Union Carbide wants Smith County Circuit Judge Eddie Bowen to recuse himself from hearing further proceedings in the inexplicably massive asbestos verdict rendered last month. Here is Union Carbide’s motion.
Union Carbide points to the fact that Judge Bowen’s father settled an asbestos case with Union Carbide 20 years ago. Union Carbide figured this out after the trial based on an investigation instigated by Judge Bowen’s comments about his father during trial.
According to Union Carbide, this creates a blatant conflict of interest that requires Judge Bowen to recuse himself. Significantly, during voir dire Judge Bowen struck for cause all panel members who themselves or their immediate family members had ever asserted an asbestos claim.
It’s a well-written motion. Perhaps a little heavy on the use of text in the footnotes, but that is a matter of personal preference. I use more footnotes than most lawyers. But I mostly use them for citations. Legal writing guru Brian Garner contends that citations in the body make pleadings and briefs harder to read.
I can see Union Carbide’s point. But the fact that the settlement was 20 years ago and Judge Bowen allowed nine days of voir dire weigh against recusal.
The motion goes slightly over the top at times. Using professional wrestling terminology, the motion’s reference to the elder Bowen’s case being filed by “the law firm of ‘Dickie Scruggs, P.A’.” invokes ‘cheap heat.’ It would be like the ‘villain’ in a wrestling show in Oxford taking the mike and saying Ole Miss sucks and Miss. State is the best school in Mississippi. That would be cheap heat.
There was no such thing as “Dickie Scruggs, P.A.” Scruggs didn’t refer to himself as “Dickie” and a review of the Secretary of State’s corporate records confirms there was no entity by that name. It’s my understanding that ‘Dickie’ was a nickname for Scruggs used by some of his closest friends and people who didn’t know him at all. I guess saying “Richard F. Scruggs P.A.” just didn’t have the same ring to it.
Apparently, we’re in a period of Scruggs cheap heat references. Like in the Madison County Journal article that I discussed in this post. These references to Scruggs appear forced and a bit silly.
Strategically, Union Carbide is in an interesting position. Do they really want another judge assigned to the case who is more likely to order a new trial? Does Union Carbide really want a new trial in Smith County before its appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court? I don’t think I would.
What Union Carbide could be doing is trying to knock Judge Bowen out from hearing its other cases in Bowen’s circuit and any re-trial of the Smith County case after an appeal.