CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona
announced the appointment of Dominic Draye as Solicitor General. Draye replaces John R. Lopez IV who left office to serve as an Arizona Supreme Court Justice. "John Lopez leaves big shoes to fill as a champion of federalism and the rule of law," said Solicitor General Dominic Draye. "With the help of our top-notch team, I will do my best to carry on this office's excellent service to the State of Arizona." The Solicitor General's duties include leading the AZAG Federalism Unit and overseeing preparation of legal opinions and appellate litigation for the Arizona Attorney General's Office. Since 2015, Dominic Draye has served as the Deputy Solicitor General. In that capacity, he represented the State in a wide range of appeals, including defending the State's policy of withholding driver's licenses to DACA beneficiaries. Draye also led a 10-state coalition challenging the EPA's new ozone regulations and defended Arizona's identity theft and forgery laws.
CWAG Attorney General Doug Chin of Hawaii
announced that Clyde Wadsworth is the new Solicitor General for the State of Hawaii. The Solicitor General has oversight authority over most state and federal appeals in the Attorney General's office, including briefs filed on behalf of the State of Hawaii in the United States Supreme Court. Previously, Wadsworth was of counsel to Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing in Honolulu. With more than 30 years of litigation experience, he has a Martindale-Hubbell AV-Preeminent rating and has been nationally recognized as one of America's Best Lawyers in commercial litigation. In addition, he has served as pro bono counsel in several significant cases brought to safeguard LGBT civil rights. In 2014, he successfully argued Hawaii's marriage equality case, Jackson v. Abercrombie, before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He is a past recipient of the Lambda Legal Liberty Award. Attorney General Chin said, "After his many years in the private sector, we're fortunate to bring Clyde Wadsworth's experience and expertise to bear on behalf of the State of Hawaii."
CWAG Attorney General Marty J. Jackley of South Dakota
confirmed that Backpage.com has suspended its sexual advertising in relation to the ongoing human trafficking fight. "South Dakota children are falling victim to sexual crimes including internet crimes against children. I commend the Nation's Attorneys General community for taking on this important fight to protect against sources like Backpage.com that actively promote and refuse to cooperate in the prevention of child sex trafficking," said Attorney General Jackley. In South Dakota, state, local and federal law enforcement have run operations designed to protect children and remove sexual predators from the street. To date, ten operations involving 47 arrests have been made, with many ads in the operations having been placed on Backpage.com. Preventing kids from being trafficked on the internet has been a long-term effort of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). NAAG has taken several actions regarding Backpage.com and similar websites, including requesting that these exploitive websites shut down their sections which fuel the online trafficking of youth.
CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana
announced that while the number of known human trafficking cases in Montana increased between 2015 and 2016, so did the number of child and adult victims rescued during that same timeframe. The Montana Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) compiled 2015 and 2016 human trafficking statistics for the state by merging DCI and known federal prosecution cases through the US Attorney's Office. Of note: Montana experienced a 100% increase in human trafficking cases between 2015 and 2016. The number of adult victims rescued in Montana between 2015 and 2016 increased by 83%. The number of juvenile victims rescued in Montana between 2015 and 2016 increased by 400%. "Our ongoing legislative advocacy and outreach efforts over the last four years to fight modern-day slavery have resulted in greater public awareness, increased detection by our law enforcement partners, and justice for more of its victims," Attorney General Fox said. "Unfortunately, it's possible that human trafficking investigations would cease if the proposed 5% budget reduction impacts our Division of Criminal Investigation. Human trafficking investigations tend to be complex and expensive operations, but we can't put a price on the safety of Montana's children. While we're much further along than we were, there's still more to be done," Attorney General Fox added.
