SE Texas Record

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Julia Roberts will not star in this film

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By The SE Texas Record | Jul 31, 2017

General court 08

Lots of big-name attorneys rate citations and even dedicated pages on wikipedia, but how many paralegals are renowned enough to warrant wiki fame? 

There are at least two: Erin Brockovich and Lynnell Terrell.

You know who Brockovich is and probably saw the movie with Julia Roberts in the title role, but Lynnell Terrell? Who is that?

She may be the next paralegal to have a movie made about her, or to be included as a character in one. Julia Roberts won't be playing her, however, because Terrell won't be the heroine and the portrait of her might not be flattering.

Terrell is the eponymous author of the infamous “Terrell memo,” or at least the scapegoat taking the rap for it. The 20-page document she allegedly drafted while in the employ of Dallas law firm Baron & Budd, to coach clients claiming to be victims of asbestos exposure, was inadvertently included among papers turned over to defense attorneys during an asbestos trial 20 years ago.

Attorney Russell Budd was subsequently deposed on the matter, but managed to have his deposition sealed and to keep it sealed for the last two decades.

Needless to say, lots of people are curious about the contents of that deposition, which presumably includes his ingeniously innocent explanation of what others might suggest that it sounds like subornation of perjury.

One curious person is Dallas lawyer and freelance journalist Christine Biederman, who's seeking to have the deposition unsealed for a documentary film called UnSettled, which will explore the unsavory tactics some asbestos law firms.

A district judge punted, claiming she didn't have jurisdiction to unseal Budd's defense of the “Terrell memo.” Now an appeals court judge is in the uncomfortable position of releasing the document – or not with a plausible excuse that would please the powerful and ruthless Baron & Budd.

No one knows how it will turn out, but one thing's certain: It'll make a great movie.

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