Whither the Minnesota Tobacco Depository?

February 25, 2011 2:03 pm by Gene Borio

In Thursday’s hearing, Judge Kessler talked about her concerns about The MN Depository. In her 2006 verdict, Judge Kessler ordered the MN and Guildford Depositories to be maintained until 2021, but she said she was concerned, partly because the MN judge [Ramsey County Judge Guthman] who is currently in charge of the depository is concerned. Kessler wants all parties to file their positions on the future of the Depository by March 24. Judge Kessler wants the filings to specifically address:

1. How much the Depository is really being used.

2. Who is to administer it

3. Who is to pay for it.

In regards to who is to have jurisdiction over its operation, Judge Kessler said, “I can’t imagine you’d suggest that I should.”

A Depository employee told me Friday that there continues to be a steady stream of documents pouring in, mainly from Philip Morris, Lorillard and RJR. The Depository, though it has no website, does get copy requests of documents that people have seen online on other websites, such as the Legacy library and tobaccodocuments.org. The Depository will find the physical documents, copy them and mail the copies off to the interested parties. It also has a large library of VHS and audio tapes [and other valuable non-text material that is NOT available anywhere else. See Celia’s comment below–gb]. The employee mentioned in passing that maybe Judge Kessler could administer the Depository.

Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository
980 East Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55414-1314
(612) 378-5707 ‎

In Feb., 1998, when Minnesota settled with the tobacco companies, it agreed to a commitment to keeping documents available for a 10 year period in depositories in Minnesota (for U.S.-based companies) and England (for BAT documents).

Here is the relevant section from Judge Kessler’s order of August 17, 2006:


pp 1640-1641:

a. Depositories

Requiring Defendants to make public the documents that they produce or use in future litigation or administrative actions, with certain safeguards to protect privileged and confidential trade secret information, is a first step towards preventing and restraining Defendants from engaging in future fraudulent activities. Document depositories will provide hard copies of documents to the public and thus will reduce Defendants’ ability to suppress, conceal, or remove those documents from public access. While Defendants complain about the expense and burdensomeness of the Government’s request, they are basically being required to merely extend into the future the operation of document storage facilities which have existed for almost ten years.

Currently, certain Defendants maintain the Guildford and Minnesota Depositories, which contain hard copies of documents produced in those respective sets of litigation. The May 1998 Minnesota settlement obliged the settling defendants in that case to pay for maintenance and operation of the Minnesota Depository for ten years. Those Defendants and BATCo were also required to send any additional documents produced in other smoking and health litigation to the Minnesota Depository during the same ten year period. Those obligations cease in May 2008. Neither Liggett nor Altria is subject to those obligations.

During the Minnesota litigation, BATCo created the Guildford Depository in Guildford, England, to provide the Minnesota litigants with access to documents created before the document production cutoff date in that litigation, August 18, 1994. See Order #38 (protocols for United States trip to Guildford Depository for access to pre-August 18, 1994 documents available to the public); Order #75 ¶ 2 at 2 (same, for access to non-public “files created between August 18, 1994 and December 31, 1999″). BATCo is obliged to maintain and operate the Guildford Depository collection of documents from 1994 and earlier. See Minnesota Consent Judgment § VII(D) (JD-093326). That obligation also ceases in May 2008.

The Court will order Defendants to continue maintaining their Minnesota and Guildford Depository obligations for an additional fifteen years. Furthermore, Defendants must provide meaningful tools to identify and analyze those documents. To that end, both document depositories must include databases which search individual documents (rather than files) by multiple bibliographic fields, such as Bates number, date, author, title, etc. Defendants are to employ the twenty-nine bibliographic fields specified in the MSA. Finally, Defendants must allow greater access to the Guildford Depository than that which is currently available. Presently, public access to the Guildford Depository is severely restricted, with only one organization and no more than six visitors allowed access per day; and copying requests often take weeks or months to fulfill. Defendants will be required to provide access, at a minimum, to six organizations and a dozen visitors per day.

One Response to “Whither the Minnesota Tobacco Depository?”

  1. Celia Says:

    That multimedia stuff (there’s more than VHS) is very valuable. There’s enough copies of older docs, at least, out that I don’t worry about that but there are slides, posters and much more there.

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