COLUMBUS, Ohio — Attorneys representing some of the hundreds of men suing Ohio State over its failure to protect them from sexual abuse by a school doctor filed motions for the federal judge overseeing their cases to recuse himself after he disclosed his wife's financial ties to the school.
The motions were filed after U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson disclosed his wife's business, The Flag Lady's Flag Store, is licensed to sell OSU merchandise earlier this month.
The attorneys said Watson should recuse himself because of his wife's license to sell products with OSU's logo, OSU acting as a customer for her business, and Watson's employment as an adjunct professor at OSU's law school. The attorneys also asked that the cases be moved to Cincinnati.
Attorneys for one set of plaintiffs said the men, who said they were sexually abused as teenage boys, "will never get justice in Columbus."
A second filing said the judge and his wife took part in a Buckeye Cruise for Cancer fundraiser, which also raises questions about whether he can be perceived as impartial in cases against OSU.
Ohio State responded with a motion stating the recusal is unnecessary and an "eleventh-hour attempt at forum shopping" based on business unrelated to the lawsuits.
In an email, OSU spokesperson Benjamin Johnson wrote:
"The Flag Lady’s Flag Store is one of 400 businesses around the nation licensed to sell Ohio State merchandise. Ohio State does not pay licensees. Rather, these 400 licensees pay the university a standard 12% royalty for the right to use Ohio State trademarks like the Block O. The Flag Lady’s Flag Store has been an Ohio State licensee for decades. Any non-apparel business is welcome to apply online to be a licensee. There is no application fee and applications are reviewed monthly.
Separate from any licensing agreements, Ohio State purchases products and services from approximately 34,000 vendors around the world, including the Flag Lady’s Flag Store. The university is proud to support many local businesses and spent less than $16,000 at the store in fiscal year 2021. All purchases were approved by University Purchasing in accordance with applicable rules and regulations."
Johnson also wrote that the Buckeye Cruise for Cancer is an "independent entity."
The motion asking for the judge's recusal comes as plaintiffs expected his ruling on whether to dismiss remaining cases over the statute of limitations for filing civil litigation in sexual abuse cases.
News 5 reached out to Watson's office by phone and e-mail. So far, no one has responded.
More than 400 men who attended OSU have sued over their alma mater's failure to protect them from Strauss, despite repeated complaints about his behavior. Many of the men were athletes who say they were repeatedly groped during physical exams.
Ohio State has reached settlement with 185 plaintiffs totaling close to $47 million.
The university has offered an individual settlement program to plaintiffs in some of the remaining lawsuits.
A handful of plaintififs in the remaining cases recently agreed to take the individual settlement. The remaining plaintiffs said OSU has failed to properly compensate them for the abuse they suffered while under Strauss's care.
Strauss died in 2005.