Court rejects fans' lawsuit to restore Patriots' draft pick

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

A federal court judge has rejected attempts by New England Patriots fans to get the NFL to restore the team's draft pick lost in the aftermath of the Deflategate scandal.

U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor on Friday ruled against motions filed earlier this month by fans, writing, "After reviewing the complaint, it appears highly unlikely that plaintiffs will succeed on the merits of any of their claims."

A group of fans sued the NFL on April 5 in an effort to recover the first-round draft pick taken from the team as punishment for the "Deflategate" scandal. The seven fans include a season-ticket holder from Connecticut who said the scandal left his 7-year-old daughter disillusioned and a Florida man who said the NFL's sanctions caused him stress and lost sleep.

The fans were seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would effectively restore the Patriots' pick in time for the NFL draft, which starts April 28 in Chicago.

But Saylor ruled it would be unlikely the fans would be able to establish legal standing to bring the suit: "The Court is denying plaintiffs' motion without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing or an opposition brief. However, the federal courts are courts of limited resources, funded by the taxpayers, and it would not be a prudent expenditure of those resources to permit the motion to progress to the hearing stage."

Michael McCann, a sports law professor at the University of New Hampshire Law School, agreed the fans had little standing to sue.

"Paying for a ticket to watch the Patriots play isn't interfered with by the team losing a draft pick or two,'' McCann said.

The fans' complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, said the NFL made an "arbitrary and capricious'' decision to revoke the pick in this month's draft even though there is no proof the team deliberately deflated footballs in the Jan. 18, 2015, AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts. It alleged, among other things, common law fraud, negligence, intentional inflection of emotional distress, and racketeering.

The NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft were named as defendants. The complaint said the league and Goodell relied on "false premises and biased 'investigations''' in handing down punishment, which included a $1 million fine for the team and four-game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady. Brady'ssuspension was later vacated by a U.S. district court judge, but NFL lawyers have asked a federal appeals court in New York to reinstate the suspension.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.