Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder on Friday said she was open to suggestions about how to schedule cases for trial in the court's packed asbestos docket.
However, she and the attorneys who packed her third floor courtroom noted that a leading voice seeking to give advice on the matter was absent. Crowder proposed a second date be set to accommodate that absence.
"We can put it more succinctly that Barney (Robert) Shultz can't be here today and nobody from Heyl Royster can be Barney Shultz," Crowder said, eliciting laughs from the attorneys gathered.
With that in mind, Crowder set March 25 as the date she will hear more suggestions on the allocation of 2012's asbestos trial dates.
That date was set after verbal agreements of the attorneys present.
The March 25 date also allows defense firms to weigh in on proposals submitted by attorney Allison Romani of the firm of Shrader & Associates on behalf of plaintiffs' firms.
Shultz submitted a proposal to Crowder in December on behalf of Union Carbide, Riley Stoker, Certainteed Corporation, Ford Motor, Maremont Corporation, General Electric and Arvin Meritor, companies often found at the defense table in asbestos cases.
The proposal would significantly change how Madison County's asbestos docket is managed.
Currently, the docket is managed along the lines laid out in a 2004 order signed by then Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack.
Stack presided over the asbestos docket for six years until his retirement in December.
Shultz's proposal includes revisions to how trial dates are set and changes to the discovery process leading up to those trials.
His proposal called Stack's 2004 order, "an outmoded document that, over the course of time, has led to the creation of an environment contrary to sound public policy and an appropriate system of civil justice."
Romani, one of the few attorneys to remark on the scheduling following Friday's usual docket business, told Crowder that plaintiffs firms had reached a unanimous agreement about a proposal for 2012's dates that had been submitted to the court.
That proposal could also apply to 2013, Romani told Crowder.
The document was also submitted to some of the defense firms.
Copies of the proposal were made available to all defense firms following Friday's hearing.
Defense attorneys present indicated they wanted time to review the proposal before commenting.
The proposal of 2012 trial dates referenced in Friday's hearing allots the following dates by firm:
1/17/12 Goldenberg Heller Antognoli & Rowland P.C.
1/23/12 Gori, Julian & Associates P.C.
2/6/12 Simmons Law Firm
3/5/12 Simmons Law Firm
3/12/12 Goldenberg Heller Antognoli & Rowland P.C.
3/19/12 Gori, Julian & Associates P.C.
4/2/12 Simmons Law Firm
4/9/12 Saville Shrader/Bilbrey
5/7/12 Simmons Law Firm
5/14/12 Goldenberg Heller Antognoli & Rowland P.C.
5/21/12 Gori, Julian and Associates P.C.
6/4/12 Simmons Law Firm
6/18/12 Gori, Julian & Associates P.C.
7/16/12 Goldenberg Heller Antognoli & Rowland P.C.
8/13/12 Simmons Law Firm
9/4/12 Simmons Law Firm
9/17/12 Gori, Julian & Associates P.C.
10/1/12 Simmons Law Firm
10/15/12 Goldenberg Heller Antognoli & Rowland P.C.
10/29/12 Gori, Julian and Associates P.C.
11/5/12 Simmons Law Firm
12/10/12 Per Judge Crowder, date is no longer available.
The proposal was copied by court staff and distributed after Friday's hearing.
It was the only document copied that was available. It is not signed, nor does it indicate or attribute authorship.