Friday, February 5, 2016

Top judge grabs 'childish' lawyers case

"Bring (your) jammies," demands Judge Peggy Ableman, ordering a group of Wilmington lawyers to an all-day Labor Day weekend ethics class

Top judge grabs 'childish' lawyers case

Judge Peggy L. Ableman<br /><br />
Judge Peggy L. Ableman

UPDATE: Delaware Superior Court Presiding Judge James T. Vaughn Jr. has taken over an asbestos litigation case that had become so poisonous, his colleague Judge Peggy Ableman had ordered all counsel to a "mandatory" Sunday ethics session in the middle of the Labor Day holiday weekend. 

"I assign the above two cases to myself," and "the Sunday September 4, 2011 session called by Judge Ableman is cancelled," Vaughn wrote in a letter to counsel. A pretrial conference scheduled for Sept. 6 has been postponed.

EARLIER: A group of Delaware lawyers - opposing counsel in two asbestos liability cases that have churned through a state courtroom for the past 16 months - has been ordered to attend a "'special' emergency refresher course in first-year ethics and civility," by state Superior Court Judge Peggy Ableman. Read the order here at

Loreto P. Rufo, of Hockesin, counsel to former brake-pad maker Pneumo Abex LLC; lawyer David W. deBruin, of Wilmington, representing two workers who say they were exposed to asbestos; and other attorneys in the litigation will attend the "mandatory" session starting at 10 a.m., Ableman wrote. 

"Lunch and dinner will be ordered in at counsel's expense", and the lawyers "are encouraged to bring sleeping bags, toothbrushes, teddie bears and jammies, as the agenda will be exhaustive," given "counsel's inability to be civil and reasonable with one another," and the "childish level to which this litigation has stooped."

Agenda includes:

- "The importance of civility and professionalism"
- "The consequences of knowingly making misrepresentations" in court filings
- "The expectations of Delaware Superior Court judges" in asbestos cases
- "Why it is not profesional to whine or complain... about the amout of work that this Court requires... particularly in light of the excessive large amount of fees generated by this litigation"

There will be "no grades," though Ableman did suggest she would cancel the session and avoid "disrupting counsels' Labor Day holiday plans," if the lawyers are somehow able to settle the case before Sunday.

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PhillyDeals posts interviews, drafts and updates that Joseph N. DiStefano writes alongside his Sunday and Monday columns and ongoing articles about Philadelphia-area business.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn. He taught writing and research at St. Joe’s. He has written for the Inquirer since 1989, except when he left a few times to work at Bloomberg and elsewhere. He wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six kids with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at, 215.854.5194, @PhillyJoeD. Read his blog posts at and his Inquirer columns at Bloomberg posts his items at NH BLG_PHILLYDEAL.

Reach Joseph N. at or 215 854 5194.

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