Asbestos Bankruptcy Ruling Frees Some Data in the Claimants in Bankruptcies
In a welcome and overdue reversal of past rulings, a Delaware district judge recently ordered that 2019 statements are presumptively open to the public, even in an asbestos bankruptcy. 2019s? They are lists of clients represented by a lawyer or law firm. In asbestos bankruptcies, that means lists of clients represented by plaintiff’s firms. The ruling is reported in various places – Weil’s bankruptcy blog summary is here.
The district court’s ruling ends a farcical game in which Judge Fitzgerald had previously ordered that 2019s could perhaps be examined, but only if the would be examiner were to publicly ask permission to see them for some reasons. Judge Fitzgerald’s prior ruling was roughly equal to allowing libraries to own "controversial" books, but requiring would be viewers to submit a written memo to justify asking for such a book, and to make the request to the head librarian, with a copy to be posted on the front door of the library, and another copy to be mailed to all other library users.
Judge Fitzgerald’s prior ruling of course was tantamount to not allowing access to the 2019s. Indeed, her ruling meant that requests for 2019s would be exceedingly rare, if made at all, due to defendant’s fear of of backlash or reprisal if they requested access.