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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How much pre-trial coverage is too much?

Hennepin County District Judge Denise Reilly took the unusual step of postponing a trial because too much information about the case was contained in a Star Tribune article about the case.

The article, published Monday, reported that two former lawyers with the firm of Heins Mills and Olson filed suit over the way the firm distributed $103 million in legal fees from a nationwide class-action suit against AOL Time Warner.

The suit said that lawyers Samuel Heins and Stacey Mills got $48 million and $32 million, respectively, several times more than was received by the other lawyers who worked on the case. The suit to be heard before Reilly was filed by one of the lawyers who claimed to be short-changed.

William Pentelovitch, representing Heins Mills, said the article went beyond the facts of the pending lawsuit, citing background information that could prevent prospective jurors from being impartial. Reilly agreed.

Should newspapers be restricted in what they can report about a case before it goes to trial? It seems that substantiated, relevant data shouldn’t have to be embargoed for the benefit of one or the other side in a lawsuit.

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