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Cigarette maker Philip Morris USA and plaintiffs lawyers who won a $10.1 billion judgment against the company are fighting over whether an Illinois Supreme Court justice should hear the appeal of the case. Former Gov. James Thompson, one of the lawyers representing Philip Morris, asked the state Supreme Court on Monday to dismiss a Chicago law firm hired to argue the appeal, claiming the firm joined the case just so one of the high court’s justices would have to recuse himself. Justice Bob Thomas is being represented by the law firm Power, Rogers and Smith in an unrelated libel case. A partner with that firm, Joseph Power Jr., vowed Wednesday not to stop representing plaintiffs in the Philip Morris case, insisting Thompson’s law firm, Winston and Strawn, is twisting the facts to suit their argument. “What they put in that motion is basically a big lie,” Power said. “Why should I step down from the case?” Power said he had no intention of forcing Thomas to recuse himself when he joined the Philip Morris case one year ago. He said lead plaintiff lawyer Stephen Tillery asked him to join the case before he started representing Thomas. Much is at stake in the appeal. Madison County Judge Nicholas Byron last year ordered the nation’s biggest cigarette company to pay smokers $10.1 billion for marketing light cigarettes as a healthier alternative to regular brands. Also, legislators have wrestled along party lines with a proposal to cap the kind of lawsuit awards the Philip Morris case exemplifies. Thomas did not return a telephone message left at his office Wednesday by The Associated Press and a court spokesman declined to comment. Thompson signed an affidavit that accompanied the motion Monday. He said Power had told him during a telephone conversation he knew his work on the Philip Morris case would prompt Thomas to step aside. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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