Top judge grabs 'childish' lawyers case

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.

Judge Peggy L. Ableman

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.