Reporter excluded from covering mass torts program

Michael P. Tremoglie Feb. 9, 2012, 5:23pm

PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) - A reporter who was denied access to a mass torts forum involving judges and lawyers - after its organizers said the private event was not open to the media - discovered the exclusion applied to Legal Newsline, but not the Legal Intelligencer.

The event featured federal and state judges from across the country who gathered to address topics such as "Can MDL's keep up with state court trial settings;" "Priority of deposition examination;" "State and federal cooperation;" and "Forum non conveniens." Plaintiff and defense lawyers also participated in the event held at the Ritz Carlton.

Legal Newsline had asked for a press pass to the event on Jan. 20 through Sharon Boothe, who was listed as the contact person on the Mass Torts Made Perfect website announcement.

A few hours after Boothe was provided with contact information for Legal Newsline, she responded in an email, "My mistake - we are NOT allowing press into the event."

A reporter for the Legal Intelligencer, a law journal based in Philadelphia, however, filed a report on the event this afternoon.

A second attempt had been made to gain access to the event and Boothe replied on Feb. 2, "I spoke to Mr. (Mike) Papantonio and he said that you are not invited to the event..."

Papantonio is senior partner at Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor in Pensacola, Fla., one of the largest plaintiffs firms in the country.

According to his bio on the firm's website, "In 2004, Papantonio helped launch a nationwide organization called 'Mass Torts Made Perfect.' The organization has attracted the top lawyers across America, and has helped law firms develop successful litigation strategies for confronting wrongdoing by multi-national corporations."

Papantonio has been contacted for comment, but calls to him have not been returned.

Today's "Judges' Roundtable" included U.S. District Judge Garrett Brown, Chief Judge, District Court of New Jersey (Fosamax Femur MDL); U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank, District Court of Minnesota (Guidant MDL) and U.S. District Judge David Herndon, Chief Judge, Southern District of Illinois (Yaz MDL). State judges include Judge Sandra Mazer Moss, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, (retired) Judge Daniel Stack and "Special Master" in Yaz Litigation in Illinois.

Stack once presided over the asbestos docket at Madison County Circuit Court in Illinois until he retired in December 2010.

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