Washington seeks over $38 billion from opioid distributors

Headline Legal News 2021/11/16 11:12   Bookmark and Share
After rejecting a half-billion-dollar settlement, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Monday took the state’s case against the nation’s three biggest drug distributors to trial, saying they must be held accountable for their role in the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The Democrat delivered part of the opening statement in King County Superior Court himself, calling the case possibly the most significant public health lawsuit his agency had ever filed.

“These companies knew what would happen if they failed to meet their duties,” Ferguson told Judge Michael Ramsey Scott. “We know they were aware of the harms flowing from their conduct because in private correspondence, company executives mocked individuals suffering the painful effects of opioid dependence. ... They displayed a callous disregard for the communities and people who bear the impact of their greed.”

But Ferguson’s legal strategy isn’t without risk, as a loss by three California counties in a similar case this month — and an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision overturning a $465 million judgment against drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson — demonstrates.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Peter Wilson issued a tentative ruling on Nov. 1 that the counties, plus the city of Oakland, had not proven the pharmaceutical companies used deceptive marketing to increase unnecessary opioid prescriptions and create a public nuisance. The Oklahoma ruling said a lower court wrongly interpreted the state’s public nuisance law.

In an email, Ferguson stressed that the relevant Washington laws differ and called the cases “apples and oranges.”

Public nuisance claims are at the heart of some 3,000 lawsuits brought by state and local governments against drugmakers, distribution companies, and pharmacies. Washington is the first by a state against drug distribution companies to go to trial. Ferguson is claiming public nuisance and violations of state consumer protection law.
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Cambodia amends charter to bar dual citizens from top office

Headline Legal News 2021/10/26 16:44   Bookmark and Share
Lawmakers in Cambodia on Monday approved an amendment to the constitution barring Cambodians with dual citizenship from holding high government office, a move initiated by Prime Minister Hun Sen and directed at prominent opposition politicians.

The government says the measure is meant to show officials’ loyalty to their homeland and avoid foreign interference. Several opposition leaders hold dual citizenship, while none of the top members of Hun Sen’s party is known to hold dual nationality.

The move is the latest volley in a long struggle for power between Hun Sen, who has led the country for 36 years, and his political rivals from the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which had been the sole credible opposition force until it was disbanded by the Supreme Court.

Unsupported assertions by Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled founder of the opposition party, that Hun Sen sought to purchase citizenship from the European nation of Cyprus triggered the prime minister’s anger. Cypriot nationality has been available through large investments in the island nation.

Sam Rainsy has feuded bitterly with Hun Sen for years. He holds French citizenship and has been living near Paris to avoid imprisonment in Cambodia on charges he says are politically motivated.

“This law would be custom-tailored to target me, as Hun Sen made it clear that as a reprisal against me, he wants to definitely block me from the premiership,” Sam Rainsy said on his Facebook page earlier this month.

Most top leaders of the opposition party fled Cambodia in late 2017, when Hun Sen launched a sweeping crackdown on critics and the high court disbanded the party and removed its lawmakers from Parliament. It is widely believed the court acted to ensure victory for Hun Sen’s party in the 2018 general election, which it ended up sweeping.
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Judge agrees to delay in sentencing for Gaetz friend

Headline Legal News 2021/10/18 15:35   Bookmark and Share
A federal judge on Monday agreed to push back until next year the sentencing for U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz’s friend who pleaded guilty earlier this year to sex trafficking and other charges.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell said sentencing for Joel Greenberg could be postponed from next month to next March during a hearing in federal court in Orlando. Greenberg’s attorney had asked for the delay so the former local tax collector can continue cooperating with federal authorities. Prosecutors agreed to the postponement.

Greenberg wasn’t present during the 20-minute hearing. The judge said he would set a new sentencing date in the future.

Greenberg is facing up to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty last May to six federal crimes, including sex trafficking of a child, identity theft, stalking, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official.

Greenberg’s plea agreement with prosecutors requires continued cooperation with an ongoing probe into sex trafficking.

