Earlier this week, the NFL allegedly offered a settlement, or at least offered to discuss a settlement with New Orleans Saints Linebacker Jonathan Vilma in regards to his defamation lawsuit against commissioner Roger Goodell. Based on what transpired on Friday, maybe the league should have started discussing a settlement sooner.
U.S. district Judge Ginger Berrigan listened to arguments from both Vilma and the NFL, and feels that the league’s process of gathering and reviewing information was ultimately flawed. She agreed with Vilma’s lawyer Peter Ginsberg that there was no solid proof Vilma was involved in any knockout hits that may have been the result of the Saints’ bounty system and that Goodell had acted beyond the realm of his authority when he suspended Vilma for the entire upcoming season.
She then dropped this bomb…
“I would like to rule in Vilma’s favor. I do think you [Vilma] exhausted your remedies.”
Ouch..wait, she’s not done.
“If I can find a way to legally do it, I will rule in Vilma’s favor.”
This doesn’t mean if you’re Vilma and Ginsberg that you can break out the champagne and order the exotic dancers, as there are still a lot of wrinkles to this case. After Goodell rejected the players’ appeals, the players then took their case to arbiter Stephen Burbank. Burbank has yet to rule on the matter, and NFL lawyer Gregg Levy argued that Judge Berrigan didn’t have the authority to overrule the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement and Burbank’s eventual decision.
Levy actually sounded like a broken record, constantly reminding Berrigan that she didn’t have the authority to make a decision in the case. So much so that Berrigan actually quipped “you are making me feel powerless”.
It doesn’t sound like a good idea to repeatedly tell the Judge presiding over your case that she doesn’t have the power to make a decision regarding said case. Berrigan favors Vilma, so it’s not in Levy’s best interest to try and hammer into the good judge’s head that she lacks jurisdiction.
So if Berrigan claims that Goodell doesn’t have proper authority and Levy claims that Berrigan doesn’t have proper authority, does anyone have the proper authority? It could come down to Burbank, because although Berrigan wants to rule in Vilma’s favor, she wants to wait for Burbank’s decision, and she strongly encourages Vilma and the NFL to settle in the meantime.
This is turning into quite the mess, with Goodell and the NFL looking more and more like Superman after eating an entire plate of kryptonite cookies. Their all-encompassing power may be diminishing (and I can only assume that they’re turning green). As for Vilma, how does he feel about having the judge as an ally?
”The only thing better would have been a decision, but I came here with no expectations. I’m glad she could see through some of the B.S.. I’m cool with that until we get a decision. Patience is my best friend.”
That’s right, Jonathan Vilma, be patient. There’s probably a settlement offer coming to you in the very near future.