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Judge Tells NFL & Players to| Keep at it, With New Mediator

MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - A federal judge on Monday ordered NFL players and team owners into mediation to try to resolve the NFL lockout. The NFL claimed it makes more sense to use the mediators who failed to solve the dispute before the players' union dissolved, but U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson appointed Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan to mediate the "litigation settlement."

Boylan will meet with players' representatives today (Tuesday). On Wednesday he will meet with representatives of the NFL.

Formal mediation with both sides present is scheduled for Thursday at 9 a.m. in Judge Boylan's chambers in the Federal Courthouse.

Nelson ordered that confidential information conveyed during mediation remain confidential and that information communicated during mediation may not be used in other proceedings.

After an April 6 hearing, Nelson urged both sides to negotiate until she decides whether to grant the player's request for an injunction to stop the lockout.

Whether an agreement will be reached before Nelson rules on the injunction seems doubtful: the NFL has said mediation should take place with the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, not with a court mediator.

In an April 7 letter to Judge Nelson, NFL attorney David Boies wrote, "the NFL and NFLPA [NFL Players Association] spent 17 days in FMCS-supervised mediation, during which time the Director of the FMCS (himself a Presidential appointee) and his principal deputy gained a thorough and detailed understanding of the many issues that must be resolved. Put simply, the FMCS has a 17-day head start over any other potential mediator."

He added that the NFL does not want the players to "abandon their chosen litigation" and asked that the court use its "good offices" to encourage players to go back to mediated negotiations with the FMCS.

The NFL wrote to plaintiffs' attorney James Quinn that it would provide "reasonable and appropriate assurances" that negotiation with the FMCS would be impartial, despite the players' antitrust lawsuit.

Quinn wrote in response: "Your invitation to 'resume' discussions in front of Mr. Cohen makes no sense as collective bargaining between the NFLPA and the NFL is over. ... As you can see, we agree with Judge Nelson's suggestion that the parties to the [lead plaintiff Tom] Brady litigation attempt to resolve the litigation with the assistance of the federal court in Minnesota. ... We think it would be helpful for you to have owners involved as we plan to include members of the Brady class."

On Thursday, April 7, the third class action against the NFL, led by Garrett Andrews, on behalf of rookies and prospective players, was reassigned to Judge Nelson's court, as it is related to the class action from active players, led by Tom Brady, and another one from retired and former players, led by Carl Eller.

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