[CUE THEME FROM JAWS]
There's no blood in the water (yet), but it's only a matter of time before Dallas plaintiffs attorney Russell Budd starts screaming and flailing his arms and perhaps goes under, figuratively speaking.
It won't be the jaws of a shark that devour him, but the jaws of transparency and justice – justice delayed so far.
Attorney General Ken Paxton has joined the growing ranks of persons demanding the unsealing of Budd's deposition regarding the infamous “Terrell memo,” asking an appellate court to reverse a lower court that kept the deposition under wraps.
Baron & Budd paralegal Lynnell Terrell accepted authorship of the 20-page “guideline” for clients claiming to be victims of asbestos exposure, but the memo was mistakenly turned over to defense attorneys during an asbestos trial 20 years ago.
Oops! How'd that get in there? You weren't supposed to see that. You didn't read it, did you? Uh oh. Can we have it back, please?
Needless to say, defense attorneys looked askance at a document that could be the smoking gun of deceit and Budd was deposed on the matter, but he somehow managed to have his deposition sealed – and kept sealed for two restful decades.
But naptime ended last year when Dallas lawyer and freelance journalist Christine Biederman sought to have the deposition unsealed for a documentary film exploring the unsavory tactics of asbestos law firms. Luckily for Budd, District Court Judge Orlinda Naranjo ruled that the court did not have jurisdiction over the case.
Last December, Paxton submitted an amicus brief in the appeals case, arguing that “the trial court erred in dismissing this case for lack of jurisdiction without affording Ms. Biederman the opportunity to demonstrate that, even if unfiled, the deposition in this case concerns ‘matters that have a probable adverse effect upon the general public or safety’ and thus is a court record that should be unsealed.”
Budd's still afloat, but for how long? Meanwhile, the fins keeps circling round him and draw closer.