House Of The Rising Fen-Phen

Anybody remember The Animals? They had a big hit in 1964 with “The House of the Rising Sun.” The song’s first lines: “There is a house in New Orleans, they call the Rising Sun. And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy.” And so, like the House of the Rising Sun, the litigation in Kentuckyarising from claims against the makers of the drug Fen-Phen has been the ruin of many a poor (well, technically rich I guess) lawyer. The most recent is Judge Joseph Bamberger, who was disbarred last week based on his conduct in the case. I won’t reiterate all of the actions that led to this result. But as I read the Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision, I was struck by how much of the activity took place behind closed court room doors. So in February, 2002, the judge held an off-the-record meeting in the jury room at the Boone County Courthouse with only the plaintiffs’ lawyers. An order that resulted from that meeting was not entered into the official record for four months. And the judge instructed the Circuit Court Clerk to seal copies of all future orders. All of this allowed the judge to hide the fact that he and some of the lawyers were getting inappropriate payments from the settlement funds. I do a lot of public access work. And this is why. I’m not saying that every time the government shuts out the public it’s doing something bad, but I am saying that pretty much every time the government is misbehaving, it shuts the public out. Check out the link to the Kentucky Supreme Court’s opinion for Exhibit A.