One of the 22 women accusing Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct and sexual assault must refile her civil lawsuit with her name attached to it, a Harris County judge ruled Friday.
Judge Dedra Davis of the 270th district court told attorney Tony Buzbee he has two days to refile the case.
Two plaintiffs, Ashley Solis and Lauren Baxley, voluntarily identified themselves in a news conference earlier this week. Another 12 women Buzbee represents could be subject to do so based on the results of a similar hearing scheduled for later Friday morning in the 113th district court.
Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, has lambasted Buzbee for not offering up the names of Watson’s accusers. Hardin has said it has impeded his team’s effort to investigate the accusations.
In filings submitted Thursday and in the hearing Friday morning, Hardin cited two Texas Rules of Civil Procedure that don’t allow civil lawsuits under a pseudonym. One requires plaintiffs to state their names if they are known. The other requires the defense to receive fair notice of claims. In sexual assault cases, state law only offers minors an exception to these rules.
Buzbee suggested in his response to Hardin’s Thursday filing that his client could enter into a confidentiality or protective order rather than replead with her name attached to her complaint. He argued making the women’s names public will expose them to online harassment and could result in others with similar names being harassed as well.
In her ruling, Judge Davis said the case has already taken on a high profile and that not revealing the names of the plaintiff won’t stop the public from speculating.
“And we can only guess what’s happening to the person who has not been found guilty in a court of law of anything but is being drug through the media,” she said.