If you think it's hard to give up using tobacco, imagine how hard it might be to give up suing tobacco companies.

St. Louis attorney Stephen Tillery has found it practically impossible -- but then, like many smokers, he's not really trying.

Tillery can't claim ignorance of the hazards of tobacco litigation. It's common knowledge that suing tobacco companies can take years off a plaintiffs attorney's life. Sure, it's hard to resist that craving for another case and near-impossible to duplicate that rich, full feeling from a robust tobacco settlement, but the feeling eventually wears off and the craving rises to find another.

It's an expensive and consuming habit that caring friends and family may wish he would abandon -- you can't blame them for worrying about the effects of second-hand litigation -- but Tillery keeps on suing.

He tried to kick the habit by switching to suits over "light" and "lowered tar and nicotine" cigarettes, but just got hooked on those instead.

Sympathetic judges have tried to help Tillery overcome his problem, while others have encouraged his addiction.

Tillery filed suit against Philip Morris in 2000, charging the cigarette manufacturer with misleading consumers about the health benefits of light and low-tar cigarettes. In 2003, Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron awarded more than $10 billion to Tillery's clients, setting aside $1.8 billion in attorney's fees.

In 2005, however, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered Judge Byron to dismiss the case.

Tillery made unsuccessful motions for a rehearing and for U.S. Supreme Court review and later moved for relief from the mandated dismissal of Judge Byron's decision.

This coming week, Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth will rule on that last petition. We hope the judge denies it.

After all, Tillery is just going to keep on suing tobacco companies until somebody tells him no, once and for all. He needs to consider professional help. In the meantime, he might want to try chewing anti-litigation gum or wearing anti-litigation skin patches.

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