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NFL Lockout in Judge Susan Nelson's Hands

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 05, 2011 6:47 AM

On Wednesday, Judge Susan Nelson will hear a motion for a preliminary injunction requested by the players in the NFL lockout antitrust suit.

The motion requests that the judge enjoin the NFL from continuing its lockout, permitting players to return to work.

Thus far, there is no indication about how Judge Susan Nelson will rule, but her decision will determine just how and when the NFL lockout will end. Which means millions of NFL fans will be very interested to know how this might shake out.

Judge Susan Nelson must consider four things in deciding whether to grant the preliminary injunction:

  1. The likelihood that the NFL players will win their case;
  2. Whether the players will suffer irreparable harm if it is not granted;
  3. If the injunction will cause more harm to the NFL than not granting it will to the players; and
  4. The public's interest in the injunction.

The first criteria will determine both parties' relative bargaining positions.

If Judge Susan Nelson outright determines that the NFL players have a strong case, they will have a stronger negotiating position during settlement talks, and the lockout will be lifted while the trial continues.

However, if she rules for the NFL, the lockout will remain in effect, giving the teams greater power.

There is one other possibility. It's possible for Judge Nelson to deny the preliminary injunction, instead waiting for the NLRB to rule on whether the player's union decertification was legal.

If she decides to do this, the NFL lockout will remain in effect, but neither party will have an enhanced bargaining position. In other words, the status quo will continue until the NLRB, which has no timetable, decides to pick up the case.

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