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After being called liars by Deshaun Watson’s lawyer, 12 of Tony Buzbee’s 22 clients will attend status conference

Mike Florio examines why Rusty Hardin’s decision to say all 22 women suing Deshaun Watson are lying wasn’t the best move and explains how the accusers agreeing to meet with NFL investigators could complicate matters.

The cases against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson return to court on Thursday for a status conference. Attorney Tony Buzbee says most of his clients will personally appear for the hearing.

Via Mark Berman of FOX 26 in Houston, Buzbee said that 12 of the 22 plaintiffs have “insisted on being present” for the hearing “because they were called liars by Watson’s attorney,” Rusty Hardin.

To put it in perspective, plenty of lawyers advise their clients in civil cases to show up for everything, so that the judge can see that they’re fully engaged in the process. Indeed, the client has an absolute right to attend any aspect of the case; whether they “insist” to be there or not, they can show up. That said, a status conference entails nothing substantive or significant. At most, future deadlines and dates will be identified for the litigation.

The status conference, unless Buzbee plans on grandstanding, will have nothing to do with the strategy deployed by Hardin on Monday, when the document he filed in court and the statement he provided to the media declared Watson’s and Hardin’s belief that all 22 plaintiffs are lying about the allegations of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. No motion has been filed on this point, and there would be no reason for Buzbee or his clients to stand up and say they’re insulted by anything Hardin said on Watson’s behalf.

Moreover, the fact that 12 will be present means that 10 won’t be. Buzbee’s contention invites speculation as to why the other 10 aren’t there. Do they have no issue with being called liars?

A separate question becomes what will happen after the hearing? It’s easy to envision Buzbee convening a press conference on the courthouse steps with his dozen clients standing behind him as he publicly takes issue with Hardin’s allegation.

At some point, the talking and the posturing has to end. Either the two sides will try to resolve the litigation, or they’ll proceed with getting ready for trial. In plenty of jurisdictions, the initial status conference becomes the moment at which the formal discovery process can commence. If Buzbee or Hardin want to go about gathering evidence to support their clients’ positions (and they should), there’s no reason to continue the battle in the court of public opinion when they can begin actively planning for the looming war in a court of law.