Missouri Lawyers Weekly Covers MND Exclusion from Sherrer Pelvic Mesh Trial

Jane Akre
January 19, 2016
Mo lawyers weekly front page

MND, Jan 19, 2016 ~ This is the second article prepared by Missouri Lawyers Weekly on the issue of excluding Mesh News Desk from coverage of the Sheerer pelvic mesh trial.

The story says it all. Thank you Missouri Lawyers Weekly for allowing me to republish it.

*Update on the case - The defense team for Boston Scientific and C.R. Bard has its turn before the jurors this week and next. The case should go to the jury sometime next week.

Sherrer is an important pelvic mesh trial because one plaintiff has two different pelvic meshes. Certainly this case will be the longest ever presented to a jury. It began December 2, broke for the holiday and resumed January 4, 2016.

Judge Schieber

Judge Schieber

Judge denies reporter’s request to regain feed access

By Jessica Shumaker jessica.shumaker@molawyersmedia.com

A Jackson County circuit judge has denied a web reporter’s request to regain access to a pool camera feed.

In an order filed Wednesday by Judge Robert Schieber, he denied a Dec. 24 motion by Independent News Group LLC., citing reasons previously articulated in court.

“Again, this court’s obligation is to do everything within its power to [ensure] a level playing field and to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” he wrote. “The camera being utilized in this courtroom during this proceeding is here only because the court, within [its] discretion, allowed it to be a pool camera for the media.”

Independent News Group LLC owns and operates Mesh Medical Device News Desk, a site edited by Florida-based journalist Jane Akre.

Akre had been using a privately-maintained pool camera that provides a live feed of a trial. She was covering a case that involves claims against Boston Scientific and C.R. Bard, makers of transvaginal mesh products that plaintiffs allege have injured women in whom they were implanted.

An early December filing by the company providing the feed, Courtroom View Network, or CVN, said defense attorneys complained to the court about comments left by readers on Akre’s website and asked that CVN’s coverage be suspended.

The company successfully argued it should be allowed to continue, however, CVN terminated Akre’s access to its feed.

Court spokeswoman Valerie Hartman said in an email in December that Judge Robert Schieber decided CVN could remain in the court, but they were to “discontinue access to the advocacy organization.”

Akre hired Jim Griffin of Scharnhorst Ast Kennard Griffin in Kansas City as counsel. He filed a motion seeking to regain access to the camera pool.

He argued in the motion and before Schieber Monday morning that his client did not violate court rules.

Jim Griffin, attorney for MND

Jim Griffin, attorney for MND

“There is also no evidence that Independent News Group’s manner of coverage prejudiced any party’s right or any right of any participant,” the motion said. “No such findings were made on December 7. Nothing about the article posted to the Mesh Medical News Desk by Ms. Akre was threatening or hostile towards either party or its attorney.”

Further, he said the comment at issue was posted by an individual with no affiliation to the website and it could have been posted to any online news article covering the trial. He said there has been no criticism of Akre’s reporting itself.

Lori Cohen, Attorney for C.R. Bard

Lori Cohen, Attorney for C.R. Bard

The company also offered to delete personal comments about Lori Cohen, an attorney from Greenberg Traurig representing Bard; edit future comments to delete personal comments about counsel and not post any contact information for participants in the trial.

At the hearing Monday, Cohen said she did not file in opposition to the motion. She said Akre is continuing to “incite and inspire” readers of her site. She said commenters have compared her to an abortion doctor.

Schieber said at the hearing that information disseminated about proceedings in his courtroom needs to be fair, accurate, balanced and unprejudiced.

In his order, he repeated those sentiments, saying it’s his duty to ensure that occurs.

“This is not a gag order. It is not a blanket prohibition against reporting on this case,” he wrote. “This Court would not do that absent extraordinary circumstances and only then with substantial just cause.”

Schieber added that Akre and others are welcome to attend the trial and report on it.

“However, when the conduit of information is or could be deemed to be a court sanctioned conduit it must be completely neutral in nature,” he said. “This is not a First Amendment issue – it is an appearance of impropriety issue and this Court will guard against that at all costs.”

Griffin declined to comment. Akre did not return a call seeking comment. The case is Sherrer v. Truman Medical Center et al., 1216-CV27879.

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