Bill Cosby Fails to Win Complete Pause of Defamation Lawsuit

Bill Cosby GETTY - H 2016
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On Monday, a Massachusetts federal judge made clear that he agrees that Bill Cosby faces a "Fifth Amendment predicament," but nevertheless has decided to only partly stay a libel lawsuit brought against him by seven women in the interest of keeping "the litigation progressing as much as possible."

The ruling comes as Cosby faces a criminal charge of sexual assault in Montgomery County, Pa., in connection to a 2004 incident involving ex-Temple University employee Andrea Constand. The entertainer's attorneys have asserted that in order to preserve Cosby's rights against self-incrimination, all civil lawsuits should be paused. Last week, the California judge presiding over sexual assault claims made by Judy Huth complied, but Cosby gets only a half-victory in the defamation lawsuit brought by Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis, Louisa Moritz and Angela Leslie over denials by his reps that they were sexually assaulted.

"Undoubtedly ... there is a risk — perhaps a significant one — that any incriminating evidence produced by Defendant with regard to the events at issue in this case could be admissible in his criminal trial," writes U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni.

"A complete stay of this litigation, however, is not warranted," he continues. "It simply is not necessary in order to avoid the Fifth Amendment predicament. Rather, all that is necessary is that Defendant be exempted from providing discovery while his criminal case is pending. Were this court to pause the litigation in its entirety while Defendant’s criminal case wends its way through the Pennsylvania courts, the parties would face a substantial amount of discovery they would need to conduct after the criminal case concludes in order to be ready for trial in this action."

In opposing Cosby's motion for a stay, Joseph Cammarata, an attorney for the plaintiffs, stressed that their discovery demands amounted to more than deposing the entertainer himself. Quincy Jones, William Morris Endeavor and Cosby's former attorney Marty Singer were among those being eyed for document requests and deposition notices. As a result of Monday's ruling, it appears as though they'll have to be available (although some like Singer could be asserting attorney-client privilege.)

Cosby won't have to be deposed at this time, nor will he have to submit a signed declaration of his intention to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights. But the plaintiffs are free to find out whatever they want through other means. A dispute over the scope of the deposition of Camille Cosby — the defendant's wife — remains pending.