Gaetz, a Republican who represents much of the Florida Panhandle, was not mentioned in Greenberg’s plea agreement. But Greenberg’s cooperation could play a role in an ongoing investigation into Gaetz, who was accused of paying a 17-year-old girl for sex. Gaetz has denied the allegations and previously said they were part of an extortion plot.
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US Supreme Court allows lawsuit against troopers to proceed

Headline Legal News 2021/10/08 15:47   Bookmark and Share
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by two state police officers accused of failing to protect a woman from a man who went on a deadly rampage, allowing a civil lawsuit to proceed.

Troopers were accused of failing to do enough when Brittany Irish reported that her boyfriend kidnapped and sexually assaulted her and later set fire to a barn owned by her parents in July 2015.

Her request for police protection was denied.

Hours later, the boyfriend killed Irish’s boyfriend, 22-year-old Kyle Hewitt, and wounded her mother before proceeding to kill another man and wound two others across several towns in northern Maine.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case on Monday but didn’t say why, the Portland Press Herald reported. The court’s decision means the troopers will not be protected by the legal concept of qualified immunity.

The attorney general’s office, which is defending the troopers, declined comment Tuesday on the lawsuit. Irish’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

The man charged in the crime spree, Anthony Lord, pleaded guilty in 2017 to two counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault and other charges. He’s serving two life sentences.

The lawsuit contends state police triggered the rampage when they called Lord’s cellphone, tipping him off that Brittany Irish had gone to police, instead of attempting to find or detain him. She said she’d warned police that Lord had threatened her if she spoke to authorities.

Later, police declined to post an officer outside her parents’ farmhouse in Benedicta, citing a lack of manpower.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said jurors could conclude that police created the danger, removing the qualified immunity concept that normally protects officers from actions in the line of duty.

“The defendants’ apparent utter disregard for police procedure could contribute to a jury’s conclusion that the defendants conducted themselves in a manner that was deliberately indifferent to the danger they knowingly created,” the court said.
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Spain: Venezuelan spymaster loses court extradition dispute

Headline Legal News 2021/09/20 11:33   Bookmark and Share
Spain’s Supreme Court refused Monday to suspend a government decision allowing a former Venezuelan spymaster to be extradited to the United States.

Lawyers for Gen. Hugo Carvajal, who for over a decade was late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s eyes and ears in the Venezuelan military, asked the court to put the Spanish government decision — taken 18 months ago — on hold.

But the Supreme Court said in its written decision that Carvajal had presented no new arguments against the government decision, which he had already opposed at the court in May last year.

Carvajal’s extradition procedure is currently on hold at the National Court, after he filed a request for asylum in Spain.

Nicknamed “El Pollo,′ or “The Chicken”, Carvajal was arrested Sept. 9 in a small apartment in Madrid, where he had been holed up for months. His arrest came nearly two years after Carvajal defied a Spanish extradition order and disappeared.

In the United States, he faces federal charges for allegedly working with guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia to “flood” the U.S. with cocaine.
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Minnesota Supreme Court defers ruling on Minneapolis police

Headline Legal News 2021/09/16 10:47   Bookmark and Share
The Minnesota Supreme Court issued a narrow ruling Thursday in the fight over a ballot question about the future of policing in Minneapolis, but it didn’t settle the bigger question of whether the public will get to vote on the issue.

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea’s ruling lifted a small part of a lower court’s order that rejected the ballot language approved by the City Council, saying that elections officials don’t have to include notes with ballots instructing people not to vote on the question and that any votes won’t be counted.

The order didn’t address the main issue in dispute — whether voters will get to decide on a proposed charter amendment that would replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety that “could include” police officers “if necessary.”

The proposal has its roots in the “defund the police” movement that gained steam after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody last summer, but it leaves critical details about the new agency to be determined later.

The Supreme Court was under pressure to rule quickly because early and absentee voting opens Friday in the Minneapolis municipal elections, and ballots have already been printed.

Terrance Moore, an attorney for the Yes 4 Minneapolis campaign, which spearheaded the proposal, said he expects a ruling on the bigger question to come at some point later. The city attorney’s office agreed that the high court has yet to rule on the main issues.

Joe Anthony, an attorney for former City Council member Don Samuels and two other people who challenged the ballot language as misleading, called the order “a little mysterious.” He noted the lower court injunction barring counting and reporting votes was left in place, at least for the moment. There are a few possibilities for what could happen next, he said, including the Supreme Court taking time for fuller arguments, then deciding by Nov. 2 whether the votes cast would count.
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