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Tobacco Cos. Again Petition Court

April 3, 1998

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Rebuffed by one U.S. Supreme Court justice, tobacco companies have asked another to block the release of some 200,000 pages of secret documents.

The emergency request of Justice Antonin Scalia came just hours after Justice Clarence Thomas refused to intervene in the company’s attempt to postpone an order to surrender the documents.

Thomas did float the possibility that tobacco industry lawyers might seek the support of the other eight members of the Supreme Court. Otherwise, he gave the industry until Monday to hand over the 39,000 documents.

The state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota are suing the cigarette industry to recover $1.77 billion they say they’ve spent to treat smoking-related illnesses. They also seek punitive damages.

Ramsey County District Judge Kenneth Fitzpatrick on March 7 ordered the industry to turn over the documents after ruling that they were not protected by lawyer-client confidentiality or any other privilege. The industry appealed.

The documents include material relating to minors, the links between smoking and health, research projects and public positions taken by the industry on health issues.

Industry lawyers have obtained several temporary delays while appellate courts considered the industry’s claims that its due process rights and attorney-client confidentiality are being violated. Each time, the courts have declined to intervene.

Once an emergency request has been rejected by one Supreme Court justice, often the second justice asked for help refers the matter to the full court.

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