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Less than two weeks after an Illinois federal judge accused a Wal-Mart employee of lying to cover the company’s tracks in an unrelated Tennessee case, the retail giant convinced the judge that he was wrong. “The court … finds that the record now before it does not support a conclusion that [Ron] Lance testified less than truthfully at the May 3, 2000 hearing in an effort to cover Wal-Mart’s tracks in the [Tennessee] case,” wrote Judge Michael M. Mihm in a June 6 order. “While Mr. Lance’s testimony before this court was less than clear, there is no indication of an ulterior motive on his part.” Robbins v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., No. 98-1239 (C.D. Ill.). In a telephone hearing on May 25, and in a written order the next day, Mihm had said that Lance had not told the truth when he denied ever having seen a one-page summary of a study of crime committed on company property. But Wal-Mart convinced the judge that he was wrong, by presenting the testimony of its No. 2 in-house lawyer, Ronald Williams, and by waiving attorney-client privilege to produce an exchange of letters between Lance and Wal-Mart’s outside lawyers from 1997. The letters backed up Wal-Mart’s explanation that Lance was referring to a different document in other papers that suggested he had seen the crime study. “We were certainly pleased with the hearing,” said Jeffrey S. Sutton, a partner in the Columbus, Ohio, office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue. Wal-Mart, which has come under attack by plaintiffs’ lawyers for discovery abuses in some of its cases, recently retained Jones Day, a blue-chip firm with more than 1,300 lawyers worldwide, to defend the company in the Robbins case and to review the company’s discovery procedures.

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