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More Tobacco Papers To Be Released

June 2, 1998

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ The final batch of documents that the tobacco industry fought to keep secret in its lawsuit with Minnesota will be made public along with indexes making it easier to study them, the judge in the case has ruled.

Cigarette makers, citing attorney-client privilege, went all the way to the Supreme Court in a failed effort to keep 39,000 pages confidential.

The indexes could help attorneys in other lawsuits against the industry search through the 33 million pages of documents generated by the Minnesota case.

``We got smothered with massive documents, with no index, that were basically unsearchable. It’s a laborious process,″ Steve Berman, a Seattle attorney who represents 13 states involved in tobacco litigation, said Monday. ``Anything that can assist us in that process is useful.″

The state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota sued the tobacco industry seeking to recoup money spent treating tobacco-related illnesses. After a 3 1/2 months of trial, the industry settled for $6.6 billion on May 8.

On Sunday, Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick ordered that 41,000 pages of documents be made public. Fitzpatrick said the tobacco industry gave copies of 39,000 pages to a congressional committee that posted them on the Internet in April, ``making them available to the public and rendering the privilege issue moot.″

Fitzpatrick also ordered the release of 2,000 other documents that certain defendants had to turn over because of sanctions he imposed for their failure to comply with his orders.

Jonathan Redgrave, an attorney for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., said the defendants were still reviewing the judge’s order Monday. The defense filed several objections to the release of the material on Friday.

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