The Deshaun Watson civil cases will have their first hearings on Friday.
Via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com, a pair of hearings will be held tomorrow morning on the question of whether the 20 women suing Watson anonymously must disclose their identities. One will occur at 8:45 a.m. ET and the other will happen at noon ET.
Attorney Rusty Hardin ostensibly requested the emergency hearings because Watson’s deadline for responding to the civil complaints is approaching. It’s more likely, however, that Hardin used this tactic as a way to bring the matter to a head more quickly, in order to force attorney Tony Buzbee to the table for settlement talks.
Indeed, Watson’s official responses to the 20 complaints filed under the Jane Doe pseudonym could have consisted of broad denials of the various allegations based on the lack of specificity in the complaints. But that approach would not have applied immediate pressure to the unnamed plaintiffs to disclose their identities. If Hardin can secure a ruling that the 20 unnamed plaintiffs must disclose their names, one or more (and potentially all) of the 20 unnamed plaintiffs will be more likely to engage in meaningful settlement talks in order to keep their identities secret.
For Watson, there’s value in potentially resolving these cases sooner than later, setting the stage for a trade. But there’s currently no reason for Buzbee to cooperate. If a court orders that the unnamed plaintiffs must disclose their names, perhaps Buzbee will come to the table.
This strategy has no relevance to Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley, the two plaintiffs who disclosed their identities earlier this week.