Crowder sets 2013 asbestos docket; Three local firms get 82 percent of trial slots
Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder has provided Simmons Browder law firm of East Alton with 185 valuable trial slots in her asbestos court for 2013.
She granted Simmons Browder nine weeks with 19 exclusive slots each week, plus 14 slots on a tenth day, in a preliminary order on Dec. 1.
Simmons Browder captured more than 38 percent of 485 slots she granted.
She provided 128 slots, more than 26 percent, to Gori Julian of Edwardsville; and she provided 84 slots, more than 17 percent, to Goldenberg Heller of Edwardsville.
Together, the three firms captured 82 percent of the slots.
She granted all three the number of weeks they requested.
She provided 24 slots each to O'Brien Law Office and Maune Raichle, both of St. Louis, in three weeks they will share with other firms.
Maune Raichle had asked for four weeks.
She provided 16 slots each to Saville and Flint, of Alton, and Shrader Law Office of Houston, Texas, in two weeks they will share with others.
Shrader had asked for four weeks.
She provided slots only for the seven firms, but designated eight slots in two weeks for a "cause docket" available to anyone else.
She set three other weeks of cause dockets showing no specific numbers.
"The court intends to avoid having one defendant in trial in more than one courtroom on any docket absent exigent circumstances," Crowder wrote at the end of the order.
"Counsel must also be aware that a living plaintiff who may be seriously ill takes priority.
"The court will make every effort to fairly accommodate all parties in the event of conflicts and retains the authority to make exceptions to this order."
The deepest disappointment among plaintiffs fell on Michael Bilbrey of Edwardsville, the only lawyer with slots in 2012 who won't receive any in 2013.
The deepest disappointment among defendants fell on those who proposed to curb Madison County's reputation as an open jurisdiction.
Robert Shultz of Edwardsville offered the proposal for Union Carbide in November, and dozens of defendants joined it.
Shultz wrote that reserving slots in excess of local need opens Madison County to litigation with no connection to the county.
He wrote that nine firms requested dates without representing that they had local clients to fill the dates.
He wrote that awarding dates without need "has transformed the right to trial into a popular commodity in Madison County."
He wrote that only three of 43 cases set on next year's trial docket have any connection to the county.
These defendants joined Union Carbide's proposal to curb Madison County's reputation as an open jurisdiction:
Foster Wheeler Energy
H.M. Royal Inc.
J.H. France Refractories
Leeds and Northrup
New York Air Brake
Swindell Dressler International
Utility Trailer Manufacturing
W.S. Darley & Co.