If you're one of those readers who follows bylines--we like to flatter ourselves that that's all of you--you know that Peter S. Scholtes never met a musical genre he couldn't translate into melodious prose, that Dara Moskowitz can deconstruct a braise more precisely than the state's best crime lab, and that Britt Robson has more moves than KG. But there's one name you never see when we hand around props for putting yet another paper on the streets: that of our First Amendment attorney, Mark Anfinson.
Well, mad shout-outs to Mark for winning a big one for us. On Tuesday, January 28, the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with City Pages in our two-year quest to compel the state and Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Minnesota to disclose the joint legal bills associated with Minnesota's lawsuit against the tobacco industry. It's our position that the citizenry is entitled to know exactly what and why they paid Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, the private, politically connected law firm involved in the case.
If we might wax grandiloquent for a moment, we saw the lawsuit as a golden opportunity to remind our elected officials and their powerful friends that to be healthy, a democracy must be watched over by a free, independent, and vigorous press. And with $6.1 billion at stake, we were incredulous that the details of the taxpayers' 1998 tobacco settlement weren't transparent.
Anyhow, just what the records contain we can't yet tell you. Blue Cross is considering whether to appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which would then have to decide whether to accept the case for review. If the company doesn't appeal, or the high court declines to review this decision or considers it and again rules in our favor, a judge still must review the records in private before their release to determine how many might be protected by attorney-client privilege.