CWAG Roundup

October 27, 2016

We invite you to attend the CWAG Endowment Dinner on Tuesday, November 29, 2016, at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale.  The CWAG Endowment is a fund established to support the educational, research, training, and other work of CWAG and the state Attorneys General.  CWAG has benefitted from the generosity of the sponsors that will be in attendance. The cultivation of these relationships and your support of this event is greatly appreciated. The evening will begin with a reception in the Grand Ballroom 3 which is located on the 4th Floor of The Ritz-Carlton from 6:00pm - 7:00pm.  The progressive dinner will immediately follow the reception in the Grand Ballroom 1 & 2 from 7:00pm - 9:30pm. Please RSVP no later than Wednesday, November 23rd to Meeting Planner Alejandra Stephens at AStephens@CWAGWeb.Org or 303.304.9206.
We hope to see you in Fort Lauderdale!
Cyber Security & Technology Forum
Park City, Utah
February 2-3, 2017
Chair's Initiative and Western Pacific AG Summit
Honolulu, Hawaii
March 14-16, 2017
2017 CWAG Annual Meeting
San Francisco, CA
July 30- August 2, 2017
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan announced the retirement of Chief Deputy Attorney General Carol Isaacs, effective December 31, 2016. Isaacs has served as the Chief Deputy Attorney General since Attorney General Schuette was elected in 2010. Previously, she served as Chief Deputy Attorney General for Attorney General Mike Cox, an advisor and counsel to the Michigan Senate and in the Executive branch as advisor to Governor Engler and Senior Deputy of Legal Affairs and Policy Development for the Michigan Department of Community Health. "Carol's keen understanding of state government and the intricacies of the Michigan Legislature made her the ideal choice as Chief Deputy Attorney General during my service as Attorney General. Each and every day Carol Isaacs has been "On Duty" for the citizens of Michigan," said Attorney General Schuette.
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona announced a State Grand Jury indicted an Arizona inmate and his wife on state terrorism charges. Thomas Orville Bastian and Michelle Marie Bastian are accused of acting together while plotting to commit an act of terrorism at the Arizona State Prison Complex. It is alleged that they conspired to construct and set off an explosive device within the prison facility. The indictment is the result of an investigation by the Phoenix Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Arizona Department of Corrections, and the Arizona Attorney General's Office. "Homegrown terror attacks are being planned in our communities, our cities, and our state," said Attorney General Brnovich. "The Arizona Attorney General's Office and the FBI will continue to work together to arrest and prosecute anyone plotting or planning a terrorist attack."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida announced that her Office of Statewide Prosecution had two more arrests in connection to an ongoing investigation and prosecution of a human trafficking network operating from South to Central Florida. Joaquin Perez-Urbano, 41, and Paula Rojas-Zarate, 33, both from Fort Myers, face charges for conspiracy to commit human trafficking and human trafficking. The human trafficking ring operated in Collier, Lee, Hendry, Miami-Dade and Polk Counties. "This organization targeted vulnerable women desperate to find a better life and reunite with loved ones, forcing victims to perform hundreds of sex acts a week," said Attorney General Bondi. "We will not tolerate human trafficking in Florida, and my Office of Statewide Prosecution continues to work tirelessly to prosecute traffickers and protect the victims of this atrocious crime."
CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska signed an agreement with the Alaska Court System and the Kenaitze Tribe to support establishing the Henu' Community Wellness Court. The court will provide a joint state-tribal therapeutic pre-trial diversion program that both tribal and non-tribal members can participate in to address non-violent substance abuse issues that lead to criminal charges. "The Kenaitze Tribe gets all the credit for this program," said Attorney General Lindemuth. "Working with the courts and other stakeholders, they came up with a robust pre-trial diversion program that gets at the heart of many of the substance abuse issues the Kenai community faces. Our prosecutors will work hand-in-hand with the tribe, the courts and the public defenders to work towards the best outcomes for the offender, the victims, and the safety of the community."
CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana , Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and Crow Nation Chairman Darrin Old Coyote signed a settlement agreement resolving long-standing litigation concerning the assessment of taxes on coal owned by the Crow Nation. Settlement of the litigation was negotiated as part of the Crow Tribe - Montana Water Rights Compact that was approved by the Montana Legislature during a special session in 1999. In 2010, Congress approved the Water Compact; in 2012, the Crow Nation, the United States of America, and the State of Montana executed the Water Compact in a signing ceremony in Washington, DC, resolving more than 30 years of litigation and negotiations. The Water Compact allowed the Tribe to focus on key water projects on the Crow Reservation. "Coal mining is key to the economic well-being of Montana as well as to the Crow Nation," Attorney General Fox said.  "Today's coal severance tax litigation settlement is long overdue and welcome news for the Crow Nation, which has experienced a 47% unemployment rate since coal markets began to shrink due in part to over-reaching regulations on the part of EPA."
