SAN DIEGO – Before Judge Joan Lewis ruled Friday that a civil suit against former University of Southern California star Reggie Bush will proceed in open court instead of going to confidential arbitration, the most important words were the ones not spoken.
Michael Michaels, one of two financiers of a failed sports marketing company, was in court but did not testify as Lewis, of San Diego Superior Court, prohibited lawyers for fellow financier Lloyd Lake to call Michaels to the stand.
Michaels, who reached a settlement with Bush last year for a reported $304,000, was expected to shed light on whether Bush and his family received money. Lake has alleged that he gave Bush money as an enticement to sign with New Era Sports & Entertainment.
If that allegation is substantiated, Bush could lose the Heisman Trophy he won in 2005. If a tie to USC is established, the university could face sanctions. The NCAA and Pac-10 have been investigating the matter for more than two years.
The case against Bush has moved slowly. On Friday, Lewis ruled on motions filed by both sides. She denied a request by Bush's attorneys to compel the sides to arbitrate the matter.
She also took under submission a motion by Lake's attorneys to compel Bush's side to provide answers in discovery. Lewis harshly warned both sides that she may assign a "discovery referee" to the case if the sides can't cooperate. Attorneys have been discussing the case since January 2006.
Depositions in the case are scheduled to begin at the end of August with Lake going first, followed by Michaels, Bush and Bush's parents, mother Denise Griffin and stepfather LaMar Griffin.
Bush attorney David Cornwell said his side would take "appropriate" steps in reaction to the judge's ruling on arbitration. That could include an appeal of the ruling, which could further delay the process.