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A federal judge in New York has ruled that a bankrupt asbestos manufacturer may not pierce the attorney-client privilege to depose the plaintiff’s lawyers that, it claims, conspired to inundate it with spurious claims. G-I Holdings Inc., had sought to depose Joseph Rice of Ness Motley, and Perry Weitz of New York’s Weitz & Luxenberg on advice they gave clients about complying with an April 2004 settlement agreement. G-I argued that the state’s interest in enforcement of valid contracts was sufficient to overcome the privilege. But Judge Robert Sweet of New York’s southern district said that G-I’s arguments “failed to cite any authority for the proposition that New York’s interest in the enforcement of contractual duties is sufficiently strong to justify invasion of the attorney-client privilege.” G-I Holdings Inc. v. Baron & Budd. In G-I’s four-year-old suit against the plaintiff’s firms that have brought suits against it, the company has made several allegations of misconduct by the lawyers and sought discovery to support them. But Sweet has forced the dismissal or withdrawal of G-I’s most serious claims against the firms: fraud and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The suit has proceeded with claims for tortious interference with contract and breach of contract. The New York Times reported last week that G-I has recently discussed some of its claims with federal prosecutors.

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