Congressional committee says NFL has “no valid basis” for withholding WFT documents

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A dozen shiny objects from an Eleventh Sunday baker in the 2021 NFL season is not enough to dampen the continued glare of Congress created by the WFT investigation.

Via the the Wall Street newspaper, the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee disputes the NFL’s assertion that one or more legal privileges attach to the documents and other information that the committee requested from the league regarding the investigation of 10 months on work misconduct over a period of several years at the franchise owned and operated by Daniel Snyder.

“The NFL has no valid basis for withholding documents that the committee is looking for,” a committee spokesperson recently said. the Wall Street newspaper. “We expect the League to honor the commitment made by the commissioner and fully comply with the committee’s requests.

Responding to the committee’s initial investigation earlier this month, the league explained that questions relating to solicitor-client privilege and / or work product doctrine may apply to some of the documents generated. by the investigation, including the notorious treasure trove of 650,000 emails that purportedly came from articles sent and received by former WFT executive Bruce Allen.

It’s easy to throw up fancy-sounding names of privilege and legal protections. But just invoking the labels does not mean that the protections actually apply. Here, lawyer Beth Wilkinson was first hired by the Washington football team to lead the investigation. The NFL finally requisitioned the probe. Who is the “client” in a situation like this, and at what point, if at all, do Wilkinson’s conclusions or recommendations become the kind of legal advice that cannot be violated? These are important questions that could potentially show that there are no real solicitor-client privilege issues involving these documents.

Work product doctrine is a more slippery concept, arising largely from the idea that documents and reports generated by a lawyer, while not specifically communicating advice to a client, can include mental impressions. that should not be revealed. In this case, Wilkinson was instructed not to create a report, which surely would have embodied many different impressions as to the relevant facts and / or the credibility of the witnesses. If Wilkinson and / or his staff have generated notes, memos or other documents that assess whether and to what extent (for example) witnesses are telling or not telling the truth, the work product doctrine may apply. -to be.

That said, neither of the two privileges likely apply to Bruce Allen’s emails. The NFL has already admitted that these documents are beyond the scope of the investigation. The question then becomes whether personal or private communications between Allen and others should be a fair game. Frankly, they’ve already become fair game for anyone who leaked the emails sent out by former Raiders coach Jon Gruden. There should be no reasonable expectation of confidentiality for emails sent to or from an official Washington football team account. Everything must be disclosed to the Committee.

The league tries to create the general impression that it is cooperating with Congress while reserving the right to specifically refuse to produce certain things. As Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently told Bob Costas, “The NFL certainly wants to cooperate with whatever Congress asks of it out there.”

Yes, “in any way”. Except in the manner which may result in the delivery of damaging documents to Congress.

In all directions. As long as that’s the way we choose.

The push and pull will continue. Ultimately, the question is whether Congress simply decides to issue subpoenas and hold hearings.

Although only a fairly small percentage of these investigations end in a formal, public process, it has been evident for weeks that the league has been trying to hide something potentially huge, whether it is the football team of Washington, another franchise or inside operating the highest levels of the league office.

Already, enough pieces have emerged to take out Gruden and tarnish longtime NFL general counsel Jeff Pash. If Congress pushes hard enough, further disclosures could lead to greater liability for others who would otherwise want to avoid their calculation.

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