Announcements, information and updates from CWAG Members and Associates
CWAG's Annual Meeting July 31 to August 2 in San Francisco was a huge success. Thirty attorneys general from across the country participated and we had over four hundred primary registrants. With guests included, CWAG hosted over eight hundred people. Along with two and one half days of CLE programming, CWAG hosted a two day meeting of the Western Attorneys General Litigation Action Committee; a half day program on Foreign Prosecutions; and a half day of CWAG Africa Alliance Partnership sessions. In addition, a special tour of California DOJ law enforcement facilities by our African Alliance Partner guests was conducted on August 3rd . Assistant Attorney General Fronda Woods of Washington was awarded th e Jim Jones Public Service Award and Colorado Chief Deputy David Blake was awarded the Nelson Kempsky Management Award. Attorneys General were recognized for their websites with Waggy Awards as follows: Nebraska, Best Overall; South Dakota, Best Redesign; District of Columbia, Best Consumer; and Mississippi, Best Crime Fighter. Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin was recognized for his year of service as the CWAG Chair. All power point presentations are currently available on the CWAG website at  CWAG 2017 PAST EVENTS . Videos of our programs will be available on the CWAG website by the end of August.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona is the new Chairman of the Conference of Western Attorneys General. One of Attorney General Brnovich's top priorities as CWAG Chair will be data privacy and cybersecurity initiatives. "I am honored to have been selected to lead this outstanding organization," said Attorney General Brnovich. "I look forward to working together with my colleagues to combat the growing threat of cyberattacks and help safeguard consumer information." Attorney General Brnovich will serve as CWAG Chair through July 2018.
The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( announced the recipients of its 2017 Leadership Awards, recognizing strong leadership to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking and promote teen driver safety. Those recognized included CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota, CWAG Attorney General Cynthia Coffman of Colorado, CWAG Associate Attorney General Karl Racine of the District of Columbia, CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana, CWAG Associate Attorney General Josh Stein of North Carolina, CWAG Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon, Attorney General Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania and CWAG Associate Attorney General Brad Schimel of Wisconsin. "The national leadership award is a strong recognition for all of South Dakota's law enforcement community that serves to prevent underage drinking and to make our roads safe from impaired driving. I want to thank the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility for its continuous work in the fight against underage drinking and drunk driving," said Attorney General Jackley.
CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman of Colorado announced the appointments of Melanie J. Snyder to Chief Deputy Attorney General, and Leora Joseph to Chief of Staff. These appointments follow the departure of previous Chief Deputy and recent CWAG Nelson Kempsky Management Award winner, David Blake. David recently accepted an opportunity in private practice with Squire, Patton & Boggs, an international law firm with offices in Denver. "David has been an extremely valuable member of my leadership team, and has provided exceptional legal and policy advice on some of the most complex issues facing the State of Colorado," said Attorney General Coffman.  Newly appointed Chief Deputy Attorney General Snyder has been with the Office of the Attorney General since 2008.  Snyder has provided general counsel advice and representation in litigation and on appeal to a number of State clients on a variety of complex issues.  "Melanie has been a stellar Chief of Staff, and her knowledge of the Office of the Attorney General is unparalleled," said Attorney General Coffman. "I know that her experience and expertise will make her an exceptional Chief Deputy, and I am grateful for her willingness to take on this critically important role." Newly promoted Chief of Staff Joseph is a recent addition to the Office of the Attorney General, having joined the team during the transition process. Joseph has 20 years of experience as a criminal prosecutor. Joseph served as a Chief Deputy District Attorney in both Boston and the Denver Metro area. "Leora has brought a wealth of experience to the office, and will be a huge asset to our team," said Attorney General Coffman. "Her lifelong commitment to public service, and her extensive management experience makes her uniquely prepared to take on the role of Chief of Staff. I am excited that she has chosen to join our team in this leadership position."
