Fifth District judges vacated a settlement approved by St. Clair County Circuit Court Judges Andrew Gleeson and Vincent Lopinot, concluding in part that the judges had sealed the documents without reading them.
The “good faith” settlement reached with Monsanto by the Environmental Litigation Group of Birmingham, Ala., and local lawyer Paul Schoen disappointed many of their East St. Louis clients. Lawyers were allotted more than half of the proposed $20 million settlement, with most of the 11,000-plus plaintiffs getting less than $900 each.
Co-defendant Cerro Flow didn’t like the settlement either, being excluded from it, and was subsequently subjected to a trial of its own, also before Gleeson. When Gleeson precipitously granted judgment on liability against the metal recycler and prepared to determine damages, Cerro successfully petitioned the Fifth District Appellate Court for emergency relief.
We don’t know what Gleeson’s got against Cerro, but a transcript of the proceedings seems to indicate a deep-seated bias.
When ordered by Gleeson to produce documents that he could not produce in accordance with the law in the time allotted, Cerro’s counsel responded: “What you ordered us to do we could not physically do. Beyond that, the materials that you ordered produced undoubtedly contain information it would be illegal for us to provide. We’ve cited case law to your honor that the appropriate remedy at this point is a stay or a continuance.”
Scoffing at this rejoinder, Gleeson demanded a privilege log to justify the withholding of information, and there was the rub. Cerro’s counsel was endeavoring to prepare one, but needed more time to do so.
“There are exponentially more records today than there ever were in the past,” Cerro counsel said, “and for that reason a privilege log, which in the past might have been dozens of pages long, now would be thousands of pages long.…We are endeavoring to prepare one.”
In sum: “We’re not authorized to turn over the entire body of privileged information to the other side because it violates the attorney client privilege and likely many others.”
Maybe Gleeson should be overturned more often.