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U.Va. Law Library Acquires Two Major Research Collections

Dalkon Shield Papers Promise To Be A Goldmine For Law, Health Researchers; Judge Butzner Papers Reveal Inner Workings Of Independent Counsel Office On Whitewater, Iran-Gate

Septemer 25, 2001-- During the 1990s, the Dalkon Shield Claimants Trust paid out nearly $3 billion to more than 200,000 women who had used the intrauterine contraceptive device, making it one of the most successful settlements for claimants of mass tort litigation.

"No recovery by so many, in such large amounts, has been accomplished with so little expended in administrative costs," said George Rutherglen, a law professor at the University of Virginia who was an attorney for the trust in litigation to reduce attorneys' fees.

With court approval, the U.Va. Law Library received the papers of the Dalkon Shield Claimants Trust a year ago at the direction of the trustees on closing the trust. Since then, the law library staff has been working to organize and catalog the voluminous collection. The papers will be fully opened to the public when the cataloguing is completed next year. Some materials may be accessible before then.

The trust, which closed its Richmond-based operation in April 2000, was established in 1989 to settle the claims of women who claimed they had been injured by the Dalkon Shield, the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) sold by Richmond-based A.H. Robins Co. from 1971 to 1974. 

"This collection is a gold mine for researchers. It holds tremendous value not only for legal historians, but also for trusts handling mass tort claims, and researchers in the health sciences and the pharmaceutical industry," said Marsha Trimble, curator of special collections at the U.Va. Law Library. "There are books still waiting to be written on medical history and trust administration, using these materials."

"One of the most remarkable things about the Dalkon Shield collection is that it is so extensive," Trimble said. "Researchers can follow the history of the IUD from the time it was created by a group of researchers in the late 1960s, through its development by Robins, and the subsequent litigation, bankruptcy, establishment of the trusts and resolution of more than 400,000 claims from injured users."

The collection includes such primary materials as videotapes of Robins employees’ court testimony, microfilm of thousands of documents produced as evidence during the litigation, administrative records of the trust, and a statistical abstract of the claims and how the claims were resolved. There is also a complete collection of pleadings in the bankruptcy case and the reorganization plan approved in the bankruptcy under which the trust was established.

After Robins filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, U.S. District Judge Robert R. Merhige and Bankruptcy Judge Blackwell N. Shelley brokered an agreement under which American Home Products acquired the Robins Co. in exchange for placing about $2.3 billion into a trust for the claimants. Under the reorganization plan and a class-action settlement, also approved by the court, three trusts were created to resolve the claims of Dalkon Shield users, their familes and third parties.

At the peak of its operations, the trust had a staff of almost 400, which in 10 years handled more than 400,000 claims.  Through careful management of the funds, the trust paid out almost $3 billion, making it the first mass personal injury trust to close after successfully paying all valid claims, Rutherglen said. 

The other two trusts had similarly successful records and closed in 1997 and 1998. The library holds the papers of all three funds.

Judge John D. Butzner Jr. Papers

The other collection recently received by the U.Va. Law Library are the papers of Judge John D. Butzner Jr. relating to the judicial appointment and oversight of federally appointed independent counsel. 

After sitting for 25 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Butzner was asked by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist in 1987 to become a member of the special division of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for the purpose of appointing independent counsel. 

Butzner served from 1988 to 1998 on the U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Washington, D.C., that supervised federally appointed independent counsel.  During his tenure, the panel oversaw about 25 investigations, including the so-called "Iran-gate" case of Oliver L. North, along with those of Henry Cisneros, Mike Espy, and the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, better known as Whitewater. 

"Judge Butzner, who was keenly aware of the criticism the oversight panel received during his years of service, wanted his papers preserved as part of the historical record and donated them to the law library to encourage informed public review of the panel's work," Trimble said.

This significant research collection consists of extensive correspondence between judges reflecting the workings of the panel, their method of selecting independent counsel, various revisions of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, and the high costs of the investigations. 

Judge Butzner, a 1941 graduate of U.Va.’s Law School, donated these papers a year ago. They have been fully catalogued and are open to the public between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

Contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858 

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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