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May 05, 1998
Superior Court judge denies state access to 39,000 tobacco industry documents

SEATTLE - May 5, 1998 - King County Superior Court Judge, George A. Finkle, today denied Washington state's request to compel the tobacco industry to turn over the 39,000 industry documents recently released to Congress and the State of Minnesota. The industry had released the internal memos, research summaries, and other sensitive industry documents last month in response to a subpoena by House Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas Bliley (R-VA).

The state argued that the defendants voluntarily waived their claims of attorney-client privilege by releasing the documents. Rep. Bliley published most of the documents on the Internet in late April. Because the documents were published on the Internet and reported by the press, the state argued the documents were no longer confidential or privileged.

Judge Finkle found that the defendants' took “all reasonable step to protect their claims for privilege.” The judge ruled that releasing the documents to Rep. Bliley was “not voluntary,” and therefore, did not waive attorney client privilege.

The state sought the documents to prepare for its own lawsuit against the tobacco industry. Washington's trial is set for September 14, 1998, and is next after the ongoing trial in Minnesota.

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