Court of the living dead

The Madison County Record Jan. 11, 2009, 7:30am

We don't keep a crystal ball here at The Record. But one mustn't be psychic to predict the next move of a jackpot-seeking trial lawyer like Steve Tillery.

Back on Dec 22, this page surmised the new year would bring, among other things, a new chapter in the epic known as Price v. Phillip Morris. Five years into it, the case is described by some as Steve Tillery v. The Rest of Us, the tale of one man who, with one law degree, manages to bring controversy and unwanted attention to the reputation of our community of 265,000.

Indeed, while the rest of us were giving, sharing, and otherwise celebrating the holiday spirit, Tillery was plotting, as we prophesied, to resurrect the case that earned Edwardsville its own star on the jackpot justice map.

As reported exclusively by our Steve Korris, Tillery has asked newbie Judge Dennis Ruth to re-open Price, claiming that a mid-December U.S. Supreme Court decision has vindicated the Tillery Doctrine, or his theory that supposedly wise plaintiffs lawyers (like himself) and state court judges should be the ones overseeing light cigarette advertising across the land, rather than federal regulators.

Lest one wonder what principle drives him, consider the $2 billion in legal fees Tillery might "earn" if he ever proves successful. That was his share of the obscene $10.1 billion Price verdict rendered in 2003 by now-ex Judge Nick Byron, who critics claim must be a charter member of the Steve Tillery Fan Club. A higher court reversed that verdict.

We don't know how Judge Ruth will act. We hope he will not be smitten by Tillery's John Grisham-esque crusading, as Byron seemed to be. There's no need for five more years of "impartial" rulings clogging a full court docket. For our local economy's sake, Judge Ruth should resists the temptation.

The coming year will be challenging economically for all of us and it bears repeating: reviving a scarecrow the size of Price is the best way to scare outside investors and potential jobs away from the Metro-East when we need them most.

This case is supposed to be dead and buried. Our elected judiciary need not dig it up to haunt us further.

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