Tag:Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
Posted on: July 8, 2011 10:43 am
Edited on: July 8, 2011 12:44 pm

BREAKING: Court of Appeals rules in favor of NFL

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Update (12:35 pm EST): The NFL and NFLPA issued a joint statement on the court's ruling of the lockout, making it pretty clear that things are not too drastically altered by the ruling.

"While we respect the court’s decision, today’s ruling does not change our mutual recognition that this matter must be resolved through negotiation. We are committed to our current discussions and reaching a fair agreement that will benefit all parties for years to come, and allow for a full 2011 season."

That's exactly what everyone wants to hear from the two sides. Hearing/seeing and doing are two different things, though.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has made its ruling: The lockout put in place by the NFL owners is legal.

Which is bad news for the NFLPA.

Just like the rest of its rulings in regards to the Brady v NFL case, the Eight Circuit was split in its decision. Judges Steven Colloton and Duane Benton ruled in favor of the NFL, while Judge Kermit Bye dissented. Read the entire ruling right here (.PDF).

The ruling was not a surprise, especially based on what the judges wrote in their permanent stay ruling in May. The timing was pretty shocking, though, especially since it seemed like the two sides were getting closer on a deal for a new CBA.

How this ruling will affect the lockout is unclear at this point, but if the owners wanted some (but, really only some) leverage, now they have it.

Here are a few keys from the ruling:

- When the NFLPA decertified, the association claimed that the NFL could not go ahead with the lockout, because there was no union anymore -- basically the players claimed the owners couldn’t keep out a bunch of independent contractors. The Eighth Circuit, though, disagreed that the NFLPA could decertify for that reason.

Writes Colloton:
The text of the Norris-LaGuardia Act and the cases interpreting the term “labor dispute” do not require the present existence of a union to establish a labor dispute. Whatever the precise limits of the phrase “involving or growing out of a labor dispute,” this case does not press the outer boundary. The League and the players’ union were parties to a collective bargaining agreement for almost eighteen years prior to March 2011. They were engaged in collective bargaining over terms and conditions of employment for approximately two years through March 11, 2011. At that point, the parties were involved in a classic “labor dispute” by the Players’ own definition. Then, on a single day, just hours before the CBA’s expiration, the union discontinued collective bargaining and disclaimed its status, and the Players filed this action seeking relief concerning industry-wide terms and conditions of employment. Whatever the effect of the union’s disclaimer on the League’s immunity from antitrust liability, the labor dispute did not suddenly disappear just because the Players elected to pursue the dispute through antitrust litigation rather than collective bargaining.
- But the court raised an interesting issue in regards to free agents and rookies not under contract. Basically, the majority opinion writes the NLGA does not cover people who are not employed because there is no employer-employee relationship. If the rookies had signed a contract, then they could be locked out. But perhaps not now.

Instead, Judge Nelson would have to hold hearings with witnesses (and with cross-examination) in order to determine where the NFL could legally lockout those free agents and rookies.

Since the Court rules that Nelson didn’t consider the potential irreparable harm to free agents and rookies in her reasoning for lifting the lockout, the Court invalidated her ruling. And then remands the whole thing back to Nelson.

- The player did get back some leverage when the court expressed “no view on whether the League’s nonstatutory labor exemption from the antitrust laws continues after the union’s disclaimer.”

So, that might be something for the NFLPA to argue at some point. Is the NFL really exempt from antitrust law? The trade association could move ahead with that part of the case, which could be a worry to owners.

Initially, the court ruling sounded really bad for the players, but after looking through it all, it’s not quite all ice cream and sunshine for the NFL.

- Bye gets off a pretty good zinger in his dissent:

Through its holding in this case today, the majority reaffirms the wisdom of the old French saying … : “the more things are legislatively changed, the more they remain the same judicially.” … Despite the repeated efforts of the legislative branch to come to the rescue of organized labor, today’s opinion puts the power of the Act in the service of employers, to be used against non-unionized employees who can no longer avail themselves of protections of labor laws. Because I cannot countenance such interpretation of the Act, I must and hereby dissent.”
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Posted on: May 16, 2011 11:16 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 11:21 pm

DeMaurice Smith, Pash respond to court ruling

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Obviously, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith is disappointed with today’s Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that issued a permanent stay of the lockout injunction. But that didn’t stop him from getting off a pretty nice zinger.

"As far as we can tell, this is the first sports league in history that's sued to not play its game,” Smith told NFL.com. “Congratulations.”

NFL lawyer Jeff Pash was a little more understated.

"You don't resolve things through litigation," he told NFL.com. "We've been clear on that. And what we need to be doing is focusing all our attention on the process that's going on here in this building, with the assistance of the chief judge and in serious discussions with the players.

"We have an opportunity to resolve this matter and get the game back on the field, and that really should be our exclusive focus -- not litigation, not stays or injunctions, things like that. That's not going to solve anything. I'm glad that it came out the way that it did. But it's just one step in a process and we need to focus on negotiation. That's the only way we're going to resolve this."

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Posted on: May 16, 2011 8:20 pm

The issue of irreparable harm in court ruling

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

One of the factors used by the Eighth Circuit of Appeals in rendering its decision to permanently stay the lockout injunction today was the issue that District Court Judge Susan Nelson, who ended the lockout with the injunction, believed the players were the ones who were harmed the most.
NFL Labor

The appeals court could see both sides of the equation. It understood that the owners feel they’ll be harmed by the injunction because maintaining the lockout is key to their negotiating strategy against the players and the loss of leverage really hurts their cause – not to mention that opening up free agency would be harmful if the lockout is put back into place (the old “unscrambling the egg” analogy).

