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Months after fighting a stay in the California sexual assault lawsuit against Bill Cosby, attorneys for Judy Huth were pushing for one — arguing if the comedian took the deposition of his accusers who would be testifying it could give him an unfair advantage in his criminal trial.
With a criminal trial pending in June and six civil cases in the works, it’s not surprising that there would be overlap in witnesses. No civil court has yet decided to pause all third party discovery relating to these witnesses and L.A. Superior Court judge Craig Karlan on Friday declined to be the first.
“You don’t make a ruling that doesn’t need to be made,” said Karlan in a Friday morning hearing, explaining that an upcoming hearing in the criminal case against Cosby could render the issue moot. In December, a judge is expected to decide which, if any, of the 13 potential witnesses the prosecutors have proffered can testify.
One woman in particular, Margie Shapiro, had been subpoenaed by Huth’s legal team in September but her deposition was canceled after she was included in a list of potential criminal witnesses. Shapiro is expected to testify as a witness to Cosby’s “prior bad acts” to bolster Huth’s case.
In court briefs Huth’s attorney Gloria Allred asked the court to “grant her unusual request to stay her own lawsuit” because she wants to keep the comedian from using his civil discovery to “evade limits on criminal discovery.”
Cosby’s attorney Angela Agrusa, in an opposition to the stay, says the move is nothing more than hypocritical gamesmanship and Allred has urged prosecutors to use her clients as witnesses.
In March, Karlan partially paused the suit pending the outcome of Cosby’s criminal proceedings. He put on hold any discovery involving Cosby or Huth, but allowed discovery involving third parties to continue — but now that some of those third parties could serve as witnesses in the criminal case Huth’s attorneys want the whole thing paused.
While sympathetic to Huth’s concerns, Karlan isn’t ready to put hold on third party discovery. He did, however, indicate that Shapiro is off limits — for now.
After the hearing Allred told reporters she feels Karlan’s non-decision is a win and it will keep Shapiro from facing potential intimidation from defense attorneys. She also shared a letter from Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney M. Stewart Ryan which supports a stay. He writes that during criminal proceedings on Wednesday D.A. Kevin Steele “indicated that he believes it is improper and inappropriate for the defendant or his attorneys to use the civil process to attempt to depose Commonwealth witnesses or otherwise gather discovery related to the pending criminal charges.”
Meanwhile, Agrusa says she feels like her actions in defending her client have been framed as “victim shaming” and that isn’t fair. “None of us want to live in a world where you can’t ask questions of your accusers,” she said.
The next hearing in this case is set for January 13.