SBD/August 28, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Federal Appeals Court Declines To Overturn D.J. Williams' Drug Suspension

A federal appeals court yesterday declined to overturn a drug suspension of Broncos LB D.J. Williams, agreeing with a lower court that labor law gave the judiciary few options to overturn an arbitrator’s decision within the context of the CBA. The ruling comes as a New Orleans federal court is deciding whether it should overturn multiple arbitrator decisions in the Bountygate cases, though that court is currently shuttered because of Tropical Storm Isaac. Williams's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, also represents Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, who is suing the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell for his year-long suspension. In the Williams case, the NFL suspended him for six games last season, but the suspension was stayed while his case made its way through the courts. Williams argued the drug collection protocols were violated when he was tested. While the arbitrator agreed the NFL and NFLPA should tighten their collection procedures, he did not overturn the suspension. A lower court then ruled it could not step in because labor law largely prevents courts from interfering with CBA matters. “In doing so, the court noted that the narrow standard of judicial review applicable to labor-arbitration awards limited its analysis,” the appeals court ruled, which denied a request for oral arguments. It is unclear how this case might affect the Bountygate cases.
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