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Legal fight emerges over timing of Deshaun Watson’s deposition testimony

Mike Florio and Chris Simms discuss Deshaun Watson reporting to the Cleveland Browns' training facility for voluntary offseason workouts.

The 22 civil lawsuits pending against Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will continue to be a distraction from his day job. The lawyer representing the 22 plaintiffs realizes the benefit of that reality.

Via Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today, a skirmish has emerged on the question of whether Watson will submit to deposition testimony in these cases during his new employer’s offseason program.

Attorney Tony Buzbee has filed a notice of his intention to question Watson on five different days in early May. Watson has objected, based on his preparations for the 2022 season.

“Mr. Watson recently moved out of state and currently lives in Ohio,” Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a document filed in court on Friday. “He also has a full-time job that requires his presence in Ohio Monday through Friday. As a result, Mr. Watson is not available for depositions in Texas on the dates unilaterally noticed by Plaintiffs. Counsel for Mr. Watson offered multiple dates for Mr. Watson’s deposition that were rejected by Plaintiffs’ counsel.”

A hearing on the issue is set for next week. Some thoughts on the situation appear below.

First, Watson’s presence is “required” only for the offseason program. Second, it should be fairly easy to schedule the depositions for the window of six weeks or so between the end of the offseason program and the start of training camp.

Third, Buzbee knows well what he’s doing. He’s trying to exert even more settlement pressure on Watson by making the process as big of a pain in the butt as possible. And, yes, it would be much better for Watson if he simply settled the cases. But Buzbee knows this, which will serve only to make the price of settlement higher.

The presiding judge likely won’t be thrilled that the parties have been unable to resolve this on their own. Judges always want the lawyers to find a way to work together to resolve such matters; judges aren’t paid based on the case or by the hour. They get a salary. The fewer avoidable fights they have to handle, the easier their lives are.

The best approach to the entire litigation continues to be getting everyone in a room with a retired judge who will try to broker a global settlement. All parties involved need to endure a little tough love in order to get this done -- Buzbee may need more of it than anyone else. If the presiding judge hopes to minimize the time spent on this case, ordering a mandatory mediation of all cases to be conducted between the end of the offseason program and the start of training camp could be the best move to make.