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Owens Corning: judge to continue with case

The U.S. District Court judge supervising asbestos claims in the Owens Corning Chapter 11 bankruptcy case as well as several others has refused a request by Owens Corning creditors to recuse himself. …

The U.S. District Court judge supervising asbestos claims in the Owens Corning Chapter 11 bankruptcy case as well as several others has refused a request by Owens Corning creditors to recuse himself. Judge Alfred Wolin of the District Court in Newark, New Jersey, was told in December 2003 by a three-judge appeals court panel to decide for himself whether he should be disqualified from the bankruptcy cases of Owens Corning, W.R. Grace & Co., USG Corp., Armstrong World Industries Inc. and Federal-Mogul Global Inc.. It was claimed that lawyers advising Wolin in the asbestos cases were also acting for asbestos claimants in another case, and should not have been assisting Wolin. The creditors challenged Wolin“s impartiality, saying the dual role of his advisers affected the judge“s rulings. However, having been given the option whether or not to recuse himself, Wolin said “As the District Court emerges from the stormy waters of litigation, its course is steady and its grasp of the helm is firm. Through this simple maritime metaphor, the District Court signals its intention to continue, with the Circuit Court“s approval, the stewardship of the jointly administered bankruptcy estates.” Wolin cited the death rate among asbestos claimants as one reason he would not withdraw from the case and thereby invalidate progress in the cases thus far. Asbestos claimants “deserve closure without delay,” Wolin said. “The debtors who pay the bills for this litigation in the tens of millions of dollars similarly deserve closure, as do all other claimants.” Wolin said that though, as a senior judge, from a personal perspective it was tempting for him to recuse himself from the cases, from “an institutional perspective” he could not do so because he believed that he managed the cases properly overall. Owens Corning spokesman Dave Dimmer said 2 February 2004 that he supported the judge“s decision although he anticipates it will be appealed and the company will be involved in that process. The Owens Corning and other cases, some nearing resolution, were held up by the October 2003 recusal motion, which prompted Wolin to issue a stay while the Circuit Court panel reviewed the issue. Creditors had claimed attorney David Gross, retired Judge C. Judson Hamlin and Duke University law professor Francis McGovern, who were Wolin“s advisers, affected Wolin“s view of the cases. They cited Hamlin and Gross“s work on behalf of asbestos claimants in the G-I Holdings Inc. bankruptcy case.

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