I Trust NFL Referees More Than I Trust Federal Judges

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7 Responses

  1. bill says:

    I think you have perhaps made an unwitting argument against judicial independence — esp. in the contrast between umpires (strong union, job for life) and NFL refs (easily terminatable, weak union).

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    1. It seems to me that the decisions to be made by NFL officials are of significantly less moment than those made by judges in courts of law. Also, the jurisprudence of NFL officials is civilian, i.e. code-based. Why is your comparison reasonable?

    2. Also, you don’t explain how one is to tell when a judge gets a call “right”. Since appellate panels are usually appointed in a politicized process, and en banc or SCOTUS reversals are reversing the decisions of panels, not individual judges, how do you set your criteria?

    3. Most important, what’s your suggestion for improving the quality of judiciary performance?

  3. Steve Lubet says:

    A Major League Baseball umpire or NFL referee would probably be fired if he went duck hunting with a player or owner (or even an equipment manager) in the middle of the season.

  4. “It seems to me that the decisions to be made by NFL officials are of significantly less moment than those made by judges in courts of law.”

    Perhaps you don’t follow football….

  5. A.J. Sutter says:

    You’re right, Michael, I don’t. Which is maybe a face-saving explanation for why I started with “It seems to me…” (alternative explanation being pomposity). And actually, with trends in ubiquitous surveillance being what they are, someday even judges and juries may have the benefit of instant replay. Though is there a mens rea requirement in football?

  6. Interesting read.

    AJ, most of the common calls in the NFL are “strict liability,” so to speak (off sides, false start, holding, etc.), but there are mens rea levels for many others that can either determine whether a foul occurred or the level of severity of the foul: intentional vs. incidental facemask; “neglectful” (foul) vs. incidental (no foul) contact on pass interference. Although they do not use the term, all personal foul and ejection calls essentially involve the official rendering judgment regarding the player’s “mens rea” in committing the personal foul. Same in baseball with, say, beanballs.

  7. Michael Lee says:

    No doubt about it. Judges decisions are based on many factors that would not fall under the banner, “standard of review.”

    I recently took over a case from a pro se whose case had been dismissed on a summary motion. The judge was livid that the pro se had not retained counsel before the opinion was rendered. (I brought a motion for reconsideration.) His irritation arose from the fact that his opinion was wrong, everybody knew it, and would probably now be reversed. Unfortunately, he simply couldn’t allow his friends (opposing counsels) to get beat by an uppity pro se.

    No one wants to look stupid but in this case, I am not sympathetic. Had hizzoner done the right thing in the first place, none of this would have happened. Instant Replay!!!