The legal storm of Deshaun Watson, the Houston Texan quarterback, with more than a dozen women now accusing him of behavior ranging from improper touch to sexual assault, shows two prominent Texas attorneys who are hardly more different in their approaches could be.
Plaintiffs attorney Tony Buzbee made daily headlines on social media and held a press conference on the lawsuits, while defense attorney Rusty Hardin said almost nothing. Chris Tritico, a Houston attorney who has represented Moses Malone, Gary Sheffield and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, said the contrast will carry over to the trial if Watson’s cases ever see a courtroom.
“There’s no question about that,” said Tritico, predicting a matchup from “the extravagant, in your face, loud and loud” [Buzbee] against the more methodical and southern gentleman, friendlier style [of Hardin] and it would be a real juxtaposition between the two, no question about it. “
Here’s a look at the lawyers who are at the forefront of this high profile case:
For the plaintiffs: Tony Buzbee
Attorney Tony Buzbee, center, has heard major cases against powerful opponents in the past. Here he is shown with attorneys Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey (left) and Crystal Del Toro, who will also be working on the cases against Deshaun Watson. Yi-Chin Lee / Houston Chronicle via AP
Buzbee grew up in East Texas and attended Texas A&M where he was in the school’s famous Corps of Cadets. Upon graduation, he joined the Marine Corps and served in Somalia and in the first Gulf War. He then went to law school at the University of Houston Law Center. There he became editor-in-chief of the Houston Law Review and graduated in 1997 with summa cum laude. Buzbee was a briefing attorney for a federal judge and a law firm in Houston before founding the Buzbee law firm in 1999.
Since then, he has shown a penchant for large cases against powerful opponents. Notable cases include several against British Petroleum following accidents such as the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2009. He won a $ 100 million award, which was later reduced on appeal. Buzbee represented former Texas Governor Rick Perry on abuse of power charges in 2014 – the first time Buzbee had defended a criminal case. He won a case for Jimmy Buffett when it was alleged someone illegally used the singer’s trademark.
After Hurricane Ike in 2008, Buzbee helped secure a $ 189 million settlement against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association to repair damage. “I like being a change agent. A disruptor,” Buzbee said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle 2019. “I like helping someone who hasn’t been given a fair hand and trying to correct it. That’s what I enjoy most. If I don’t feel like we’re in this position, I usually won’t take the case. If I believe a client has been wronged, I’ll take a case to reconcile it . I think everyone wants to believe that there is still justice; I want to believe that too. “
Buzbee’s style is bold and bold. The door handles of his law firm on the 73rd floor of JP Morgan Chase Tower, the tallest building in Texas, are shaped like sharks. He has a shark tattoo on his right forearm and a shark on the tail of his jet. And Buzbee lives a public life. He slept on the streets of Houston one night in February to raise awareness of homelessness and ran for Mayor of Houston in 2019. One of his promises was to give his mayor’s salary to a random voter each year. In the end, he lost a runoff against Sylvester Taylor. He became an A&M regent in Texas in 2013, and the following year he bought a billboard asking Texans to draw quarterback Johnny Manziel (they didn’t, instead they took Jadeveon Clowney with the number 1 in the overall rating). He also called on the school to fire football coach Kevin Sumlin in 2017.
He once bought a WWII-era Sherman tank – Cheyenne – and parked it on the street in front of his Houston mansion before moving it to his ranch and finally donating it to his alma mater in 2018. The tank was parked in the same neighborhood in River Oaks where the McNair family – the owners of the Texans – lived. Buzbee said Friday that although the McNairs live nearby, he doesn’t know Cal McNair and isn’t a Texan fan.
Buzbee’s approach to one particular case was similar to his previous actions in relation to the lawsuits against Watson. Stanley Marsh 3 was part of an oil tycoon family and a versatile art patron best known for drawing the Cadillac Ranch near Amarillo. In 2012, Buzbee sued Marsh on behalf of teenagers who claimed to have been sexually assaulted and compiled 10 cases to be brought to justice.
Buzbee made a splash, according to a 2013 Texas Monthly story, posting full-page ads on the Amarillo Globe news that read, “Our company represents several young men allegedly sexually assaulted by Stanley Marsh 3. If you have any information about Because of these allegations or similar conduct by Mr. Marsh, regardless of when it occurred, we would like to speak to you immediately. “
Marsh 3 has settled the 10 lawsuits filed by Buzbee for an undisclosed sum.
“I live to fight on behalf of the weak against the powerful,” Buzbee told Texas Monthly at the time. “I enjoy making a lot of money for my customers and pouring the fear of God into those who are unlucky enough to oppose me.”
Despite the bombing, Buzbee knows what he’s doing in the courtroom, Tritico said.
“Good process competence comes from having it in you first,” said Tritico. “You can learn how to ask questions, but you must have the ability to stand up in a courtroom in front of a group of people looking at you and the ability and ability to overcome the fear of public speaking that everyone is born with and have this ability to control a witness and he has that. “
Buzbee joins his legal team by Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey, Brittany Ifejika and Crystal Del Toro. Brandfield-Harvey is from Houston and worked in the Harris County Attorney’s Office against strip clubs and illegal massage parlors dealing with prostitution and human trafficking. Del Toro has been with Buzbee since 2014, handling civil litigation, including sexual abuse. Ifejika, who graduated from the University of Texas with a law degree, was on a scholarship with the Texas Advocacy Project before being hired by Buzbee. There she worked with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
For Watson: Rusty Hardin
Attorney Rusty Hardin, Watson’s attorney, previously represented other high profile athletes, including Adrian Peterson after he was arrested for beating his 4-year-old son with a switch. Bob Levey / Getty Images
79-year-old Hardin is known for high profile cases involving celebrity clients. It is listed on his company’s website as one of his areas of activity. He has worked on both sides of litigation, both in the prosecution and as a civil and criminal defense lawyer.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University, Connecticut, serving in Vietnam, and returning to Southern Methodist University law school in 1975, Hardin served as the assistant district attorney in Harris County for 15 years. A 2002 profile of Hardin from Texas Monthly said he never lost a prosecutor case in over 100 legal cases. In 1991 he went into private practice as a partner in Hardin, Beers, Hagstette & Davidson. In 1994, he was litigation advisor to the Whitewater Inquiry under Robert Fiske and Ken Starr. Two years later, he opened his own company, Rusty Hardin & Associates, dealing with civil and criminal defense.
In many ways, he has become an advocate for the stars, especially the professional athletes. His best known client was Roger Clemens, whom he represented in litigation related to the Mitchell report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Hardin’s company also represented Clemens in perjury after the Justice Department accused him of lying to Congress. Clemens was acquitted. Hardin represented former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich in a DWI case (dismissed); Wade Boggs in a flight attendant complaint against Boggs for verbal assault (verdict in favor of Boggs); and Warren Moon for assaulting his wife (acquitted). He also represented Adrian Peterson after his arrest for beating his 4-year-old son with a switch (no objection, no jail term).
Hardin’s most famous case, however, was when he stood up for the son of billionaire J. Howard Marshall against former Playboy centerfold Anna Nicole Smith, who married Marshall 14 months before his death.
The inheritance became both a legal battle and a tabloid, particularly when Hardin Smith was interrogated. Once he asked her, “Mrs. Marshall, have you taken any new acting lessons?”
Smith’s reply after grabbing a handkerchief: “Fuck you, Rusty.”
In several interviews, Hardin said the line followed him everywhere. But he said to the “20/20”: “It never offended me.” Hardin also won that case by playing “You Light Up My Life” while closing the case because it had been suggested earlier in the trial that Smith was the light of Marshall’s life.
“I said I had something that I thought would capture the spirit of the process,” Hardin told the New York Times in 2001.
Even in cases where he’s lost – he was Arthur Andersen LLP’s attorney in a trial against the judiciary – he makes an impression. He turned what many thought was an easy victory for the government into 10 days of deliberation by the jury.
“He kept us focused,” a juror on the case, Jack Gallo, told the Wall Street Journal in 2002. “You never know what will come out of your mouth.” Tritico said he shared Hardin’s deceptively relaxed style.
“I’m not saying Tony is rude but our style is not aggressive,” said Tritico. “Our style is slow, methodical, we get what we need and smile at them while we slowly poke them with knives.”