attorney general

Slatery investigating opioid manufacturers, looking to ‘decisive action’ at ‘the appropriate time’

News release from Tennessee Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced Tennessee is one state leading a bipartisan coalition of a majority of Attorneys General from across the country as part of an effort to combat the opioid epidemic. The Attorneys General are conducting comprehensive investigations into the widespread prescribing and use of opioids, as well as the role parties involved in the manufacture and distribution of opioids may have played in creating or prolonging this problem.

A focus of the ongoing investigation is to evaluate whether manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of opioids. The Attorneys General are committed to using the vast investigative resources available, including subpoenas for documents and testimony, to identify and hold accountable those parties responsible for the opioid epidemic.

“There is not a single community in Tennessee, or a region of the country for that matter, that has not witnessed the devastating impact of opioid abuse,” General Slatery said. “At the appropriate time, you can be assured Tennessee will take decisive action against those parties responsible for harming so many families.”

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AG in court filing: ‘Natural and ordinary’ law does ‘nothing new at all’

Start of an Associated Press report:

NASHVILLE (AP) — A new law that’s been criticized as discriminatory against same-sex couples actually does “nothing new at all,” Tennessee’s attorney general contends in a legal filing.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery made that argument last week in a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by four married lesbian couples expecting children through artificial insemination.

The law requires using the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words in state law. Gay rights groups have contended that the requirement offers a sneaky way to deny same-sex couples the legal rights and protections granted to a “husband,” a “wife,” a “father” or “mother.”

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Slatery joins 16 attorneys general in complaining to Trump about fed regulatory overreach

News release from attorney general’s office

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III is joining a coalition of 16 state attorneys general in asking President Trump to lead a regulatory reform effort to protect individual rights from regulatory overreach. In a signed letter to President Trump, the coalition, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, says reforms are necessary to bring the current federal regulatory process under the rule of law.

“Federal agencies were created to administer the law. In too many instances they have tried to make law, to legislate, through guidance letters and the like. When steps like these are taken, the voice of the people through their elected representatives is not heard,” General Slatery said. “And that is a problem, a constitutional problem, which we want the Administration and Congress to address.”

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Harwell urges AG to sue opioid drug manufacturers

House Speaker Beth Harwell has asked Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery to consider filing a lawsuit against five manufacturers of prescription opioid drugs – as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine did earlier this week.

Harwell’s letter to Slatery says Tennessee is “consistently ranked among the worst states” for the opioid abuse and notes the Ohio lawsuit contends the drug manufacturers “sparked the addiction crisis by misrepresenting the drugs’ addictive qualities.”

Further from WKRN:

“We have a true crisis in our state,” said… Harwell. “And we want to address it… To some extent, drug manufacturers have misled how addictive these prescriptions are.”

Speaker Harwell said she’ll defer to the Attorney General to decide if a lawsuit is necessary. Harwell also stated she does hope that if a lawsuit is filed by the state. If the court sides with the state, the money would go toward helping people battling addiction.

“Really what we’re looking for is some assistance in helping people go through rehabilitation programs and to pay for those programs,” Harwell said. “To help them come off of what is really a crisis.”

From an AP brief on the letter:

The companies sued by DeWine are Purdue Pharma; Endo Health Solutions; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and its subsidiary, Cephalon; Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals; and Allergan.

And here’s a statement via email from Attorney General Slatery: “Ohio advised us that it was taking this step.  It is hard to overstate the problem that opioid abuse is in our State and nationally.  We have been working for quite some time with the Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and frankly other states, to determine the most effective role our Office can play in addressing and helping to resolve this problem.”

A copy of the letter is available by clicking on this link: harwellletter

Fed lawyers: TN law doesn’t allow legislators to bring refugee lawsuit on behalf of the state

In a 48-page motion filed Thursday, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit over refugee resettlement in Tennessee that was filed by a law firm advocating for states’ rights in response to a resolution passed by the legislature last year.

From The Tennessean’s report:

Among the federal government’s various arguments is that Tennessee law does not allow the General Assembly to bring the lawsuit on behalf of the state.

“Statutes enacted by General Assembly make clear that the authority to represent the state in litigation belongs exclusively to the Attorney General,” the motion states, while pointing out that the state’s attorney general declined to initiate the lawsuit.

At one point, the federal government also says the claim that Tennessee has been forced to spend state funds as part of refugee resettlement is “logic-defying.”

The state’s lawsuit came after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a resolution in 2016 approving legal action and after Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery declined to initiate the case. Instead, the state’s case was brought forth by the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based legal group.

