Judge Richard M. Berman has nullified the NFL’s four-game suspension of Tom Brady for his role in the Patriots’ ball deflation scandal. Pending an appeal (Update: the NFL will appeal, according to ESPN’s Andrew Brandt), Brady will start on opening night one week from tonight.

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If the NFL does appeal, it could also seek a stay of Berman’s decision. If granted, that would reinstate Brady’s suspension.

We’ll be updating this post as we go through the 40-page decision, which can be read in full below. Here, though, are the three ways the judge ruled that the NFL fucked up:

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  1. The NFL didn’t properly inform Brady of the punishment he faced, or even what he was accused of.
  2. The NFL didn’t let Brady’s camp question NFL executive and counsel Jeff Pash at his appeal.
  3. The NFL didn’t give Brady’s side the opportunity to examine the evidence against him.

The NFL also erred, the judge wrote, in not properly informing Brady of the rules that it later accused him of breaking. (Much like how Brady violated the NFL’s “honor code” that isn’t shared with players.)

That one is really the key point here: Judge Berman wasn’t ruling on whether Brady was involved with or “generally aware” of deflated footballs. He was judging the legality of the NFL’s investigatory and disciplinary procedures: the ones that made Roger Goodell and his handpicked minions the cops, prosecutors, judge, and jury and allow the players no independent recourse. Well, none beyond going to court—and, recently, usually winning.

And remember, it’s the NFL that handpicked this New York court in attempt to keep the NFLPA away from a traditionally player-friendly Minnesota judge.

The judge said the NFL’s catch-all “conduct detrimental” policy is overreaching—basically that the league is “legally misplaced” in making shit up as it goes along.

The NFLPA has issued a statement on today’s ruling:

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The rights of Tom Brady and of all NFL players under the collective bargaining agreement were affirmed today by a Federal Judge in a court of the NFL’s choosing. We thank Judge Berman for his time, careful consideration of the issue and fair and just result.

This decision should prove, once and for all, that our Collective Bargaining Agreement does not grant this Commissioner the authority to be unfair, arbitrary and misleading. While the CBA grants the person who occupies the position of Commissioner the ability to judiciously and fairly exercise the designated power of that position, the union did not agree to attempts to unfairly, illegally exercise that power, contrary to what the NFL has repeatedly and wrongfully claimed.

We are happy for the victory of the rule of law for our players and our fans. This court’s decision to overturn the NFL Commissioner again should signal to every NFL owner that collective bargaining is better than legal losses. Collective bargaining is a much better process that will lead to far better results.

Update: As mentioned above, ESPN’s Andrew Brandt has reported on Sportscenter that the league is planning to appeal Judge Berman’s decision.

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Judge Berman’s decision: