AG STENEHJEM APPOINTS NEW CHIEF DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
CWAG Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota has appointed Troy Seibel as Chief Deputy Attorney General, effective December 1, 2016. Seibel will take over from current Chief Deputy Thomas L. Trenbeath, who is retiring at the end of this month after ten years with the Attorney General's office. "Tom has served in this capacity with distinction, and has earned a well-deserved retirement," said Attorney General Stenehjem. "Troy has a great combination of practical expertise, managerial skills, and a historical knowledge. His familiarity with the operations of this office and state government will allow a smooth transition and enable him quickly get up to speed as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session, added Attorney General Stenehjem.
The U.S. District Court in Alaska upheld Alaska's campaign finance laws, finding that the State presented sufficient justification for the contribution limits. "This is a great result for the State," said CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth. "Alaska's campaign finance limits were enacted to bolster the public's trust in our elections process, while balancing the first amendment rights of individuals. The district court agreed that our state has struck the right balance." State law prohibits an individual from contributing more than $500 annually to a candidate or to a group that is not a political party, such as a PAC. State law also sets aggregate limits on the dollar amount a candidate can accept from non-residents and on the amount a political party may contribute to a candidate. Three individuals along with District 18 of the Alaska Republican Party challenged the limits on constitutional grounds. Judge Burgess held that all of these limits are constitutional.
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington
announced that a Thurston County Superior Court judge ordered the Grocery Manufacturers Association to pay $18 million in penalties and punitive damages, after Attorney General Ferguson's lawsuit revealed GMA intentionally violated Washington campaign finance laws. The case arose from Ferguson's investigation of the finances of opposition to voter Initiative 522, which would have required labeling of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in food sold to consumers. The ruling against GMA, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group representing major food, beverage and consumer companies, is believed to constitute the largest campaign finance judgment in United States history. "I took this case to trial because the GMA needed to be held accountable for their arrogance and willful disregard of Washington state campaign finance laws," Attorney General Ferguson said.
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona
announced the first successful prosecution of a state level Terrorism charge in Arizona. A judge sentenced 18-year-old Mahin Khan to 8 years in prison for plotting a terrorist attack at a Motor Vehicle Division office in Maricopa County. Khan will be placed on lifetime probation after his release from prison. "Justice was served, we prevented a terrorist attack in Arizona," said Attorney General Brnovich. "We have a duty to do everything we can to protect our community from extremist acts. I'd like to thank our partners at the FBI & the JTTF for their diligent work on this case." The charges stem from an investigation into Khan's repeated communication and conspiracy with an individual whom he believed to be a fighter with ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) to obtain weapons including pipe bombs or pressure cooker bombs, and to commit an act of terror in Maricopa County.
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada
moved to intervene in a lawsuit on behalf of the State of Nevada over conservation efforts of the Bi-State sage-grouse, a species of sage-grouse that lives along the Nevada-California border. In April 2015, the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service determined that the bird did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. This finding was made partially in deference to an unprecedented conservation alliance between Nevada, California and the United States government. Environmental activist groups now challenge that determination. Nevada, which has managed and protected the bird for many years, is seeking to participate in the case to ensure that Nevada's conservation efforts are not displaced by the Endangered Species Act. "I continue to be committed to defending Nevada's central role in protecting habitat in our State, including using litigation as a tool when necessary," said Attorney General Laxalt. "Nevada has always made an effort to preserve, protect, manage and restore its diverse wildlife, and the State has moved to intervene in this suit to ensure the concerns and interests unique to Nevada are heard. I am proud to work with Governor Sandoval to protect Nevada's conservation efforts."
CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska
announced that the State of Alaska joined in filing a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in response to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in February of this year. That ruling reinstated approximately 187,000 square miles of Alaska coastline and adjacent waters designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as critical habitat for polar bears, an area larger than the state of California. Other petitioners include Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (ASRC), the North Slope Borough, the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope, Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation, Kuukpik Corporation, Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation, Olgoonik Corporation, Inc., Tikigaq Corporation, the Bering Straits Native Corporation, NANA Regional Corporation and Calista Corporation. "A critical habitat designation covering over 187,000 square miles would greatly impact our entire state," said Attorney General Lindemuth. "All we ask is that the designation be legally justified through scientific evidence showing a connection between the habitat and the protection of the bears. That didn't happen for all the areas designated in this case. The result is great economic impacts without evidence that it is actually necessary to protect the species."
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota
announces that South Dakota has joined 16 other states in an amicus or "friend of the court" brief that argues the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW) was properly enjoined from further release of Mexican wolves pending permits from the State of New Mexico. The brief was filed in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. "The release of wolves can have a devastating effect on wildlife management and livestock producers. The States have historically managed the wildlife within their borders and are better equipped to balance wildlife needs with our agricultural interests. The federal government is ignoring the interests of our States by introducing wolves into the State's wildlife system and then not allow the State to manage and balance wildlife and livestock interest," said Attorney General Jackley. New Mexico denied the request by the USFW to release Mexican wolves, but did not permanently veto the wildlife release. New Mexico officials asked that the USFW prepare and submit a federal species management plan along with the permit application so that state officials could determine whether the proposed releases would conflict with state conservations management efforts. The USFW failed to submit any such plan.
CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana
, along with 25 other state attorneys general, two other state public utility commissions, and four state environmental quality departments, submitted joint comments Tuesday to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, criticizing EPA for ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court's stay of the agency's proposed carbon emissions regulations (the so-called "Clean Power Plan"). In February, after Montana and other states challenged the EPA's carbon regulations, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an injunction until legal challenges have concluded. Despite an explicit order from the court, EPA has chosen to move forward with the rulemaking process for a regulatory scheme known as the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), a component of the larger plan. EPA's action is in direct violation of the Supreme Court's stay. "By moving forward with this rulemaking, EPA has ignored explicit instruction from the court, throwing years of well-established case law out the window," Attorney General Fox said. "It's unacceptable for the EPA to flout the rule of law and treat our nation's highest court in this manner, and for the sake of preserving the integrity of the institution, I encourage the agency officials to rethink their actions."
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico
announced that a district court judge ruled that FastBucks should pay the sum of $32,255,054.00 in restitution to borrowers who were taken advantage of by FastBucks' business practices. The suit was brought by the Office of the Attorney General for violations of New Mexico law. This judgment is the conclusion of the damages phase of the litigation. The initial decision deciding FastBucks had, in fact, violated New Mexico law was entered in 2012. "This $32 million restitution judgment for New Mexico consumers is a great step toward eliminating predatory business practices that prey on New Mexico families," said Attorney General Balderas. "Our office is working expeditiously on a plan for New Mexico consumers to receive their restitution, however we are asking for consumers' patience as we work through the legal process to get them what they are owed."
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado
announced that Jose Ricardo Sarabia-Martinez, of Denver was sentenced to 24 years in prison after being found guilty of felony violations of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA), COCCA-Conspiracy, forgery, theft, and criminal impersonation. Sarabia-Martinez is expected to also be ordered to pay restitution of nearly $1million. "Mr. Sarabia-Martinez was the mastermind of a fraudulent scheme that stole millions of dollars from his victims," said Attorney General Coffman. "This lengthy sentence will keep him off the streets and prevent him from harming any other innocent people." Sarabia-Martinez, along with his fellow co-conspirators, used their status as professionals in the real estate industry to execute a long-term diverse fraud for profit scheme. The scheme primarily centered on mortgage fraud including the manipulation of multiple real estate transactions through the use of fraudulent statements, material omissions, acquiring false identification and notary commissions, as well using "straw buyers" to buy and sell real estate properties that ultimately resulted in foreseeable foreclosures.