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In Tobacco Conspiracy, Lawyers Were Key

Raise your hands when you are done. I'll give you another moment to finish reading U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler's 1,653-page opinion (1,742 pages counting appendices) and 18-page order finding that the nation's top cigarette makers violated federal racketeering laws and deceived the public about the health hazards of smoking.

Ready now? Well, in case you overlooked it, Blog 702 points out that Judge Kessler's ruling included this indictment of the complicity of lawyers in helping to deceive the public:

"Finally, a word must be said about the role of lawyers in this fifty-year history of deceiving smokers, potential smokers, and the American public about the hazards of smoking and second hand smoke, and the addictiveness of nicotine. At every stage, lawyers played an absolutely central role in the creation and perpetuation of the Enterprise and the implementation of its fraudulent schemes. They devised and coordinated both national and international strategy; they directed scientists as to what research they should and should not undertake; they vetted scientific research papers and reports as well as public relations materials to ensure that the interests of the Enterprise would be protected; they identified 'friendly' scientific witnesses, subsidized them with grants from the Center for Tobacco Research and the Center for Indoor Air Research, paid them enormous fees, and often hid the relationship between those witnesses and the industry; and they devised and carried out document destruction policies and took shelter behind baseless assertions of the attorney client privilege.

"What a sad and disquieting chapter in the history of an honorable and often courageous profession."

The ruling overall "sounds rather a lot like a parent confronting a dishonest child," says William G. Childs at TortsProf Blog. If so, the question may be whether any of the complicit lawyers will get taken to the woodshed.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on August 18, 2006 at 02:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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