R.I. Court to Webcast Key Lead Paint Arguments
Posted Apr 22, 2008 4:50 AM CST
By Molly McDonough
In a first for Rhode Island, the state's highest court will webcast hearings on the closely watched lead-paint case against three major manufacturers.
While the state's high court doesn't typically televise its hearings, the court plans to place two cameras in the court so that anyone with Internet access can view the proceedings, the Providence Journal reports.
The supreme court had allowed so-called pool cameras in cases involving intense public interest in the past, but this will be the court's first webcast using its own cameras, the paper notes. Arguments are set for May 15.
Chief Justice Frank J. Williams reportedly decided to allow the webcast because of strong nationwide interest in the important toxic tort case.
“There was widespread interest from attorneys all over the country who would otherwise have to attend if we couldn’t make this available,” spokesman Craig Berke is quoted saying. “There has been a lot of interest from attorneys, legal publications, brokers and investment companies.”
The case is the continuation of a suit against major paint manufacturers by then-Attorney General (now U.S. Sen.) Sheldon Whitehouse in 1999. The state claims that some 240,000 homes in Rhode Island are covered in lead-based paints and that thousands of the state's children have been poisoned by the dust.
The first case ended in mistrial after a jury split. During the second trial, so many defense counsel were present, the ProJo reports, that the court "literally moved back the bar in the court room so there was more room for lawyers to appear" at the trial level. That trial ended when jurors found three paint companies liable for creating a public nuisance.
More on the Rhode Island lead paint case:
ABA Journal: "Primed for Lead Paint Litigation," April 2008
ABAJournal.com: "$1.2M Paid in R.I. Lead Paint Suit," Dec. 18, 2007