Bill Cosby’s wife, Camille, will have to testify in the civil lawsuit against him. Camille, who is also the actor and comedian’s business manager, had asked the court to throw out the subpoena requiring her to give a deposition in the defamation suit filed by seven women against her husband.

What happened to one spouse not being forced to testify against another? Does the spousal privilege apply to civil lawsuits?

Privilege and Disqualification

Massachusetts has specific laws governing spousal privilege and disqualification. While a “spouse shall not be compelled to testify in the trial of an indictment, complaint, or other criminal proceeding brought against the other spouse,” this privilege does not extend to civil proceedings like the lawsuit filed against Cosby.

Spouses also “shall not testify as to private conversations with a spouse occurring during their marriage.” It was this disqualification rule that Camille Cosby sought to invoke, barring her from testifying at her scheduled deposition and possibly during the trial. Disqualification applies “in any proceeding, civil or criminal,” with a few exceptions.

“No Merit”

But U.S. Judge Magistrate David Hennessey was unconvinced. He said Camille failed to prove that she was protected by Massachusetts’ marital disqualification law and saw “no merit” in her claim that the law “renders her incompetent to testify in this matter.” Hennessey also rejected claims that the value of Camille’s testimony would be outweighed by the “undue burden” the deposition would cause. The judge wrote that her arguments “do not outweigh the potential significance of Mrs. Cosby’s testimony, nor has Mrs. Cosby provided any authority that they do.”

Camille was originally scheduled to be deposed tomorrow, but the deposition has been moved to Wednesday next week. Judge Hennessey did order her testimony be kept under seal, meaning the details of her deposition testimony will not be made public.

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