Love claimed that Calwell's comments to the media during and after the mediation held on Dec. 27 were "reckless, prejudicial misconduct," and that Calwell attempted "to solicit sympathy for his clients and prejudice against the defendants."
Calwell had told reporters, "This is an extraordinarily important case. [Plaintiffs] want their town back. What they're interested in is having a safe home to live in -- I don't think that's too much to ask."
In the case, residents allege that Monsanto unsafely burned dioxin-contaminated wastes and spread polluted soot and dust across the town, leaving homes with unsafe levels of the toxic chemical. The lawsuit seeks medical monitoring for at least 5,000 -- and perhaps as many as 80,000 -- current and former Nitro residents.
Under West Virginia rules, lawyers are generally prohibited from making public statements -- other than courtroom comments and legal filings -- if they know that such statements "will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding." But the same state rules specifically allow lawyers to discuss the nature of any pending lawsuit and to explain to the media information contained in public records of such cases.
In his motion, Love also complained about comments supposedly prejudicial to Monsanto made to the media by Putnam County Circuit Clerk Ronnie Matthews, West Virginia Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury, and unnamed class members who spoke to the media with anonymity. Love did not ask the court to sanction them, however.
On behalf of Monsanto, Love asked the court to impose a fine against Calwell for his alleged comments. He also suggested the court should require Calwell to "publish a statement" retracting his comments, acknowledging they were made in violation of the court's orders and apologizing to the defendants and the court.
Other possible sanctions, Love wrote, could include changing Calwell's status as lead counsel for the class, taking away jury strikes or instructing the jury that Calwell engaged in misconduct.
Staff writer Ken Ward Jr. contributed to this report. Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.