Last week, Judge Susan Nelson, the U.S. District Court judge hearing the NFL legal dispute, took control of the negotiation agenda. She appointed Minneapolis chief federal magistrate judge Arthur Boylan as the new mediator, moved the mediation from Washington, D.C. to Minneapolis, and indicated a ruling on the NFL players’ requested injunction to stop the lockout would soon be forthcoming.
Recognizing Judge Nelson is a participant in this negotiation, with her own goals and interests, why would she take these steps? Bringing the mediation formally under her purview with a mediator she knows and who essentially reports to her improves her leverage to “encourage” a settlement, especially as the parties know she will be ruling on their legal disputes. Doing so also likely ensures a continuing court role for enforcing any post-settlement activities. Moving the mediation to her home turf allows her to take control of the mediation agenda and atmosphere. And by indicating a ruling will soon be forthcoming, she is providing some urgency to encourage the parties to settle (or be stuck with her ruling which may or may not be favorable to either party).