HOUSTON -- A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Roger Clemens can keep his lawyer in the defamation lawsuit against his former trainer, who accused the pitcher of using performance-enhancing drugs.
Lawyers for Clemens' former trainer, Brian McNamee, filed a motion for attorney Rusty Hardin to be removed from the case because Hardin represented both Clemens and pitcher Andy Pettitte for several days before the release of the Mitchell report in December.
McNamee said both Clemens and Pettitte used performance enhancing drugs. After the report's release, Pettitte admitted he used human growth hormone but Clemens has steadfastly denied using any performance-enhancing substances and in January filed a defamation suit against McNamee.
Pettitte later told congressional lawyers that Clemens informed him nearly a decade ago he had used HGH. Clemens claims Pettitte "misremembers."
McNamee's attorneys had argued that Hardin should be removed from the case because there could be a conflict of interest. In defending Clemens, Hardin could attack the credibility of Pettitte, his one-time client, or use privileged information against him, McNamee's attorneys said. Hardin denied those claims.
In a 13-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison ruled that since McNamee is not a former client of Hardin, he has no standing to ask for his disqualification. Only Pettitte would be able to make such a challenge and he has chosen not to at this time, Ellison wrote.
"The court is certain that today's decision will not shake the public's confidence in the legal system, especially since Pettitte can come forward to object to Hardin's representation himself if he is truly aggrieved," Ellison wrote.
Joe Roden, a lawyer at Hardin's law firm, called it a "thoughtful and well-reasoned opinion."
"We have always taken our ethical obligations to Andy Pettitte seriously and will continue to do so in the future," Roden said in a statement issued by spokesman Patrick Dorton.
Richard Emery, one of McNamee's lawyers, has repeatedly said Hardin was selecting legal strategies that were assisting McNamee's cause.
"Many people have told me that I was silly to file this motion because Rusty is my best friend. And now he's going to have a chance to prove his friendship," Emery said.
Jay Reisinger, Pettitte's lawyer, declined comment.
Ellison also gave Clemens' attorneys 20 days to respond to McNamee's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
McNamee is arguing the lawsuit should be dismissed on grounds that his statements to baseball investigator George Mitchell were protected by "absolute immunity" through a deal McNamee struck with federal prosecutors.
A seven-time Cy Young Award winner and 354-game winner, Clemens is under investigation by the FBI after denying McNamee's claims while under oath during a deposition and public testimony before a congressional committee.
The Daily News reported last week that Clemens had a decade-long relationship with country star Mindy McCready that began when she was 15 and an aspiring singer. The newspaper also linked him to former Manhattan bartender Angela Moyer and Paulette Dean Daly, a former wife of champion golfer John Daly.
On Monday, Clemens apologized for unspecified mistakes in his personal life.
Clemens denied having an affair with a 15-year-old but didn't specifically address whether he had a romance with McCready.