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota continues to work with the FDA and DEA to address research and development for medical marijuana and its derivatives. "As Attorney General, I am hopeful that research will conclude marijuana derivatives will help treat a child experiencing seizures or the pain of a cancer patient.  I am urging the FDA and DEA to consider accelerated research of marijuana for treatment purposes.  If marijuana is determined to provide a medical benefit, I believe safeguards for public health and safety can be put in place which include FDA approval, a South Dakota doctor prescribing the drug, and a South Dakota pharmacist dispensing the drug," said Attorney General Jackley. On August 19, 2016, Attorney General Jackley provided correspondence to the DEA and FDA urging consideration of an accelerated research and development process for marijuana derivatives. While Attorney General Jackley made clear he was not endorsing a particular area of research or marijuana use, he believes that the public health aspect justifies both the DEA and the FDA revisiting the research restrictions as it relates to marijuana with an eye towards medical research in a controlled environment.
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California issued the fourth annual statewide report on elementary school truancy and chronic absenteeism in California, In School + On Track 2016. The report, part of the work of the Department's Bureau of Children's Justice, finds that an estimated 210,000 K-5 students in California missed 10% of the school year in 2015-2016, making up 7.3% of elementary students in the state. The report also confirms earlier research on the disproportionately high rates of absenteeism among African American, Native American, and Pacific Islander elementary school students, special education students, and foster and homeless youth.  The report does highlight that significant progress is being made, with school districts increasingly taking action to ensure children are in school, on time, every day. "To be smart on crime and invest wisely in California's economic future, we must eliminate elementary school truancy," said Attorney General Harris. "Chronically absent children are far more likely to drop out of school and enter into the criminal justice system. This is a solvable problem: with better data, monitoring, and communication with parents, we can continue to make significant strides toward ensuring students are in school and on track to meet their full potential."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Schuette of Michigan initiated civil forfeiture actions to confiscate the pensions of the 12 ex-Detroit Public School officials convicted of accepting federal program bribery in a $2.7-million kickback scheme that resulted in charges against former Detroit Public Schools vendor Norman Shy and 13 district officials. Attorney General Schuette's action seeks the forfeiture of all State of Michigan or Detroit Public Schools contributions from the time the bribery began until the time of their termination or retirement. "An educator's first responsibility is to the children of the school, and the individuals that accepted bribes violated that trust and responsibility," said Attorney General Schuette. "Actions have consequences, and they should not reap rewards for criminal behavior."
CWAG Associate Attorney General Karl A. Racine of the District of Columbia announced that Bank of America has agreed to pay the District $13 million to settle a lawsuit over the bank's role in a fraudulent tax refund scheme that took place while the institution served as the District's depository bank. The settlement concludes a suit the District first brought in 2008, shortly after officials discovered that a former District government employee stole millions of dollars from the government by creating fraudulent tax refund checks that were presented for payment or deposit into accounts at Bank of America. A Bank of America assistant branch manager ultimately pled guilty to his role in the scheme.  The District's lawsuit alleged that inadequate controls by Bank of America contributed to the District's monetary loss. "We are glad that this closes a chapter in the District's history," Attorney General Racine said. "The District has made a host of changes in process and personnel to protect against the type of fraud leading to today's settlement."
CWAG Attorney General Doug Chin of Hawaii announced that the Hawaii Supreme Court unanimously held that the State may provide constitutionally protected health benefits to state and county retirees in a flexible manner. Under this decision, the State has the ability to structure retiree health insurance plans in a way that provides strong benefits while simultaneously keeping costs down for the taxpayers and the retirees themselves. This class action lawsuit, initiated in 2006, contended that state and county retirees were entitled to the same health benefits as active employees receive now. The Hawaii Supreme Court rejected this argument. The Court instead concluded that retirees' health benefits are based on the benefits that were promised when the employees became members of the State's retirement system. Most importantly, the Court also concluded that a "rigid" understanding of retirees' protected health benefits "is inconsistent with and inadequate to provide the flexibility that legislatures need to deal with changing economic and social realities." "The marketplace for health benefits changes constantly," said Attorney General Chin. "Today's decision allows the State to respond to those changes." 

Chris Coppin
Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General
1300 I Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
505-589-5101 (cell)
817-615-9335 (fax)