It also could sympathize with the players’ position in which they said they are being harmed by not being allowed to practice, learn their playbooks, work out at the team facilities, and take treatment by the team’s medical staffs – not to mention the 900 free agents whose employment status is up in the air.

Here’s how the majority opinion and the dissenting opinion felt about the issue of irreparable harm and which party – the owners or the players – were the ones being hurt the most.

Here are the opinions of Judges Steven Colloton and Duane Benton:

Both sides raise valid points, and this is a case in which one party or the other likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm no matter how this court resolves the motion for a stay pending appeal. We do not agree, however, with the district court’s apparent view that the balance of the equities tilts heavily in favor of the Players. The district court gave little or no weight to the harm caused to the League by an injunction issued in the midst of an ongoing dispute over terms and conditions of employment. The court found irreparable harm to the Players because the lockout prevents free agents from negotiating contracts with any team, but gave no weight to harm that would be caused to the League by player transactions that would occur only with an injunction against the lockout. The court gave full weight to affidavit evidence submitted by the Players, although that proof was untested by cross-examination at a hearing. The district court’s analysis was conducted without the benefit of knowledge that this appeal will be submitted for decision on a highly expedited schedule – a circumstance that should minimize harm to the Players during the off-season and allow the case to be resolved well before the scheduled beginning of the 2011 season.

Here’s how the dissenting opinion saw the issue:

The irreparable harm alleged by the NFL “must be actual and not theoretical.” Moreover, the NFL cannot meet its burden if it demonstrates only economic loss, unless “the loss threatens the very existence of the [NFL’s] business,” because “economic loss does not, in and of itself, constitute irreparable harm."
Judge Kermit Bye also took issue with the NFL’s contention that the injunction harms the owners because it skews the advantage in collective bargain toward the players, writing, “Given that the parties will not likely return to the bargaining table prior to our resolution of this expedited appeal, at which point we will determine whether the district court properly enjoined the lockout, the NFL’s claim that it will suffer a loss of bargaining power in this interim period does not amount to ‘proof indicating that the harm is certain to occur in the near future’ for purposes of a stay pending appeal.”

And as far as who will suffer more harm – the players or the owners? Bye sided with the NFLPA:

Whatever harm may be said to befall the NFL during the pendency of the expedited appeal stands in stark contrast to the irreparable harm suffered by the Players. Regardless of the preclusion of free agency effectuated under the lockout and its influence on the Players, there can be little dispute that the off-season is an abundantly busy period for veterans and rookies alike. Even the brief stay occasioned during this expedited appeal will deprive the Players of “irreplaceable opportunities to develop their skills as football players and to otherwise advance their NFL careers.” … It follows that even the abbreviated harm fashioned by the stay will obviate the Players’  opportunities to engage in any of these off-season necessities, which could have dramatic repercussions to the Players’ careers in the long term.

Further, none of this harm can be adequately compensated by monetary damages.

Due to the irreparable harm presently incurred by the Players, compared with the limited harm, if any, suffered by the NFL, I believe the balance of harms weighs heavily in the Players’ favor. Consequently, I would require the NFL to satisfy a heavier burden of showing it is likely to prevail on the merits.

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Posted on: May 9, 2011 6:24 pm

NFL argues why the District Court was wrong

DeMaurice Smith Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The NFL filed a 61-page brief today with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to argue why District Court Judge Susan Nelson was wrong to authorize an injunction against the NFL owners’ lockout and why that lockout should be put back into place.

Here are some of the key arguments from the owners’ team:

- Nelson was wrong because she exceeded the restraints of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which bars federal courts from issuing injunctions against certain types of labor disputes. Basically, the owners’ counsel writes that the federal court simply didn’t have the jurisdiction to end the lockout.

-The District Court was wrong to allow the injunction before the National Labor Relations Board had a chance to rule on the issue of whether the NFLPA’s decertification was a violation of its obligation to collectively bargain in good faith.

-The District Court erred by failing to recognize that the “plaintiffs’ antitrust claims are not barred by the nonstatutory labor exemption."

And oh yeah, also the decertification of the NFLPA as a union is a sham writes the owners, because when the NFLPA used the same maneuver in 1987, it was based on the NFPLA’s assertion to the court that its disclaimer “was permanent and irreversible, and not a bargaining tactic.”

They also point to the fact that the NFLPA secured the players’ permission during the 2010 season to decertify if the NFLPA decided that was the correct course to take.

Writes the owners’ team: “Countless statements of NFLPA representatives, both before and after March 11, confirm that its current 'disclaimer,' the result of a conditional authorization, is a tactical ploy. The NFLPA is not permanently abandoning collective bargaining, but instead is attempting temporarily to disclaim its union status in hopes of increasing its members’ bargaining leverage by subjecting the NFL to antitrust suits over terms and conditions of player employment.

"Repeated statements from plaintiffs and other leaders of the NFLPA indicate that the disclaimer was not made in good faith and that it is not unequivocal. For example, the President of the NFLPA stated that “the whole purpose [of disclaimer] is to have that ace in our sleeve. … And at the end of the day, guys understand the strategy, it’s been a part of the union strategy since I’ve been in the league ….”

The players’ response is due May 20.

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