Tillery asks federal court to unseal all documents in Syngenta atrazine class action

Amelia Flood May 26, 2011, 12:00am



The City of Greenville is asking U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert to unseal all of the documents related to a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction filed by one of the defendants in a proposed federal class action over the weed killer atrazine.

Greenville filed its response May 20 to a defense reply to a court order requiring reasons that documents related to a motion to dismiss should remain under seal.

Gilbert had previously ordered Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. and Syngenta AG to lay out the reasons for sealing the documents in an order to show cause.

The documents relate to Syngenta AG's motion to dismiss the counts against it on the grounds that the federal court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Switzerland-based company.

Stephen Tillery is lead counsel for the plaintiff.

Kurtis Reeg leads the defense.

Syngenta argued in its reply that the plaintiffs were attempting to "exert pressure" upon them and that the plaintiffs had intentionally filed superficial documents such as basic hearing notices and press releases under seal in order to manipulate the court into unsealing documents Syngenta alleges would damage its case.

The City of Greenville filed the proposed federal class action against the Syngenta defendants last year. It proposes to lead a class of cities and water providers in a multi-state action.

Greenville alleges it and the other proposed class members have been forced to remediate their water supplies because atrazine made by Syngenta runs off farm fields and contaminates those supplies.

The suit is nearly identical to six proposed class actions filed against Syngenta and other companies in Madison County in 2004.

Those suits remain pending before Madison County Circuit Judge William Mudge.

None of the cases including the Greenville case have been certified to date.

The sealed motion to dismiss documents have been at the center of several moves in the case recently.

Two environmental groups, the Environmental Law & Policy Center and the Prairie Rivers Network, have filed moves seeking to intervene in the case.

The plaintiffs also asked for and were granted the order to show cause earlier this year.

Syngenta has been fighting the moves, most recently accusing the environmental groups of being a "shill" for the plaintiffs.

The interveners deny that claim.

In the May 20 response, the plaintiff contends that Syngenta has not met the burden required by the order to show cause that would keep the documents under seal.

"Syngenta cannot rest of a naked assertion that the documents are 'confidential," the Greenville response reads. "It must justify the assertion 'by valid reasons and legal citations.'"

Greenville argues Syngenta addressed the wrong issue in the defendants' response to the court's order to show cause.

Greenville claims Syngenta has "abused" its right to the confidential designation.

The plaintiffs go on to write in the May 20 response that because Syngenta has not followed the court's directive and explained the required matters, the court should unseal all of the documents under seal currently in the record.

The plaintiffs also have filed a move asking the court to allow them to explain a North Carolina federal court decision related to the personal jurisdiction in 350 words or less.

That filing was entered May 24.

The case, currently pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of
Illinois, is case number 10-cv-188-JPG.

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