CHARLESTON – A Louisiana lawyer has advised U.S. District Judge Joseph Goodwin that he shouldn't trust Wheeling attorney Teresa Toriseva.
Daniel Becnel Jr. combined professional accusations and personal attacks in an Oct. 27 objection to Toriseva's application to act as co-lead counsel in a group of cases before Goodwin.
"I am only reporting to the Court these series of unfortunate events involving the trustworthiness of Ms. Toriseva," Becnel wrote.
He provided his version of Toriseva's departures from two law firms, and he added a crude description of her divorce.
Toriseva, in an Oct. 29 interview, said, "Since the filing is without merit and merely contains unsupported allegations that amount to nothing more than a personal attack, no specific response from me is warranted."
She applied on Oct. 20 for designation as co-lead counsel in product liability litigation over Digitek, a heart medicine.
In August, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation consolidated Digitek cases from various federal courts and assigned them to federal court in Charleston.
Multi-district cases remain consolidated for discovery purposes. For trial, presiding judges like Goodwin send each case back where it began.
Although multi-district consolidation can offer advantages, it can also create conflicts among attorneys who filed the suits.
A judge must appoint a liaison counsel for plaintiffs, co-lead counsel, an executive committee of plaintiff lawyers, and a plaintiff steering committee.
In the process, some lawyers take responsibility for cases they didn't file and others lose control of cases they filed.
As a result, competition for appointments can grow hot and turn downright ugly.
Even before Becnel slung mud at Toriseva, Goodwin had to cope with dissension.
In August, he asked plaintiff lawyers to recommend three members of their group so he could choose one as liaison counsel.
"Correspondence since that time reflects that barriers have arisen to the desired level of cooperation and collegiality originally envisioned by the court," he wrote on Sept. 26.
He chose Harry Bell of Charleston and Fred Thompson, of Motley Rice in Mount Pleasant, S.C., as co-liaison counsel.
He stressed his expectation "that the lawyers in this complex civil action will devote their best efforts toward cooperation and positive interaction."
Instead, he received Becnel's objection.
Oddly, Becnel objected to Toriseva as co-lead counsel but declared he had no problem with her application for the steering committee.
Toriseva said she would not file a response to Becnel's objection.
"My mentor in the legal profession has always taught me to conduct myself with honor and to treat others with respect," she said. "It is his opinion and mine that this generation of lawyers needs to be more civil to each other and to conduct themselves with the highest degree of integrity.
"The document filed by this Louisiana attorney is a precise example of how not to conduct one's self. The only proper course for me, as hard as it is to do so, is to simply ignore it."
Toriseva acts as co-lead counsel in federal multi-district litigation over hernia patches in Rhode Island. She serves on steering committees in four other multi-district cases.