No role for Danny Williams in tobacco deal: lawyer

Former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams played no part whatsoever in how his former law partners were picked to work on a government-funded anti-tobacco lawsuit, the U.S. lawyer leading the case says.

Premier Danny Williams

Premier Danny Williams

I was hired by both the Liberals and the Conservatives quite independently and never met Premier Williams in any capacity at all, before he left office, or since then,” Kenn McClain told CBC News.

“I would some day like to meet him, but I never met him before he left office.”

McClain’s Missouri-based firm — Humphrey, Farrington & McClain — hired St. John’s firm Roebothan McKay Marshall to work on a suit aimed at recovering millions of dollars in health-care expenditures from tobacco manufacturers.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for Williams provided a similar explanation to a query from CBC News.

“Mr. Williams was in no way involved in the choosing of [Roebothan McKay Marshall] by the U.S. firm. Nor did he have had any interest in RMM while he was premier,” said Elizabeth Matthews, who had worked as director of communications in the premier’s office while Williams was in power.

“So there was no absolutely no conflict,” she wrote.

McClain, who was hired by the former Liberal government in 2001, said he selected the local company he thought would work best on the case. Roebothan McKay Marshall specializes in litigation, particularly on personal injury claims.

“Their reputation among American lawyers for being able to function in a products liability-type setting, which this was … All those factors played into it, and then there was the matter of personal chemistry,” he said.

Meanwhile, McClain said the former Liberal government had suggested that he consider the firm of St. John’s lawyer Dennis Browne, although he said he was not directed to work with that firm. Browne has long been involved in Liberal campaigns.

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