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Lawyers Debate 'Magnet Court' Status of Madison County

Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Griffin Bell (photo from King & Spalding)
Former U.S. Atty. Gen. Griffin Bell (photo from King & Spalding)

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

St. Louis – A former U.S. Attorney General says asbestos-related lawsuits in Madison County, Illinois should be regulated.

Griffin Bell served in the Carter Administration. He's now a partner in a Georgia firm that has defended corporations in asbestos cases.

He says the large number of asbestos cases filed in Madison County warrants a federal investigation.

"The Justice Department ought to come in and see if there's anything to all these stories," Bell said. "There might not be anything to them. I don't know if they're true or false, but the pattern looks very suspicious."

But plaintiffs' attorneys who practice in Madison County say judges and juries are fair, and big companies are trying to avoid accountability.

St. Louis attorney Randall Bono says big business is giving the jurisdiction a bad rap because of a verdict won against the Philip Morris Tobacco Company.

"The tobacco industry, in my estimation, is what's driving this whole issue, because Madison County was forced to deal with the issue of tobacco in a class action case," Bono said.

The attorneys were part of a forum on the Madison County courts held Wednesday at Washington University's Law School.