Score one for Duke in dragging out the lacrosse litigation, again

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✔ ✔ Duke University's lawyers got what they wanted in federal court yesterday -- the right to drag an amazing 233 people into the lacrosse litigation and stagger dates for their depositions during the next year.

Lawyers for lax players got the right to take an additional 60 depositions; it is possible the same person will be on both the plaintiff and defendant's list, and the federal court provided that each witness only has to be deposed once.

Another year! And it means that the most important depositions -- of President Brodhead and former Trustee Bob Steel can be delayed some more. Duke did promise it would not destroy e-mails and other evidence that the defense hopes to see. Some day.

Depositions are part of the pre-trial process. They allow lawyers to build their case with greater lee-way than when the witness appears before a jury. And they lock the witness into testimony, for the deposition can be used to detect any attempts to change the story.

Depositions also take a lot of time -- and run up legal bills mercilessly. Duke likes that idea, trying to wear down the plaintiffs and consume their lawyers.

And you thought the lax hoax was simple: a Durham loon lying about rape, and a dishonest prosecutor pursuing charges.

✔ Also in yesterday's court hearing: Duke did not succeed, yet, in having all the depositions take place in Durham. Plaintiff's lawyers pointed out that 29 of the plaintiffs now live in New York, New Jersey and Maryland -- and having Duke bear the expense of sending its legal team there might be fairer.

Background: generally speaking, we are talking about lawsuits against the university for violating player's privacy and other rights in dealings with Durham Police during the 2006 lacrosse hoax. The University settled with the three indicted players; these are from 38 other team members.

The city of Durham is among the defendants. But that part is on hold. The city has an appeal pending challenging its liability -- and when that's settled, it too will want depositions, dragging and dragging and dragging this out.

Lesson: if you want to sue someone, be prepared to have the defendant drag it out mercilessly.

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