Nature groups press court to unseal atrazine documents in Syngenta case

Steve Korris Aug. 26, 2011, 1:33am



BENTON – Nature groups want U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert to unseal documents about weed killer atrazine that Magistrate Judge Phil Frazier wouldn't unseal.

On Aug. 25, the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Prairie Rivers Network appealed a decision Frazier reached in favor of atrazine maker Syngenta Crop Protection.

The lawyer for the groups, Howard Learner of Chicago, urged Gilbert to vacate an order protecting documents Syngenta provided to lawyer Stephen Tillery of St. Louis.

Frazier rejected their plea on Aug. 11, finding the protective order complies with relevant authority allowing a level of secrecy when litigants exchange information.

Learner wrote in his appeal to Gilbert that the definition of confidential information in the order is impermissibly broad.

"Second, the protective order entered in this case is also defective because it does not explicitly provide that all of the parties and any interested member of the public may challenge the sealing of the documents," he wrote.

"Although secrecy may be permissible during discovery, entirely different standards govern documents that have been filed in court and made part of the judicial record," he wrote.

The center and the network act as intervenors in a suit Tillery filed on behalf of public and private water suppliers in six states.

Along with challenging the protective order, they moved to unseal specific documents.

Gilbert denied the specific motion, and Learner moved for reconsideration on Aug. 2.

Tillery seeks judicial declarations that atrazine harms water in any concentration and that Syngenta must pay for its complete removal from water supplies.

Earlier this month, he denied trying to undermine federal standards finding atrazine safe up to three parts per billion.

He wrote that suppliers have a right, not an obligation, to remove it completely.

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