Announcements, information and updates from CWAG Members and Associates
The CWAG 2017 Winter Dinner is scheduled for Tuesday, November 28th, 2017  in Jekyll Island, Georgia at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. Registration is now open.  If you have not received an email link inviting you to register via our new meeting portal, please contact meeting manager  Alejandra Stephens.
CWAG Attorney General Doug Chin of Hawaii received the "Champion for Social Justice Award" from the Hawaii State Bar Association during its annual convention. The award is intended to honor "courageous legal work in the face of public controversy that helps promote the interests of justice and preserves the integrity of the judiciary." Attorney General Chin said, "I was honored to receive the Champion for Social Justice Award from the Hawaii State Bar Association. The work I've been able to do that resulted in this award would not have been possible without the tireless contributions of everyone at the Department of the Attorney General."
CWAG Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth of Alaska released a legal opinion saying that, despite some misconceptions, Alaska Native tribes have sovereignty and legally exist in the state. Attorney General Lindemuth wrote the opinion at the request of Governor Bill Walker, who had heard concerns from his tribal advisory council about a perceived lack of recognition of the status of tribal sovereignty in the state. Some misconceptions involve the state's unique Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. "The existence of a tribe or tribal government does not require a federal determination and tribal sovereignty does not originate with the federal government," Attorney General Lindemuth wrote. "That said, the United States Constitution gives Congress the authority to legislate with respect to Indian tribes." The 16-page opinion outlines tribal issues clarified over the years by the courts. It does not take positions on areas courts have not addressed. Currently, there are 229 federally recognized tribes in Alaska. There is just one reservation, the southeast Alaska community of Metlakatla.
CWAG Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt of Nevada issued the following statement after the Interim Finance Committee's unanimous, bipartisan approval of his office's "Prescription for Addiction" opioid initiative to combat the use, abuse and misuse of prescription drugs in Nevada: "On average, one Nevadan dies per day from drug overdose, and opioid-related overdoses have become the lead cause of death in America. My office's 'Prescription for Addiction' opioid initiative creates an opportunity to face the epidemic that touches our families, friends and loved ones, and to promote prevention in Nevada. Today the Legislature approved this initiative that includes the purchase of drug incinerators, the distribution of Nalaxone to first responders, funding allocated toward prevention and education efforts, and the creation of an investigative position to assist with federal efforts to curb opioid abuse. I am grateful to our Legislature for their support of this critical issue facing our State and nation, and am hopeful that these efforts will make a much-needed difference in our communities."
CWAG Associate Attorney General George Jepsen of Connecticut led a bipartisan group of attorneys general from across the country in letters to 15 health care companies that provide pharmacy benefit management (PBM) services encouraging the companies to implement programs to mitigate prescription opioid abuse. The attorneys general also sent a letter to the president and CEO of CVS Health Corporation applauding the company's recent program that automatically enrolled all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients in an opioid abuse mitigation program. "All of us - law enforcement, first responders, policymakers, healthcare providers, individuals and families - have an important role to play in addressing this epidemic," said Attorney General Jepsen. "I commend CVS for taking steps to reduce prescription opioid abuse, a contributing factor in the opioid crisis that has impacted Connecticut and communities across the country. Today, my colleagues and I are strongly urging other PBMs to take similar steps and join with us all in action help stop opioid abuse." CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah joined with the bipartisan group of attorneys general and stated, "As Attorney General, I have seen far too much devastation to Utah families and communities from opioids. In our fight against this epidemic we have learned that all too often addiction starts with prescription medication."
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona announced a State Grand Jury indicted Dr. Jamison Mark Foster on 30 felony charges including Acquisition of Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs by Fraud, Fraudulent Schemes, Forgery, and Taking the Identity of Another. The indictment alleges Dr. Jamison Foster, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, practicing as a general surgeon, forged the signature of a Phoenix doctor to obtain opioids for his own personal use. Dr. Foster had been previously employed by the victim doctor. The investigation began in May 2017 when Dr. Foster allegedly attempted to fill a forged prescription for Oxycodone at a pharmacy in Globe. The pharmacist reached out to law enforcement after growing suspicious of the alleged forged prescription. Investigators contacted the victim doctor and discovered she had not authorized the 71 prescriptions that Dr. Foster allegedly filled at pharmacies across Arizona from June 2016 to May 2017.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Mike Hunter of Oklahoma sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting the federal government pursue opioid manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The letter comes one day after Attorney General Sessions was in Oklahoma to discuss criminal justice issues across the United States. Attorney General Hunter said the letter's intent is to open communications to develop a federal and state partnership to combat the opioid epidemic. "My letter to Attorney General Sessions is another necessary action as the state tries to pull itself out of this deadly epidemic and deal with those responsible for it," Attorney General Hunter said. "The opioid industry has knowingly flooded the market with these deadly drugs and it is past time to hold them accountable. There is clear evidence of these companies spending millions of dollars on lobbyists and fraudulent marketing campaigns in order to get these drugs into communities across the nation."
Joining a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general and officials representing 25 states, CWAG Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California urged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to reject an ongoing campaign by student loan servicers to secure immunity for themselves from state-level oversight and enforcement. In particular, two student loan servicing industry associations, the Education Finance Council and the National Council of Higher Education Resources, recently asked Secretary DeVos to issue "regulatory guidance" stating that the U.S. Department of Education's rules and regulations preempt states from enacting or enforcing state laws to quell student loan abuses. "Here in California, we have both enforcement and supervisory oversight over student loan servicers. We have been doing everything in our power to protect students. We certainly won't excuse those who engage in unscrupulous servicing and debt collection practices," said Attorney General Becerra. "Student loan servicers are not exempt from state laws-period. And Secretary DeVos must not validate shoddy practices by attempting to take away critical state oversight of this industry." CWAG Associate Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas joined the letter and stated, "Any attempt to strip states of their oversight of the student loan industry amid the mounting student loan crisis would only put students and borrowers at increased risk. The Consumer Protection Division of my office is at the forefront of protecting Texans from fraud, deceptive conduct and unfair business practices. Allowing the student loan industry to skirt state law would enable bad actors to take advantage of people who are trying to better their lives through education."
CWAG Attorney General Marty Jackley of South Dakota is warning South Dakotans to be cautious of misleading websites that falsely appear to be representing governmental agencies. "Scammers are sending emails and links to South Dakotans that appear to be from South Dakota governmental agencies. These links then reroute you to a fraudulent site that steals your information," said Attorney General Jackley. "Please retype website addresses into your internet browser rather than clicking on the links sent to you." The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division has received numerous complaints from businesses in and out of South Dakota who have received emails and/or links to what appears to be from legitimate South Dakota governmental agencies.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Karl A. Racine of the District of Columbia announced that the Office of the Attorney General is launching an aggressive, comprehensive effort to hold abusive employers accountable and ensure that workers receive the wages they are owed. Findings of a 2017 study suggest that wages stolen from American workers by employers who violate minimum-wage laws exceed $15 billion each year. But workers who lack resources or fear retaliation may have limited recourse when their employers refuse to pay them according to the law. Attorney General Racine has positioned OAG to step in and help fill the enforcement gap. Under newly expanded legal authority to investigate and pursue wage theft cases, OAG has hired dedicated staff to bring enforcement actions against employers who deprive workers of pay and sick leave. "While the overwhelming majority of employers follow the law, we will not tolerate the handful of employers who think they can cheat workers in the District," said Attorney General Racine. "Our office will bring the power of the government to bear against employers that make their money by stealing from their employees. And we will make sure that workers understand their rights and how to take action if employers violate those rights.
Chris Coppin | Legal Director
Conference of Western Attorneys General