NEW YORK (AP) — Three Manhattan judges who ruled in the “Deflategate” case differed on the law but unanimously praised this year’s Super Bowl on Monday.
They included Denny Chin, one of two judges with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals who decided in a 2-to-1 decision last spring that New England quarterback Tom Brady must serve his four-game suspension. Brady capped his shortened season by piloting the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history Sunday as New England defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28.
Chin said in an email to The Associated Press that both teams deserved congratulations for a “terrific Super Bowl,” but he singled out Brady, saying he “showed once again why he is one of the all-time best.”
During oral arguments last March, Chin said evidence of ball tampering was “compelling, if not overwhelming,” and there was evidence to support a finding that Brady “knew about it, consented to it, encouraged it.”
Circuit Judge Barrington D. Parker who joined Chin in ruling against Brady, congratulated both teams for a “very well-played game” and said it rivaled for excitement the 1968 Harvard-Yale game. Parker is a Yale Law School graduate.
U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who ruled against the National Football League in September 2015, nullifying Brady’s suspension until the appeals court reinstated it, congratulated the Patriots in an email to the AP as well.
“Last night, they showed us all never to quit, everything is possible, and the importance of teamwork,” wrote the judge who had required Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attend proceedings in his courtroom in August 2015.
He also gave a shout-out to the Patriots’ coach, Bill Belichick.
“Beyond congratulations, I’ll say no more about football — until Coach Belichick is ready to discuss Supreme Court cases about mandatory arbitration clauses,” he said in a lighthearted reference to the kinds of arcane legal subjects many people would find boring.
The league had asked Berman to affirm Goodell’s decision to uphold a four-game suspension of Brady after the commissioner appointed himself as the arbitrator of the quarterback’s appeal. The NFL Players Association opposed the request and filed its own claims.
Berman, who referred to the controversy as the “deflation situation,” found Goodell went “far beyond” the factual findings of the NFL’s investigation into the deflated footballs.
In a report on that probe, attorney Ted Wells concluded it was likely Brady was “generally aware” about the deflation of footballs. When Goodell upheld the penalty in July 2015, he said Brady “knew about, approved of, consented to and provided inducements and rewards” to support the scheme.
Brady’s suspension resulted from claims the Patriots deflated footballs to gain a competitive advantage in the AFC championship game in January 2015, when New England beat the Indianapolis Colts 45-7. The Patriots then won the Super Bowl. When he ruled, Berman noted that Brady’s statistics were better in the second half of the game, when the balls were properly inflated.
Brady served the suspension at the start of this past season.
Mark I. Harrison, a Phoenix, Arizona lawyer and an expert on judicial ethics, said it is always unusual when judges speak about cases on which they’ve ruled. But he said the comments by the judges Monday were safely off the subject they confronted.
“People are always going to read into what judges say, particularly in a case that is pending, more than they should,” he said.