It was relatively easy for Pittsburgh asbestos lawyer Robert Peirce to file and settle 10,000 asbestos lawsuits against hundreds of businesses.

But when asked to defend himself in court by determining whether those lawsuits were on the square -- that's far too burdensome, apparently.

The irony is coming fast and furious in Wheeling, where Dr. Ray Harron faces charges made by CSX Corp. that he fraudulently provided Peirce lawyers with lawsuit-ready x-rays and reports for their asbestos cases, just as the firm wanted them.

Mr. Peirce, whose law partner filed 900 asbestos suits in one day in Kanawha County last fall, doesn't want CSX digging around his firm, looking for skeletons. This Olympic-class serial suer who made millions by threatening others into settling rather than contend with the the high cost of his own litigation is now asking the court to help him dodge a taste of his own medicine.

The workload of answering CSX's questions about volumes of asbestos suits filed by the firm and approved by Dr. Harron "would be enormous," Peirce complained during courtroom testimony May 1.

He shouldn't have to produce documents about the lawsuits, such as questionnaires completed by allegedly fake plaintiffs and the pitch letters used to recruit them, because among other things, it would be an unfair amount of work.

If only the companies he accuses could use a similar defense -- deflecting his questionable asbestos claims on account of the fact they are too overwhelming.

Even worse, noted his lawyer, Walter DeForest, reporters from this newspaper have had the audacity to report on the lawsuit that's being tried in a public courthouse. The argument seems to be that it's bad enough for the court to hold Peirce's feet to the fire, but couldn't it be done in secret?

"Everything that happens in this case ends up in the newspaper somehow," DeForest said.

As well it will. As well it should. That's what the framers of our Constitution made clear when they wrote it.

Meanwhile, Dr. Harron says he doesn't remember approving the bum X-ray at the center of CSX' lawsuit against him. The people of West Virginia should not forget his conveniently failed memory as this case proceeds.

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