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NFL In Race Case Said Arbitration Mandatory But Case Proceeds on Giants Broncos & Texans

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Maxwell Book

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 1 – In the racial discrimination case against the National Football League by Brian Flores and others, on May 2, 2022 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Valerie E. Caproni held a hearing. Inner City Press live tweeted it here and below.

On July 1 Flores' lawyers wrote to Judge Caproni (letter on Patreon here) requesting (and attaching) "appropriate discovery" - Wigdor's letter to Loretta Lynch including about Roger Godell's compensation and relationships with law firms, and Lynch's letter of June 27 calling the requests "entirely outside the scope of permissible discovery."

But not so fast. On July 18, Judge Caproni granted the coaches' request to put off their deadlines to answer the NFL's motion to compel arbitration, pending her decision on the coaches' request for discovery. Order on Patreon here.

On March 1, Judge Caproni ruled "Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration is GRANTED except that it is DENIED as to Brian Flores’s claims against the Denver Broncos, New York Giants, and the Houston Texans, and his related claims against the NFL. Defendants’ request to stay the case is DENIED as to Flores’s claims that may proceed to litigation and is GRANTED as to all of the claims that must be arbitrated. The Clerk of Court is respectfully directed to terminate the open motion at docket entry 47. The parties are ordered to appear for a pretrial conference on Friday, March 24, 2023, at 10:00 A.M. in Courtroom 443 of the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse, 40 Foley Square, New York, New York, 10007. By March 16, 2023, the parties must submit a joint letter regarding the status of the case, including: a. a statement of all existing deadlines, due dates, and/or cut-off dates; b. a statement describing the status of any settlement discussions and whether the parties would like a settlement conference; c. a statement of the anticipated length of trial and whether the case is to be tried to a jury; d. a statement regarding the anticipated schedule of arbitration; e. any contemplated motions;  28 Floss v. Ryan’s Family Steakhouse, 211 F.3d 306 (6th Cir. 2000), is not to the contrary. “In Floss, the arbitration agreement was between employees and a third-party arbitration service, not the employer . . . . In other words, the promise of the third party was too indefinite for legal enforcement.” Vision Healthcare Sys. (Int’l) Pty, Ltd. v. Vision Software Techs. Inc., No. 15-CV-175, 2015 WL 2404089, at *3 (M.D. Tenn. May 20, 2015) (citing Floss, 211 F.3d at 315–16) (upholding arbitration agreement that stated, in relevant part, “arbitration shall take place in Nashville . . . before one arbitrator” without detailing further procedures, id. at *1).  30  f. a proposed schedule for discovery, which must comply with the guidance set forth in the Court’s model Civil Case Management Plan and Scheduling Order, available on the Court’s website; g. any other issue that the parties would like to address at the pretrial conference; and h. any other information that the parties believe may assist the Court in advancing the case to settlement or trial." Order on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud here. Watch this site.

From May 2: Flores' lawyer Douglas Wigdor: Your Honor should look at the underlying agreements - the NFL's attempt to force us into arbitration is unconscionable and would bar us from enforcing our rights. Mr. Flores interviewed with the NY Giants and was not subject to arbitration 

Judge Caproni: I understand your argument that he was not subject arbitration when seeking a job, so can sue for failure to hire. But on the rest -- 

Flores' lawyer: This is a unique circumstance.

  Judge Caproni: Every case says it's unique.

 Flores' lawyer: Roger Godell cannot be a fair arbitrator. He has unconscionable bias. He is paid over $100 million, and already expressed an opinion. He is biased. The failure to hire is not subject to arbitration so some piece of this case will be before this case anyway.  

Judge Caproni: So the question on the table is whether to proceeding in small bites. 

NFL's lawyer Loretta Lynch of Paul Weiss: This is all subject to arbitration NFL's lawyer: This is a contract issue. There is no need for discovery at this time.

 Judge Caproni: I will set a briefing schedule on the motion to compel. Mr. Widgor [Doug Wigdor, Flores' lawyer] if you feel there's a need for discovery, write me a 5 page letter 

Judge Caproni: The NFL's motion to compel is due on June 21, 25 page maximum. The plaintiffs' opposition is due July 22 and NFL's reply is due Aug 9. Do you want a referral for settlement conference? Wigdor: We are interested in the NFL being fair to black coaches. 

NFL's lawyer Loretta Lynch: We are taking steps, and invited Mr. Flores and Wigdor to be involved. But they have declined to do so. We don't see that a settlement conference would be useful.

Wignor: We'll only meet with judge present. Not with Godell. 

Judge Caproni: I take that as a "No." I still this could benefit from settlement. But you're not ready.

Wignor: Glad to be in court. 

Judge Caproni: Please come back. Adjourned.

Inner City Press will continue to cover the case.

The case is is Flores, et al. v. The National Football League, et al., 22-cv-871 (Caproni) 


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