Key rulings expected soon in NFC ‘do-over’ suit

A referee watches as Tommylee Lewis #11 of the New Orleans Saints drops a pass broken up by Nickell Robey-Coleman #23 of the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 20, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Key court rulings are expected soon in a lawsuit seeking a possible do-over of the NFC title game that ended with a Los Angeles Rams victory over the New Orleans Saints — a game affected by a crucial “no-call” by officials in the final minutes of regulation play.

The lawsuit by two Saints season ticket holders was filed in Louisiana state court two days after the Jan. 20 game in New Orleans. The NFL immediately filed to move the suit to federal courts. League lawyers on Wednesday filed briefs explaining why they believe the suit belongs there — and also asking that it be dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan has granted a motion for expedited handling of the longshot litigation. The Rams play the New England Patriots in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

NFL lawyers say the federal court has jurisdiction because the suit amounts to a class action with millions of dollars potentially at stake and with defendants — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL and NFL Properties — living or headquartered in multiple states. They point to language in the suit that says it was filed “on behalf of the New Orleans Saints National fan base” as well as ticket holders, and note that one document accompanying the legal document filed with the suit refers to it as a “petition for a Writ of Mandamus and/or Class Action Damages.”

Lawyers for the ticket holders say they never sought class action status, just a judge’s order that the NFL follow its own rule — one giving the commissioner authority to investigate “extraordinarily unfair acts” that affect a game and order remedies that could include having the game replayed in part or from the time of the unfair act.

Earlier in the week, NFL lawyers said Goodell does not have the authority to overrule a referee on the field. Even if the rule did apply, the NFL attorneys argue, a decision on a remedy is up to the commissioner, not a ticket-holder.

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