May 04, 2006

Salon.com Article on Boyle Discredited

In a recent article by Will Evans for Salon.com, Judge Terrence Boyle, nominee for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, is accused of ruling in favor of General Electric for his own financial benefit. In the article Mr. Evans claims “Boyle shot down the plaintiff’s [Kenneth R. Bursell] claims to long-term and pension disability benefits, granting him only a fraction of the money in short-term compensation for a debilitating mental condition.”

However, those allegations have now been discredited – by the attorney for Mr. Bursell. In a letter to The News & Observer, a paper in North Carolina, Mr. Andy Whiteman, Esq., the attorney who represented Mr. Bursell in his litigation against General Electric, not only disputes Evans’ claims in that case, he also rejects the contention being made by the Left that Boyle is somehow hostile to people with disabilities.

Key quotes from Mr. Whiteman’s letter:

The Salon.com article was misleading and inaccurate. Boyle's rulings were favorable to Bursell…On Jan. 31, 2003 Boyle agreed with Bursell that he was entitled to have his claims for benefits reviewed by the court under the de novo standard, the most favorable standard of review available in such cases. Then, after conducting a bench trial in April 2003, Boyle ruled that Bursell was entitled to short-term disability benefits, denied his claim for a disability pension and dismissed without prejudice the long-term benefits claim. Finally, Boyle ruled on Aug. 25, 2004, that plaintiff was entitled to recover his attorney's fees from GE…Boyle's favorable decision on the short-term benefits claim convinced GE's claims administrator, MetLife, to approve long-term benefits for the maximum benefit period allowed under the plan. The claim for attorney's fees and costs was settled…According to the article, Boyle purchased GE stock two months before he issued his ruling in 2004. In fact he announced his expected ruling at the conclusion of the bench trial in 2003, before he purchased the GE stock. In any event, I do not believe that his ownership of less than $15,000 of GE stock creates even the appearance of a conflict of interest. In 2004 GE had $134 billion in revenue. The idea that a ruling over one employee's disability benefits could somehow benefit Boyle financially is ludicrous…I also disagree with groups which contend that Boyle is hostile to claims brought by disabled persons. I have represented a number of disability claimants in cases before Boyle, and am familiar with his rulings in other cases. His treatment of the parties has been entirely fair and evenhanded.” [emphasis added]


One has to wonder, did Mr. Evans even attempt to talk with Mr. Whiteman before he wrote the article? Or did what Mr. Whiteman have to say just not fit the story Mr. Evans wanted to tell? Either way, the onus is on Mr. Evans either to respond to Mr. Whiteman’s letter or to retract his statements about a well-respected federal judge who has been rated “Unanimously Well-Qualified” by the American Bar Association.

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