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico
announced a new initiative by his office to combat the opioid abuse and addiction crisis in New Mexico. Project OPEN: Opioid Prevention & Education Network will kick off by hosting an Opioid Abuse Training in Albuquerque on January 11, 2017. The training, presented in conjunction with the National Association of Attorneys General, is free and will expose attorneys, policy advisors, investigators, healthcare professionals, consumer advocates and others to the impact and results of opioid abuse on New Mexico communities. It is intended to enhance the participants' knowledge and understanding of opioid addiction and the countless issues involved. "We can no longer allow opioid abuse and addiction to destroy New Mexico families and the future of our youth," said Attorney General Balderas. "I created Project OPEN in order to combat the opioid crisis in our state, and our first action will be training New Mexicans who are on the frontlines of this fight at our free Opioid Abuse Training. I encourage advocates, law enforcement officials, healthcare professionals and policy makers from all corners of New Mexico to attend this training so we can work together to make our families safer and healthier."
CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska
and the Anvik Village Tribe signed the Civil Diversion Agreement. The agreement requires state law enforcement to offer defendants of certain low-level offenses and crimes a referral to the Anvik Village tribal court. The State stands ready to enter into the agreement with other individual tribes. The State has been working collaboratively for the past three years in a working group with various tribes and tribal organizations, including Tanana Chiefs Conference, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, the Association of Village Council Presidents, Kawerak, Inc., the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Maniilaq Association, the Native American Rights Fund, Alaska Legal Services Corporation, representative tribal judges, and other tribes and tribal organizations from across the state. The focus of the working group was to negotiate a model agreement that could be entered into between the State and individual tribal governments to divert certain low-level criminal offenses to tribal court. "In our vast state, criminal justice resources get spread thin," said Attorney General Lindemuth. "By partnering with tribal governments, we get culturally-based solutions. It's a win-win for the State and the tribes. I am excited that the Anvik Village Tribe has entered into this agreement and look forward to more tribes participating in this innovative program."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Karl A. Racine of the District of Columbia
announced that lender CashCall Inc. will return payments of more than $1.8 million made by District consumers and will forgive more than $1 million in remaining debts to settle a lawsuit the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed last year. District consumers eligible for repayment under the settlement will receive an average of more than $1,300 each. "Extremely high-interest loans, like the ones this company offered, trap borrowers in debt and are illegal in the District of Columbia," said Attorney General Racine. "Our Office of Consumer Protection worked to recover the maximum amount of restitution possible. We are pleased to announce that more than 1,300 District residents who were victimized by these lending practices will get back some of the money they paid to CashCall to cover exorbitant -- and illegal -- interest rates."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa
announced that a California-based company that charged up to 200 percent interest for cash advances on largely military pensions will cease offering Iowans what Attorney General Miller alleges are illegal and exorbitant high-interest advance loans, and refund overcharged consumers. Future Income Payments (FIP) LLC this week paid the state $35,000 as part of an agreement called an assurance of voluntary compliance. FIP will refund Iowa consumers who were overcharged and modify existing contracts into interest-free loans. FIP, formerly doing business as Pensions, Annuities and Settlements (PAS), operates from California, and is incorporated in Delaware. Its owner and president is Scott A. Kohn. "This company preys upon vulnerable people who are desperate for money, particularly veterans who can sign over a reliable pension," Attorney General Miller said. "For a few thousand dollars cash up front, you're forced to sign over tens of thousands of dollars from your future pension income. That's what we call predatory lending."
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington
announced that his office has recovered more than $1.2 million in the last year cracking down on student loan debt adjusters who prey on borrowers. Ferguson also announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to provide more transparency to students about their borrowing. Since November 2015, Ferguson has brought lawsuits or resolved allegations against 15 out-of-state student loan adjusters for violating Washington's Debt Adjustment Act and Consumer Protection Act by charging illegal fees for debt adjusting and ignoring legal obligations to inform customers of important rights. As a result of Ferguson's actions, these companies no longer conduct business in Washington. "Thousands of Washingtonians are overburdened with student debt," Attorney General Ferguson said. "These firms unfairly preyed on students who sought help managing their loans."