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Judge praises NFL players’ attorney in concussion settlement

Co-lead players' lawyer Christopher Seeger, left, and client

Co-lead players' lawyer Christopher Seeger, left, and client former NFL player Shawn Wooden speak with members of the media after a hearing on the proposed NFL concussion settlement Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, outside of the U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia. Credit: AP / Matt Rourke

The federal judge overseeing the NFL’s concussion settlement on Wednesday praised the attorney who represents the entire class of players for doing a “fine job” and declined a request by another law firm to unseat him.

The request by Philadelphia-based Gene Locks, who said in court papers that he represents 1,100 players, was supported by more than a dozen other attorneys who are unhappy with what they describe as the NFL’s actions to slow the pace of the settlement.

Locks, in his motion to U.S. District judge Anita Brody last month, said the attorney in charge of all players — Christopher Seeger — “cannot address the current threats to implementation” by the NFL. Locks asked that his firm be granted the same “rights and duties” as Seeger’s so the 20,000 former players covered by the settlement can collectively put forth a stronger fight against the NFL.

Brody, in a brief ruling issued Wednesday, said she declined the request because of several factors, including her having “the chance to witness the fine job [the firm of] Seeger Weiss has done in protecting all the Members of the Class” since the settlement became official a year ago.

The judge also noted that Locks’ firm has facilitated “third-party funding agreements” — deals in which companies advance players money in exchange now for a cut of their settlement award — which is not allowed under the settlement terms.

“This undermines any claim by the Locks Firm that it would be able to faithfully administer the Agreement,” Brody wrote.

Locks did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

As of Monday, the NFL’s concussion settlement has awarded $416.1 million to players, according to its official website. Of that figure, $171.9 million has been paid. The rest of the monetary awards are being appealed, audited or being processed.

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