Las Vegas judge denies attempt to remove herself from Actos lawsuit

A Las Vegas judge will not remove herself from a civil case filed by two women against the maker of the diabetes drug Actos.

“I absolutely see no evidence that there’s any appearance of impropriety by me,” District Judge Kerry Earley said Tuesday.

The judge made the ruling after attorney Daniel Polsenberg, who represents defendant Takeda Pharmaceuticals, asked her to step down or declare a mistrial in the case.

Polsenberg said a front-page story in Sunday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, which included a picture of Earley under the headline “Friendly persuasion or buying justice?” created an appearance of impropriety.

“Look at the way an objective observer in the public would look at this,” the lawyer argued.

Attorney David Wall, a former district judge who represents one of the plaintiffs in the case, called Polsenberg’s argument “absolutely absurd.”

“There’s no allegation of misconduct of anyone in this case,” Wall said.

Wall said the Review-Journal article has Earley’s picture, “along with 11 others.” The caption under Earley’s photo included basic details about the Actos trial, which began March 10, but Wall said none of that information is new to jurors.

The story focused on the role political consultant David Thomas has played in judicial races and included an allegation that he offered one candidate a bribe to change races. The candidate said Thomas offered to fund his campaign, if he changed races, with the resources of wealthy attorney Robert Eglet, who also represents a plaintiff in the Actos case.

Both Thomas and Eglet denied the candidate’s allegation.

Earley’s campaign paid Thomas $50,000 in 2012, but in court Tuesday the judge said, “He is not my campaign manager for 2014.”

Wall said Takeda’s lawyers want a mistrial in the Las Vegas case because a Louisiana jury this week ordered the Japanese company to pay $6 billion in punitive damages in another case involving Actos, which has been linked to bladder cancer.

Eglet has said he plans to seek a multibillion-dollar verdict in the Las Vegas case.