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More on Higbee recusal motion in Accutane litigation


Isaac has already mentioned and linked to the motion, but it's worth noting that we were pointing out the plaintiff-friendly rulings of Judge Higbee back during the Vioxx litigation. E.g., October 2005, December 2005, April 2006, April 2006, August 2006, March 2007.

In the long run, it didn't make much of a difference in the results (Merck settled the Vioxx cases for a nuisance sum, and New Jersey appellate courts reversed the more ludicrous judicial rulings), but the good publicity from enormous jury verdicts helped attract thousands of new plaintiffs hoping for jackpot justice, ultimately adding to Merck's legal bills and the nuisance value of the set of cases. Hoffman-La Roche can't move to disqualify a judge just because the vast majority of her legal errors and rulings on discretionary questions favor plaintiffs, but Judge Higbee's lack of discretion in her extrajudicial comments may provide the hook they need to get fair trials in the future.

It's also worth noting that the Accutane cases are meritless. Yet oddly, when the pundits talk of a "War on Science," it's always in reference to a politic answer a Senator Rubio gives that acknowledges the religious faith of his constituents (and the vast majority of Americans), rather than junk-science litigation like this that actually interferes with science.


My question is this...How much did Judge Carol Higbee get paid to appear with the plaintiffs at workshops and other events? I assume that she must disclose this information. Scientists and physicians in universities must disclose all funds they get from pharmaceutical companies for speaking engagements. I am sure that state and federal judges must have even stricter "conflict of interest" rules. Where is her income from plaintiff-associated speaking engagements listed so that the public can see it? Does anyone have an answer??

It should be noted that the conference is question was the DRI, one aimed at helping defense attorneys. She did not appear with any plaintiffs, but rather with the lead plaintiff's counsel who also happened to be invited by the defense attorneys to speak about the plaintiff's side of the trial. Judge Higbee is not responsible for who else defense attorneys invite to speak at a conference.

Here's some science.... "one recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that over time, people who regularly ingest the active ingredient in Accutane were an estimated four times more likely to develop ulcerative colitis, one form of IBS."

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


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The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.