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Things are looking up for the seven women who are suing Bill Cosby for defamation. Yesterday, Judge Anita Brody, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, ruled that the women can have access to Andrea Constand's case file.
Constand, like the women here, had accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. In 2006, she entered into a confidential settlement agreement with Cosby. It's files related to that agreement, including information on other accusations against the comedian, that Cosby's accusers will now have access to.
Let's take a look at this clever legal maneuvering.
Some background before we delve in. Once upon a time, Bill Cosby was a widely-loved entertainer, famous for creating Fat Albert and playing Doctor Huxtable on The Cosby Show, the highest rated television program for much of the 80s. But by 2015, his reputation had changed, as scores of women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault. Today, more than 40 women have accused Bill Cosby of rape, sexual assault, and other crimes stemming back decades.
Seven of those women -- Tamara Green, Therese Serignese, Linda Traitz, Louisa Moritz, Barbara Bowman, Joan Tarshis and Angela Leslie -- are suing Cosby in federal court. (Cosby is also facing a criminal prosecution.) The women accuse Cosby of defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
But the seven women in the current civil suit only a small number of the many women who've alleged that Cosby drugged and raped them. Some of those accusers, such as Andrea Constand, have entered into confidential settlements. But those haven't remained entirely secret.
In 2015, a judge unsealed depositions from Constand's case, which recorded Bill Cosby admitting to giving Quaaludes to women he wanted it sleep with. And it was Constand's case that caused prosecutors to file criminal charges against Bill Cosby. And it's Constand's case file that Cosby's current accusers are after. Now, thanks to Judge Brody's ruling, they'll get it.
Constand's case file includes plenty of documents put together by her attorney. Why aren't they protected from discovery as confidential work product, you ask? Well, they still are. (Though Constand and her attorney haven't objected to producing the files.) The subpoena excludes "attorney-client communications and attorney work-product." The settlement agreement itself is also excluded from the subpoena.
Cosby sought to quash the subpoena, arguing that there was no compelling justification for the disclosure of confidential materials, including the confidential settlement agreement.
But Judge Brody was unconvinced. She noted that the seven accusers had "never agreed to the confidentiality" of the materials and determined that "the public reaps no benefit by allowing settlement agreements to suppress the evidence."
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