Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Oct 2017

Appeals Court Vacates Ezekiel Elliott Injunction

In a 2-1 decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated the preliminary injunction of Ezekiel Elliott's suspension. So he's suspended again... except the Cowboys are on bye week, and Elliott will likely appeal this ruling before next week's games. So he's probably not suspended again. Or something.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 12 Oct 2017

23 comments, Last at 19 Oct 2017, 8:53am by jtr


by DavidL :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 12:49am

He's past the point where courts have to hear appeals he files - his options are for the full 5th Circuit to vacate today's ruling (which came from a three-judge panel) and review the case themselves, which is entirely discretionary, or for the Supreme Court to step in (always a long shot, and this court in particular is unlikely to back labor in a contract dispute). Most likely this is going to stand.

by RickD :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 2:30pm

The injunction was overruled because it was not timely. It was filed before the arbitrator's final ruling on his appeal. Elliot could certainly file for another injunction now that the issue has matured.
One problem is that the NFL has filed in NY. So any suit in the 5th Circuit is unlikely to be heard. But he could file in the 2nd Circuit. In the big picture it's unlikely he would win, but he might get another injunction to let him play this season.

Or, of course, SCOTUS might hear the case. But I seriously doubt that would happen.

by apk3000 :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 7:43am

Well, his options are to request a review by the full appeals court, something that rarely gets granted, or go to the Supreme Court, which didn't accept Brady's appeal. So maybe the players should have a hard talk among themselves and their union about their CBA.

by jtr :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 8:55am

That's the end game here for Goodell, right? Keep throwing arbitrary and draconian punishment at the players so that they're forced to make discipline reform a top priority in the next CBA. Goodell then grudgingly gives up some of his disciplinary powers...in exchange for a bigger share of revenue or an 18 game season.

by billsfan :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 10:48am

I've only been half-following this nonsense. Can any of the legally-minded folks here (or anyone with a link ready) explain what is the actual point of arbitration if you can just preƫmptively sue before the arbitrator decides?

by RickD :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 2:35pm

Well if the arbitration process is deemed to be fundamentally unfair, there may be cause to stop the nonsense. (See Judge Mazzant's ruling.) But I tend to agree with your thinking, which is the same as the thinking of Judges Pardo and Elrod, that the suit should not have been filed until Henderson issued his ruling on Elliott's appeal.

by drobviousso :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 4:40pm

Arbitration is far, far cheaper for everyone and faster. In most disputes, once all the facts are on the table both sides usually get the same clear picture of what a likely outcome is and settle at that point. A good arbiter is more about getting to that settlement point with the two parties than it is picking a winner or loser.

It is actually quite rare for a point of law to be in dispute, and thus appeals from arbitration are not the norm.

We probably see more appeals from arbitration with high-profile athletes than anyone else. They have the resources to fund a shitty appeal, they age so fast that any injunction is a huge deal for them, and they can act on emotion instead of on cost-benefit analysis.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 10/18/2017 - 11:49pm

There's a reason that corporations are increasingly demanding binding arbitration in legal contracts, and it's not because it's fair to all parties. Small-money plaintiffs are much more likely to lose against big-money plaintiffs in arbitration suits.

by jtr :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 11:01am

Apparently, the Elliot suspension just officially kicked in, and he's banned from team facilities until November 23. The timing is just right that the last game Elliot will miss will be the Thanksgiving game against the Chargers. I'm sure the NFL is thrilled to have one of the top stars suspended for the NFL's second-biggest day of the season]. Goodell always manages to shoot off his own dick in new, creative ways.

by xydux :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 2:01pm

...there actually aren't that many ways to shoot off your own dick.

I mean I agree with the sentiment but there really aren't that many ways, I can only count one. Maybe a few more if you stretch it.

by RickD :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 2:46pm

Don't underestimate Goodell's ability to find new and creative ways to accomplish self-mutilation.

by Theo :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 5:16pm

You didn't grow up watching Jackass?

by xydux :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 5:35pm

No, why?

...I'm not gonna google that. I am NOT going to google that. And YOU are NOT going to link me to something.

Still I thought that there was pretty much only one way to shoot your dick off, and that was by shooting it off (although you could add arbitrary distinctions depending on which weapon you used).

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 8:27pm

Trickshots with ricochets and stuff? Some kind of Rube Goldberg device that eventually pulls the trigger?

by xydux :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 11:17pm

I'll concede the point. Those would be "different" ways to shoot it off.

by Steve in WI :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 2:18pm

All of this is so confusing, but doesn't Elliott deserve a stay of his suspension up until the point that there is zero chance that it will be reversed? There is no way for the NFL to truly make him whole again if he sits out and then eventually some appeal decides that he shouldn't have been suspended. They can give him back his game checks, but he can't get those stats back (which might have a direct financial impact on him if it affects his next contract or a future Hall of Fame selection).

Or are we already at the point where there's essentially zero chance of the suspension being thrown out, and therefore it makes sense that he has to start serving it?

by PatsFan :: Sat, 10/14/2017 - 12:10am

When deciding whether or not to issue an injunction, a court is required to balance the harm caused by allowing the thing being asked to be enjoined against the likelihood of success on the merits. Just because you would be harmed isn't good enough on its own. If the court thinks you have little chance of winning on the merits, you'll need to be suffering a lot of harm to get the injunction. Courts definitely do not wait until "zero chance of being reversed" before they refuse to issue an injunction.

Here, Elliot's harm is missing being able to play in games -- the actual act of playing in games. There's no direct monetary harm because if he's suspended but ultimately wins his case, he'll get his checks for the games he missed.

by Theo :: Fri, 10/13/2017 - 5:15pm

I am not native English speaker/american, so I understood it was about Ezekiel Elliot.

by rpwong :: Sat, 10/14/2017 - 3:59pm

I'm Canadian, and I have to say that I find the US legal system...confusing. I don't know that Canada's is any better, but the whole "filing in locations that are more likely to agree with you" thing seems crazy, and all of the various courts and circuits are mind-boggling.

Most of all, it seems like final decisions on non-criminal cases come down to whichever side makes a clerical error or gets tired of appealing.

I'm grateful that there are a lot of rational folks on the FO website who can explain this stuff to the rest of us!

by PatsFan :: Sat, 10/14/2017 - 5:59pm

You can't just file anywhere. You have to file in one of the court districts that have jurisdiction. If multiple districts do, you can choose which of those you want to file in.

In the Elliot case, he could (and did) file in a district court in the Fifth Federal Circuit, which is where Dallas is located. That's an allowable place because he lives and works there. He also could have filed in a district court in the Second Federal Circuit, which is where NYC is located. That's an allowable place because the party he is suing (the NFL) is based there.

by MarkV :: Sun, 10/15/2017 - 9:19pm

Furthermore, just to note... Partly by happenstance and partly by a Senate rule, different districts have different partisan leanings that might help or hurt any prospective court case.
The second district would normally be a fairly good place for Elliott, except that almost every issue at play has precedence there from the Brady case that goes against him. The fifth circuit is probably, in a vacuum, the worst court in the country for Eliott (the 9th on the west coast would probably be the best)

by rpwong :: Mon, 10/16/2017 - 9:32pm

Thanks for the explanation! Without you guys, I'd be stuck interpreting the rant-filled comments on ESPN.

by jtr :: Thu, 10/19/2017 - 8:53am

....And the suspension is re-injunctioned. Apparently the judge is on vacation and so the suspension is on hold until she gets back in a couple of weeks. The ride never stops.