesday, asking questions often and speaking politely but directly while acknowledging her difficulty discerning which components of the laws apply to this complicated case.
She expressed some frustration trying to understand some of the arguments, mostly those made by Boies, but oversaw a cordial process, telling the two sides they did an “outstanding job.” Both sides praised Nelson afterward for her thorough approach and intelligent questions.
As she began the hearing, she urged both sides to stick to the issue of the injunction and not delve into the evidence presented previously in their briefs since all parties are up to speed on the information.
“You can assure that the court has done nothing else in the last few weeks,” Nelson said.
When she reveals her decision, the winner would have leverage whenever talks resume on a new CBA. However, that ruling will all but likely be appealed. She could also defer a decision until after the NLRB rules, which could take months, or declare the need to schedule another hearing to consider the evidence in the case before she rules.
That would be a loss for the players.
“All of this is delay so they want to put pressure on us,” Quinn said.
Boies said factual disagreements _ regarding the existence of the union, for one _ prove the necessity of another hearing. Boies took roughly double the amount of time to talk than the lawyers for the players did, in part because he was pressed so much by Nelson as she tried to grasp the argument that she has no jurisdiction.
The NFL says a union can’t just “flick a light switch” and decertify to their liking. The two sides spent a long time arguing over the Norris-LaGuardia Act, Depression-era legislation meant to protect workers from a federal judge’s ability to stop a strike.
Quinn pointed to the irony of owners using that to defend a lockout, and Nelson agreed. She sounded firm in her belief that the decertification is legal, pointing to court precedent in the last antitrust suit filed by players in the early 1990s.
“It’s a big risk on their part and they lose a lot by doing it,” she said.
But Boies cautioned afterward against reading too far into the scrutiny.
“I’ve been doing this for 45 years, and I’ve never been able to figure out from a judge’s questions exactly where they’re coming from,” he said.View Entire Story
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