Wednesday, April 02, 2008

conflict of interest?

I was reading the articles about the lawsuit against Bob Murray et al that everyone knew was coming...and I came across this editorial note at the bottom of the Deseret Morning News: "Ruth Lybbert is a director of the Deseret News Publishing Co. and a stockholder in the law firm of Dewsnup King & Olsen." Meaning, Ruth Lybbert would profit from something that sells more of her companies newspapers and from large awards of attorney fees to her firm.

When do those two scenarios occur? The Crandall Canyon mine lawsuit:
The firm Dewsnup King & Olsen is filing the suit in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court on behalf of 20 survivors of the six dead miners, the two injured rescuers and their spouses.
At present, the suit does not include heirs of three rescuers who were killed and four others who were injured in the Aug. 16 collapse.
You will notice that this tidbit of information came from the Salt Lake Tribune, not D-news.

The paper with the conflict of interest goes on to detail some of the most damming internal documents that have been uncovered thus far. As litigator, you have to love it when the Congress does your discovery work for you, and culls all the "greatest hits" into one long report. They should be thanking Senator Kennedy and his HELP (health education labor and pensions) Committee staff.

But I guess the problem is now can you really trust the D-News to be objective about the case when they obliquely pointed out their conflict of interest. An attorney cannot comment on a case that is currently pending in a manner that would "poison the jury pool" (nor can the judge on the case), but a newspaper has the 1st Amendment right to do so. We might be getting into a sticky situation where the paper is "speaking for" the firm to which the plaintiffs attorneys belong (and share their fees with). I am sure Ms. Lybbert is aware of this problem, which is why the disclaimer appears. But people wouldn't get suspicious if the D-news article was more upfront about the potential problem.

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