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It’s getting expensive to be the attorney general of Rhode Island. Patrick C. Lynch was found in civil contempt by a state judge on June 2 and fined $10,000 for making “subjective characterizations” of the defendants in the state’s litigation against the lead paint industry. Last month, a $5,000 sanction against Lynch was unsealed. The fine-originally leveled late last year-was for comments the attorney general made about the defendants. But before Lynch had to dig into his wallet, the Rhode Island Supreme Court on June 15 stayed the order pending the court’s final resolution. Providence/Bristol County, R.I., Superior Court Justice Michael A. Silverstein told lawyers in the case not to address jurors directly while he was deciding whether they should impose punitive damages against the companies. Rhode Island v. Lead Industries Association Inc., No. 99-5226. But a day after the plaintiffs’ verdict was read in February-and while the court was considering whether the jury should impose punitive damages-the Boston Globe quoted Lynch saying that the jury’s decision proved the companies could not “duck and run” from their obligation. Lynch also praised jurors on his office Web site for their dedication before they were dismissed from service. Silverstein found “clear and convincing evidence” in these instances that Lynch was in civil contempt of two court orders and a bench ruling he had issued, but declined to set aside the jury verdict as the defense had requested. Michael J. Healey, a spokesman for Lynch, said in an e-mail that “Practically speaking, the Attorney General has appealed both orders. Many issues relating to this case will end up in the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and this is just one of those issues.” U.S. Chamber applauds Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, said the institute “has been paying very close attention” to Lynch’s actions in the lead paint litigation and applauded the court’s enforcement of state ethics rules. In February, a state jury found Millennium Holdings LLC, NL Industries Inc. and Sherwin-Williams Co. liable for creating a public nuisance by selling an unsafe product and contaminating more than 200,000 residences in the state. Although Silverstein ruled out punitive damages, the jury verdict potentially exposes the three companies to hundreds of millions of dollars in remediation costs. On Dec. 6, 2005, Silverstein fined Lynch $5,000 and held him in civil contempt for a comment he made during the early part of the trial that ran in the Providence Journal, in which Lynch described the lead paint companies as those who would “spin and twist the facts.”

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