Sessions gives tough-on-crime speech in Memphis; draws protesters

Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of about 100 law enforcement officials in Memphis, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed opioid abuse, urged protection of the country’s southern border and vowed to dismantle transnational cartels, drug trafficking and gangs, reports the Commercial Appeal.

He cited a 43 percent increase in homicides last year in Memphis as showing the need for tougher action. About 100 protesters were outside.

“If you are a gang member, know this: You think you are targeting us. Well, we are targeting you,” he said. “We will find you. We will devastate your networks. We will starve your revenue sources, deplete your ranks and seize your profits. We will not concede a single block or single street corner to illegal gangs.”

Sessions said 230 more Assistant United States attorneys will be hired nationwide, and he reiterated that he has empowered federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense in each case.”

To reduce opioid abuse, deaths and crime, he said prevention programs “in the long run are the most important and effective thing we can do.”

About 100 protesters also showed up, according to a sidebar story. They marched from the Memphis City Hall to the federal courthouse where Sessions was speaking chanting slogans including “No justice, no peace!” and “No racist police!” and “Hey, ho, Jeff Sessions has got to go!”

AG lawsuit contends California company is a ‘government imposter’

News release from the attorney general’s office

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced the filing of a lawsuit against a California company and its principals for violations under the Government Impostor Act.

The civil enforcement action names LA Investors LLC, based in southern California, and its principals, Roberto Romero and Laura Romero. LA Investors conducted business in Tennessee under the names “Local Records Office” and “National Profile Document.”

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AG sues operator of 18 TN ‘pain management clinics,’ alleging TennCare fraud

News release from Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced the filing of a lawsuit against an organization of pain management clinics owned and operated by Michael Kestner and his business partner, Dr. Lisabeth Williams. Kestner is the primary owner of MMi, which operated at least 18 pain management clinics throughout Tennessee.

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AG lawsuit targets law firm soliciting families of Chattanooga school bus crash victims

News release from Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III today announced the filing of a lawsuit against a Texas law firm, its sole attorney, and two investigators working for the firm. The civil enforcement action, filed in Hamilton County Chancery Court, alleges The Witherspoon Law Group PLLC, based in Dallas, Texas has engaged in the unlawful solicitation of accident victims in Tennessee.

The lawsuit names The Witherspoon Law Group, attorney Nuru Witherspoon, and investigators Alphonso McClendon and Glen Smith and alleges improper and unlawful contact with families of victims in a Chattanooga school bus crash. It is a violation of Tennessee law for attorneys to solicit business within 30 days of a tragedy.

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AG: In TN, ‘men’ includes ‘women’ so courts may say ‘husband’ does, too

A new state attorney general opinion says a House-passed bill declaring courts must use the “natural and ordinary meaning” of undefined words in interpreting Tennessee statutes may not work when it comes to words such as “husband” and “wife,” according to a new attorney general’s opinion.

The bill in question appears to conflict with existing state law on gender-specific words and could also be at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling, the opinion says. The bill passed the House 70-23 on March 16 and is awaiting a Senate floor vote.

Excerpt from the opinion (the whole thing is HERE):

Question 2: If a Tennessee court construed words such as “husband,” “wife,” “father,” or “mother” by their ordinary meaning as required by Senate Bill 1085/House Bill 1111 if it were to become law, would that construction be counter to the holding of the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015)?

Opinion 2: Statutes that are related to marriage or to the terms, conditions, benefits, or obligations of marriage could, in some instances, be in conflict with the holding in Obergefell if gender-specific words in those statutes were construed according to the proposed legislation. But not every statute that has gender-specific terms would necessarily conflict with Obergefell if it were construed according to the proposed legislation.

We note, however, that if the proposed legislation were to become law, it may not necessarily result in a judicial construction of statutes that preserves the literal meaning of gender-specific words. The Tennessee Legislature has already expressed its intent that gender-specific words are to be construed as gender-inclusive when they appear in the Tennessee Code. The proposed legislation could, in some instances, be in direct conflict with Tenn. Code Ann. § 1-3-104(b) which instructs that “[w]ords importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.” Any conflict between this existing statute and the proposed legislation would be resolved to allow the specific to control the more general statute. Thus, in construing certain statutes with gender-limiting words, a court would likely apply the very specific gender-inclusive requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 1-3-104(b) rather than the very general “ordinary meaning” requirements of the proposed legislation.

Note: The bill, and a similar measure, were inspired by a Knoxville judge’s ruling in a child custody dispute between divorcing lesbians who were legally married in another state. The ruling said only the biological mother of the child, born after artificial insemination, has any legal rights to custody. Previous post HERE.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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