Judge Fines R.I. Attorney General for Lead Paint Case Comments

By | June 4, 2006

A judge fined Rhode Island’s attorney general $10,000 last week for public comments he made after the state won a lawsuit against former lead paint manufacturers, his second fine over statements about the case.

A jury in February found three companies — Sherwin-Williams Co., NL Industries Inc., and Millennium Holdings LLC — liable for creating a public nuisance by selling an unsafe product.

A day after the verdict, Attorney General Patrick Lynch was quoted in The Boston Globe saying the jury’s decision proved the companies could not “duck and run” from their obligation to deal with problems caused by lead paint.

On his office Web site, Lynch also praised jurors for their dedication, even though they had not been formally dismissed from service.

Superior Court Judge Michael Silverstein had instructed lawyers in the case not to address jurors directly. At the time of the comments, Silverstein was still deciding whether the jurors should impose punitive damages against the companies. He released the jury a few days later after deciding the companies could not face punitive damages.

A Lynch spokesman said the attorney general’s office intends to appeal the fine.

The defendants issued a statement saying, “The judge’s ruling speaks for itself on this issue.”

Lynch was fined $5,000 and held in civil contempt by Silverstein last fall for a comment that appeared in The Providence Journal in which Lynch described the lead paint companies as those who would “spin and twist the facts.” That fine as been appealed.

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