Judge Issues Tobacco Suit Gag Order
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A judge has issued a gag order barring parties involved in a tobacco lawsuit set to go to trial next month from discussing the case with the media.
Judge Richard J. Ganucheau said in his ruling Monday that statements outside the court ``may very well prejudice the parties to this matter.''
The civil lawsuit, filed by Louisiana on behalf of Gloria Scott, seeks to force cigarette makers to pay for a program aimed at helping smokers quit and another to monitor smokers' health.
Ganucheau's order did not indicate who sought the gag order and Dominic Gianna, a special master in the case, said that matter was not public record.
An American Lung Association official who has been following the case said he was suprised by the order, which is rare in tobacco cases.
``I don't think you can infect a jury pool because anyone who's been conscious knows what the issues are,'' said Ben Fontaine, the Louisiana director for the American Lung Associacation, which support the plaintiffs in the case.
Christine Cox, a tobacco spokeswoman with the Castano Group, did not return a phone message.
Trial is scheduled for Sept. 5, but tobacco lawyers have appealed the jury selection process in the case to the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which could potentially push back the trial.