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Judge urges settlement in tobacco litigation

[JURIST] In a closed door meeting Monday, US District Judge Gladys Kessler [profile] urged the government and tobacco company executives to settle the multibillion dollar racketeering lawsuit filed by the Justice Department 5 years ago. In the suit, the government alleges that tobacco manufactures violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text] by conspiring to downplay the dangers of smoking. Closing arguments [JURIST report] ended June 9, after the government reduced the proposed penalty [JURIST report] against major tobacco companies from $130 billion to $10 billion. Judge Kessler also issued an order denying a Washington Post request to attend the meeting and have access to related documents. Also on Monday, Harvard University business professor Max H. Bazerman [profile], an expert witness for the government, told reporters [Washington Post report] that federal prosecutors threatened to remove him from the witness list if he did not "water down" his recommended penalties for the tobacco industry. Reuters has more.

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