Reporters subpoenaed by asbestos lawyer

Ann Maher Apr. 17, 2007, 12:00pm

BEAUMONT, Texas -- A Texas judge has allowed an asbestos attorney to depose reporters from a legal journal he claims were jury tampering.

Jefferson County District Judge Donald Floyd approved Beaumont plaintiff's attorney Brent Coon's request to depose the editor of the Southeast Texas Record, a new legal journal, and one of its reporters.

They were subpoenaed to appear in Coon's office at 10 a.m. Thursday for a deposition.

Coon went before the judge on Friday to complain that the Record's editor and reporter were distributing newspapers to a jury panel on April 2. Coon, who appeared before Floyd without notifying counsel for the Record, alleged that the editor and reporter were attempting to influence jurors in an asbestos case he had proceeding in court.

The Record's attorney, Greg Coleman of Austin, said he was disturbed that Coon didn't notify the newspaper before going to the judge. Coleman said the Record's interests, therefore, weren't protected at the time.

"That shows that Mr. Coon isn't interested in a fair, unbiased hearing," he said. "He seems to be willing to cut corners in the judicial system to harass us."

Coon settled the asbestos case he was litigating before it reached the jury.

An attorney working for Coon approached the Record's editor and reporter sitting in the courthouse with copies of the April 2 edition, the inaugural issue of the paper.

He asked for and received a copy of the paper, according to editor Marilyn Tennissen. He also told her that Coon's firm holds seminars on newspapers similar to the Southeast Texas Record, and which are owned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

According to a report in the Beaumont Enterprise, Coon complained that content in the April 2 edition disparaged plaintiffs' lawyers and health-screening processes sometimes used to identify clients.

Coon told the Beaumont Enterprise that the Record "is part of an organized tort reform campaign to limit consumers' recourse against businesses and corporations."

The Record also is published in Madison County, Ill. and in West Virginia.

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