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July 15th, 2011

State High Court Puts Mississippi’s ‘Automatic Hellhole’ Case on Hold

Mississippi’s Supreme Court has ordered a stop to all proceedings in an asbestos case that resulted in a record $322 million verdict last May.  In response to a motion from the defendants, the high court will now determine if the rural Smith County trial judge should be removed from further proceedings.

As reported by the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, that motion argues Judge Eddie Bowen’s “bias and prejudice against Union Carbide and Chevron Phillips . . . were evidenced in his rulings, comments in front of the jury, and his coaching of Brown’s attorneys in questioning witnesses.”

Turns out Judge Bowen failed to disclose a couple of pertinent facts: 1) his father had filed similar asbestos lawsuits in the past, and 2) one of the plaintiff’s lawyers in the case at issue also represented the judge in another, arguably similar, case on behalf of the judge in neighboring Jasper County.

When the jaw-dropping verdict was first announced, we immediately called it grounds for “automatic” designation as a Judicial Hellhole.  We smelled “backwoods justice” then, and that was before we knew Judge Bowen was an asbestos plaintff himself, represented by one of the attorneys in the case before him.

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