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Tom Brady shouldn’t ask for permission to appear in court by phone

Happy birthday, Tom Brady. I have a present for you, on the day you turn 38.

I picked it out myself, during a search that spanned 18 years of practicing law. Based on those 18 years of practicing law, I can tell you one thing, in no uncertain terms.

Do not attempt to participate in the August 12 or August 19 settlement conferences with Judge Richard M. Berman by phone. Don’t do it. Don’t even ask for it. Get your ass to Manhattan, and make it clear to Judge Berman’s clerk that you’re happy to get your ass to Manhattan, whenever the judge wants your ass (and the rest of you) there.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that the parties may be able to participate in the mandatory August 12 settlement conference by phone, but that they’ll have to present a good reason for doing so. Breer separately explains that the NFL (and presumably Commissioner Roger Goodell) will be there in person. Breer also reports that the NFLPA “will follow Brady’s guidance.”

The fact that it’s the NFLPA following Brady’s guidance and not the other way around is troubling. Lawyers need their clients to buy in, completely. Clients need to be ready to do whatever the lawyers tell them to do, without hesitation.

In this case, the lawyers need to tell Brady to get his ass to Manhattan on August 12, and he needs to say, “Whatever you need, I’ll be there.”

When dealing with a federal judge, it’s important to always show a high degree of deference and respect. When dealing with a federal judge who already has made it clear that he’ll be taking control of the case and aggressively pushing it toward settlement, it becomes important to show even more deference and respect.

In this case, it means getting your ass to Manhattan on August 12, without reservation or equivocation or even exploring the possibility of phoning in. Intended or not, every word and action sends a message, and if the message is anything other than, “Whatever you need, I’ll be there,” it’s not a good message.

Does it mean Brady will lose the case if he doesn’t show up in person? No. But the mindset that has him thinking it would be a good idea to not get his ass to Manhattan could manifest itself in other ways that could end up making the judge frustrated with Brady.

At some point, Judge Berman could start to wonder whether Brady is demonstrating the sort of entitlement that helps explain why he refused to give his phone to Ted Wells, why Brady dismantled/destroyed/whatever his phone on the same day he was due to meet with Wells, and whether Brady decided he could get away with having Beavis and Butthead take the top off game balls in order to make them easier to grip.

Brady wants the judge to restore to Brady the ability to play in four regular-season games. To persuade the judge to give Brady what he wants, Brady needs to treat the judge like the Wizard of Oz.