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August 20, 2013

Asbestos Attys. Want to Keep Claims Process Secret

“The good news about asbestos legal fraud is that there’s a straightforward way to expose it,” says a Wall Street Journal($) editorial.  “The bad news is that the judiciary too often remains the roadblock to transparency.”

In a bankruptcy hearing in North Carolina for Garlock Sealing Technologies, plaintiffs lawyers want a federal judge to allocate $1.3 billion for an asbestos bankruptcy trust.  Garlock says they have evidence the lawyers are double-dipping, but the judge has closed the courtroom, saying the information isn’t “particularly sexy” or of “interest” to the public.

Recent cases have uncovered examples of double-dipping, and some states have passed laws requiring trust disclosure:

The public has an interest in reducing fraudulent claims that deplete funds for legitimate victims, and in saving jobs at companies that are the casualties of legal malpractice. So the public has a right to know if attorneys suing Garlock are claiming one thing in court but another to numerous asbestos bankruptcy trusts. Judge Hodges ought to unseal the Garlock evidence and testimony and let the public decide what is “sexy.”

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