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada led a ten state coalition of attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court defending the ability of state governments to effectively regulate groundwater usage within their state. The brief urges the Court to review a recent Ninth Circuit decision that concluded, in conflict with multiple state-court decisions, that the federal government has broadly reserved rights to groundwater that preempt long-established state-law regulations. "Western states like Nevada are particularly impacted by the current uncertainty of groundwater rights created by this recent Ninth Circuit decision," said Attorney General Laxalt. "By filing this brief, my office encourages the Supreme Court to take the necessary steps to clarify the States' groundwater rights and to ensure Nevada's best interests are being protected from unnecessary and unwarranted federal interference. As I have consistently demonstrated throughout my tenure as Nevada's attorney general, my office stands ready to defend our state from unlawful federal overreach regardless of the source."
CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska announced that her office has reached agreement with Ahtna, Inc. on the State's ownership of a critical part of the Kotsina River riverbed. The settlement agreement will result in a court judgment that clarifies ownership of the Kotsina River delta and ensures continued public access to the shore lands of the Copper and Kotsina Rivers into the future. It has always been the State's position that the Kotsina River is navigable in this area," said Attorney General Lindemuth. "This settlement recognizes that fact and provides continued public access to the rivers. I appreciate Ahtna's willingness to settle these matters and avoid an unnecessary and expensive trial." The settlement stems from a lawsuit brought by Ahtna in 2008 that challenged a Department of Transportation (DOT) material site and sought to prohibit camping and the launching of boats within a DOT right-of-way. In defense against Ahtna's claims, the State asserted ownership of the relevant lands underlying the Kotsina River because the river was navigable.
CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah announced that the Utah Supreme Court agreed with the State of Utah and some of its Counties in their dispute against the federal government about the State's ownership of historic roads across federal land. As federal law allows, the State and its Counties sued the United States to obtain title to more than 10,000 such roads-roads still used today for recreation, ranching, sightseeing, hunting, and fishing, among other things. But the United States, joined by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, argued that the State's and Counties' title claims were untimely based on a provision of Utah law that never had been applied to such claims. "I applaud the Utah Supreme Court's common-sense decision in this important case," said Attorney General Reyes. "The Court correctly recognized the absurdity of the federal government's arguments, which have now added two years of delay and taxpayer expense to the State's efforts to obtain the title to roads that federal law has long promised. I hope the Court's decision convinces the United States now to work collaboratively and quickly with Utah and its Counties to resolve these title claims."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a new comprehensive plan for tobacco and nicotine regulation that will serve as a multi-year roadmap to better protect kids and significantly reduce tobacco-related disease and death. The approach places nicotine, and the issue of addiction, at the center of the agency's tobacco regulation efforts. The goal is to ensure that the FDA has the proper scientific and regulatory foundation to efficiently and effectively implement the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. To make certain that the FDA is striking an appropriate balance between regulation and encouraging development of innovative tobacco products that may be less dangerous than cigarettes, the agency is also providing targeted relief on some timelines described in the May 2016 final rule that extended the FDA's authority to additional tobacco products. The agency will also seek input on critical public health issues such as the role of flavors in tobacco products. CWAG Associate Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa stated: "I strongly agree with the major positions taken by the FDA on Friday, July 28, 2017: 1. Favoring harm reduction through e-cigarettes and other non-combustible products is the clear position of the FDA, rather than general opposition to e-cigarettes. 2. A serious effort should be made to reduce the level of nicotine in combustible products. 3. Application deadlines should be moved back to allow for compliance and innovation. 4. A careful look at flavors, including menthol, should be undertaken. This agenda provides the roadmap for the demise of combustible tobacco products that kill 480,000 Americans each year."
Attorney General Alan Wilson of South Carolina filed a lawsuit against the federal government to recover $100 million the U.S. Department of Energy owes the state for failing to meet its promise to remove one ton of plutonium from the Savannah River Site this year. A case of such magnitude has never been filed by South Carolina against the federal government. Congress mandated that the U.S. Department of Energy would pay South Carolina $1 million per day, beginning January 1, 2016, for every day the department failed to remove from the state one metric ton of weapons-grade defense plutonium. The requirement is in place during the first 100 days of each year from 2016 through 2021. The federal government cannot "renege on its obligations" and "leave South Carolina as the permanent dumping ground for weapons-grade defense plutonium," Attorney General Wilson said in the complaint.
Chris Coppin | Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General