NFL Mgmt. Council v. NFL Players Ass’n, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117662 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 3, 2015)
“Arbitration has been proven to be an effective way to resolve disputes fairly, privately, promptly and economically.” So provides the preamble to the Construction Industry Rules of the American Arbitration Association. A large part of the advantage of arbitration is the finality of the result, stemming from the lack of a meaningful appeal rights on legal issues, contractual interpretation, factual determinations, or the dispute resolution process itself. Indeed, the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §10, provides that an arbitration award is to be confirmed as a judgment unless one of four specific and narrow conditions for vacatur is met.
Probably the most notorious instance of an appeal of an arbitration award (and certainly the one most likely to come up in cocktail party conversation) was decided in September 2015 by Judge Richard M. Berman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York – the successful appeal by All-Pro Quarterback Tom Brady and the NFL Players Association of Brady’s four game suspension based on accusations of complicity in a scheme to gain an unfair competitive advantage in an NFL playoff game. NFL Mgmt. Council v. NFLPA, No. 15-Civ.-5916 (RMB) (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 03, 2015) There, the Southern District applied the Federal Arbitration Act standard to its review of Brady’s suspension, the same standard of review usually applied to an arbitration award arising from a claim under a construction contract with an arbitration clause.  But Brady, unlike the vast majority of parties disappointed with arbitration awards, succeeded in having his suspension vacated. The NFL Management Council has appealed the Southern District’s decision, and the matter is currently on an expedited appeal track, with argument before the Second Circuit scheduled for March 1, 2016.