Stephen Tillery's sound and fury

The Madison County Record Mar. 13, 2011, 12:50am

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. – Macbeth, Act 5, Sc. 5

In recent times we have seen our share of threadbare lawsuits, including some worn thin by plaintiffs attorney Stephen Tillery.

Like the attorney who shouts and pounds the table when the facts and the law are in doubt, Tillery has been accused of using sound and fury to compensate for the poverty of his position in court.

His theatrical effects -- prominently displayed on occasion in his long-running suit against Syngenta, the makers of weedkiller atrazine -- seem designed to intimidate.

Not long ago, Tillery demanded that Syngenta disclose its memberships in industry groups – and then sent subpoenas to those groups demanding their membership lists, copies of their communications with members, and the names of their contributors.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder partially sustained the objections of the subpoenaed groups, prompting the irrepressible plaintiffs' attorney to employ other tactics to sustain his skeletal case.

Tillery now is seeking to sanction Syngenta for an alleged "cover-up." At a recent hearing, he accused the company of withholding information related to the work of an expert witness, University of Chicago professor Don Coursey, and exaggerating the length of his service to them.

The University already has turned over 900 documents relating to the professor's work. Coursey is seeking to block further discovery, calling the requests "irrelevant and harassing, and a violation of attorney/client privilege and attorney work product privilege."

What Coursey refers to as "threats and harassment," Stephen Tillery considers his stock in trade in pursuit of courtroom justice. The sound and fury he employs to distract those in court from noticing that neither the facts nor the law are much on his side – signifies nothing.

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