Turnabout is fair play, but plaintiffs attorney Stephen Tillery doesn't like it.
What he does like is to bully his opponents – demanding that they produce reams of documents of dubious value, waging war against them in the media, badgering their expert witnesses, and using theatrics in court to confuse the issues.
What he doesn't like is for his opponents to use such tactics on him.
Most attorneys prefer not to stoop to that level anyway, but sometimes it's necessary to fight fire with fire. When one of his opponents gives him a taste of his own medicine, however, Tillery cries foul.
In his long-running suit against Syngenta, the makers of weedkiller atrazine, Tillery has resorted to a number of tawdry, time-tested tactics.
He 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.
He fought Syngenta in the court of public opinion, then demanded that the company turn over documents relating to a PR campaign it launched in response.
He harassed Syngenta's expert witnesses and accused the company of paying a nonprofit educational organization "to generate false studies and to plant sympathetic editorials in an effort to sway public opinion concerning the effects of atrazine."
While challenging the privilege requests of his opponents, he has asked for protective orders for documents and experts of his own.
But Syngenta's attorneys have countered with their own challenges. They want the same production of documents and discovery parameters as Tillery's clients demanded from Syngenta experts.
Syngenta's attorneys correctly identified some of Tillery's discovery demands as a fishing expedition. "This is a sideshow devoted to the issue of 'Can they use these documents for some other purpose?'" they charged. "This isn't about, 'Is there atrazine in the water somewhere in Illinois?'"
Poor Tillery! He can dish it out, but he can't take it.
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