With the Olympic games going on and the pennant races heating up, you might have missed some important news legal news that developed concerning Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit against the NFL. In short, Judge Ginger Berrigan stated that she believed Commissioner Goodell abused his authority by punishing Vilma for the Saints' bounty scandal by withholding evidence, acting too harshly and violating Vilma's union rights under the CBA.
The court went even further by stating that it would rule in Vilma's favor if the judge found she had jurisdiction and Vilma suffered "irreparable harm" under the law. For Vilma to stop the Goodell's punishment he will have to show that harm caused by Goodell's decisions cannot be reversed. Will a season's suspension by enough damage? It sounds like the judge believed that it was under the circumstances. However, the jurisdictional argument is more difficult to ascertain. If this issue was clear Judge Berrigan would have ruled in Vilma's favor last week. My suspicion is that a federal court's jurisdiction over an NFL disciplinary matter maybe a difficult road. We shall see.
But the significance of the eventual outcome cannot be understated. Until now, Goodell just doesn't lose, he rules with an iron fist over players, coaches and even owners. Ask Mike Vick or the NFL union leaders how they liked getting crushed by Goodell (ever see a guaranteed contract for an NFL player?). Goodell has sought to expand his power to be judge, jury and executioner in all NFL disciplinary matters. No one has stood in his way, until now.
As this litigation plays out, it is crucial to keep in mind that Goodell acted harshly against the Saints as a direct result of all the head injury lawsuits filed against the NFL. Goodell is trying to show that he will not tolerate any intentional injuring of a player beyond the normal NFL risks. Yet, in the concussion lawsuits, one of the NFL's primary defenses is that the league (and the league alone) must police the game and protect its players (and it has done everything reasonable in that regard) so the court has no jurisdiction.
If Judge Berrigan finds that she has jurisdiction to reverse Goodell's punishment of Vilma, the NFL could lose a critical argument in courtrooms across the country.