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Judge Nelson will order the league, players to return to mediation

NFL Lockout Football

FILE - This undated photo courtesy of the U.S. District Court in Minnesota shows U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson. Attorneys for Tom Brady, Drew Brees and other NFL players are scheduled to argue Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2011, in Minneapolis before U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson that the lockout should be lifted immediately because it is causing them “irreparable harm.” (AP Photo/U.S. District Court in Minnesota) ** NO SALES **


Well, the silence lasted two days.

On Wednesday, Judge Susan Nelson urged the NFL and the players suing the league to return to mediation. On Thursday, the two sides agreed to do so, while disagreeing about the format and location of the talks.

On Friday, Judge Susan Nelson convened a conference call with the parties regarding mediation. Neither side was talking after the discussion, at the specific command of Judge Nelson.

On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Judge Nelson told the two sides that she will impose mediation on them “early this week.”

It’s unclear why she didn’t do so on Wednesday. Perhaps she wanted to see whether they could agree to it on their own, as the first step toward reaching other more important agreements. Perhaps she didn’t want to come off as heavy handed, given the possible bastardization-in-translation that could have caused fans to conclude that she was forcing the parties against their will to reach an agreement.

The truth is that judges routinely compel parties to engage in mediation. It doesn’t mean that the parties are required to settle the case. Instead, they must simply participate in the process in good faith.

It remains to be seen whether the mediation will occur in D.C. under the supervision of George Cohen, or whether Judge Nelson will appoint a different mediator. We believe that Judge Nelson should appoint Cohen, since that approach would give each side a little bit of what they desire. The owners want to utilize Cohen’s 17-day head start on the process, and the players want the mediation to occur under the umbrella of the Brady antitrust litigation.

If that happens, Cohen will have much more power over the parties this time around, since he’ll be able to go directly to Judge Nelson if Jerry Jones does the knuckle-bang-and-leave-the-table move, or if the players try to shut mediation down over the potentially trumped-up notion that they didn’t spend enough time in the presence of men who would be inclined to do the knuckle-bang-and-leave-the-table move.

Judge Nelson also could decide to mediate the case on her own, which would make the parties even less likely to act unreasonably or disrespectfully toward each other.