Judge Rules Tobacco Index Release
ST. PAUL, Minn. - A detailed index prepared by tobacco companies to track thousands of documents that Minnesota gathered for its lawsuit against the industry should be made public, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The tobacco industry sought to keep the so-called "4A indices" private, arguing they contained materials subject to attorney-client or trade secret protection. A district court judge disagreed, and that ruling was upheld unanimously by the appeals panel.
Chief Appeals Judge Edward Toussaint wrote that the indices are not trade secrets or confidential business data because they were prepared specifically for litigation purposes.
Jonathan Redgrave, a Minneapolis attorney for the tobacco industry, said he hadn't spoken with his clients about the decision.
Although the documents referenced in the indices are included in a depository open to the public, the attorney who argued Minnesota's case, Michael Ciresi, called the ruling "very significant."
Ciresi said the indices act as a table of contents for people sorting through the 33 million pages of documents. There are other indices, but the ones at issue offer more precise information about the origin and relationship of documents.
"Otherwise it's like throwing a big pile of hay at you and telling you there's a needle in there," Ciresi said.
Ciresi and his team had access to the 4A indices during the trial, which ended in May 1998 with a $6.6 billion settlement for the state and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.