Ode to Tilden Katz
An article in yesterday’s Wall St. Journal described the difficulty of pursuing major litigation in small-town America. Everyone knows one another and is involved with one another’s personal business. In Rio Grande City, TX –described by the American Tort Reform Association as the number one “Judicial Hellhole” because defendants have such a hard time there– a juror in a recent Merck case apparently knew the plaintiff well and was in the practice of borrowing money from her.
I don’t know anyone in Rio Grande City, and certainly didn’t expect to recognize any names in the article. But then something jumped out at me:
“All parties in our legal system are entitled to a fair trial free of bias,” says Tilden Katz, a spokesman for Merck’s legal team. “A financial relationship with a juror raises a serious question as to whether the trial was consistent with these bedrock principles.”
Wait a minute, I recognize that name. Tilden Katz was the Resident Advisor on my hall freshman year at Wesleyan. His job was to keep us from killing ourselves and to look out for impending mental illness. He was a sharp guy. Very suave and diplomatic. Already working his way into a spokesman sort of role.
I was a reporter for the school newspaper, the Argus and remember interviewing Tilden for a story I was writing about a popular professor, Clarence Walker who left Wesleyan for UC Davis. Tilden described the professor as “dynamic and informative,” and was a little self-conscious when that phrase appeared in the paper and his buddies from Psi Upsilon teased him about it.
Think about what a great gig Tilden has. Given Merck’s stated intention to fight every one of the thousands of Vioxx cases one at a time, there will be endless work for a spokesman, “dynamic and informative” or otherwise.
I sent Tilden an email yesterday, saying hi. If he doesn’t respond, maybe I’ll have to publish the scatalogical nickname that his fraternity brothers pinned on him.September 1, 2006