Historian Can Keep His Manuscript on Tobacco Studies, Judge Rules

Historians in the News

A Florida circuit court has ruled in favor of a Stanford University professor who is trying to keep his unpublished book manuscript out of the hands of tobacco company R.J. Reynolds, which had subpoenaed it as evidence for an upcoming suit.

Historian Robert Proctor plans to testify as an expert witness against tobacco companies in a number of cases brought by smokers in Florida. He is also working on an 800-page book, The Golden Holocaust, which describes, Proctor claims, the shaky scientific rhetoric and bogus clinical studies that tobacco companies used to sell their products. A judge in Volusia County (which contains Daytona Beach) ruled last August that Proctor had to surrender the manuscript, which Proctor says is largely jottings and notes at this point and not ready for other people to scrutinize.

The Volusia case is still pending appeal, but a judge in Duval County (which contains Jacksonville) ruled today that Proctor did not need to surrender The Golden Holocaust for cases in Duval.

The ruling is not technically binding in other counties with pending tobacco cases, but Bill Ogle, a lawyer working on Proctor's behalf, hoped the Duval ruling would have persuasive sway in other counties and help develop a consensus for Proctor's side.

The judge in the Duval case issued the ruling partly to move the case forward to trial more quickly but also, Ogle says, because of the free-speech issues the request for the manuscript raised. A scholar or an author has certain constitutionally protected rights, Ogle says, and they have the right to withhold speech until they see fit to publish. Ogle says he suspects that the friend-of-the-court brief that Stanford University sent on Proctor's behalf helped sway the Florida court, because the decision cited arguments from the brief (though not the brief itself by name).

There is no written record of the decision at this point, but one will likely be available within a week from the Duval Circuit Court.
Read entire article at Science Insider

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