A U.S. District judge wants information about the funders behind hundreds of lawsuits against manufacturers and distributors of opioids.
Photo Credit: By richiec from Chicago, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
“The judge overseeing more than 600 lawsuits targeting opioid makers is demanding local governments’ lawyers turn over information about any litigation-funding agreements and provide assurance that lenders won’t gain control over legal strategy or settlements,” Bloomberg reported.
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland issued the order on May 7, “saying he wants to ensure the agreements don’t create conflicts of interest by affecting plaintiffs lawyers’ judgments in pursuing cases against opioid makers, such as Purdue Pharma LLP and Johnson & Johnson, and distributors such as McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc.”
Bloomberg explained, “He wants to know details of any lending arrangements, and he requested sworn statements from the lawyers and lenders that there won’t be any conflicts of interest and that the lenders won’t have control over strategy, advocacy or settlement decisions.”
On April 11, Reuters reported that Polster was pushing for a settlement and pursuing an aggressive schedule “that would have the first trial take place in March 2019.”
Reuters noted, “The lawsuits accuse the drugmakers of deceptively marketing opioids and allege that drug distributors ignored red flags indicating the painkillers were being diverted for improper uses. In 2016, 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Immigrant children who crossed the border suffered abuse and neglect from federal officials, according to a report released May 23 by the ACLU’s Border Litigation Project in partnership with the University of Chicago Law School.
University of Chicago Law School students review documents with professor Claudia Flores, the director of the school’s International Human Rights Clinic. (Photo credit: Lloyd DeGrane / University of Chicago Law School as reported by The Chicago Tribune )
“Elbowing children in the stomach. Lifting a child by the neck. Kicking a child in the ribs. These are all things the American Civil Liberties Union says immigrant children who crossed the border alone experienced while in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” The Chicago Tribune reports.
Unaccompanied children who cross the border are placed in juvenile detention centers while they await court decisions on whether they can be released to a relative in the U.S., or if they will remain in custody or be deported.
The allegations stemmed from a review of 30,000 pages of documents by three law students, according to Claudia Flores, director of the University of Chicago’s International Human Rights Clinic.
Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Daniel Hetlage said in a statement that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General completed an investigation and found that the claims were unsubstantiated.
A self-described whistleblower is using a racketeering law, usually affiliated with prosecution of the Mafia, to sue two founders of Fusion GPS in a civil suit claiming a conspiracy of retaliation.
“A prominent human rights activist is suing two of the founders of Fusion GPS and several Venezuelan businessmen under a statute usually associated with the Mafia,” reports The Daily Caller, a conservative American news and opinion website. “Thor Halvorssen, the president of the Human Rights Foundation, claims that Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, two former Wall Street Journal reporters who founded Fusion, engaged in a conspiracy to retaliate against him for blowing the whistle on one of Fusion’s clients, a Venezuelan power plant company called Derwick Associates.”
Halvorssen filed his lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute.
The Daily Caller reports, “Mostly linked to organized crime cases, RICO can also be used in civil cases against legitimate businesses. Halvorssen’s case rests on the theory that Derwick and Fusion GPS engaged in a conspiracy to intimidate a whistleblower, which Halvorssen considers himself to be because he has provided information about an alleged Derwick bribery scheme to federal authorities. …”
Politico reported on a separate Fusion GPS controversy in January, in which Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson urged lawmakers “to look into what he said were ties between President Donald Trump and Russian money laundering.”
Fusion GPS leapt into headlines because of the firm’s dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.
According to The Daily Caller, “Halvorssen’s suit does not mention Fusion GPS’s most infamous project: the Steele dossier.”
Halvorssen’s suit claims the two Fusion founders were hired to produce a dossier and a media campaign “to depict Halvorrsen as a pedophile, heroin addict, and embezzler of the Foundation’s money.”
Photo Credit: AP Photo / Dado Galdieri as reported by The Nation 4/27/18.
An April 3 guilty verdict in a civil trial in Florida marked something unique in case law: “The case marks the first time that an ex-head of state was forced to face his accusers in a US court for human-rights abuses,” reports The Nation.
“The events in the case took place 15 years ago and thousands of miles away from the US district federal courtroom in downtown Fort Lauderdale where the trial played out,” The Nation recounts. “For three weeks in March, the families of people killed by the Bolivian military during a 2003 country-wide uprising testified against former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and his minister of defense Carlos Sánchez Berzaín.”
The landmark human-rights case stemmed from the U.S. Torture Victims Protection Act, “one of the broadest human-rights laws in the world,” The Nation explains. “The TVPA created the ability to bring cases of extrajudicial killings and torture against foreign officials when the potential remedies are exhausted in a plaintiff’s home country.”
In 2011, Bolivia’s Supreme Court found five former military officials and two former cabinet ministers guilty for their role in the 2003 killings. “After a two-and-a-half-year trial, the generals received 10- to 15-year prison sentences, and the ministers three years a piece,” the article explains.
“Sánchez de Lozada and Sánchez Berzaín were indicted in that case as well, but because at the time Bolivian law prohibited trials in absentia and both were residents in the US, neither was tried. US support for the two men was made explicit in 2007, when Sánchez Berzaín was granted political asylum.”
The 2003 killings happened in the midst of political protests against a natural gas pipeline project. “The coalition government of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, popularly known as Goni, who had won his second term with the help of US Democratic Party election consultants, declared a state of siege and militarized El Alto and surrounding areas,” the article recounts. “Once the dust settled, around 60 people had been killed and over 400 wounded. …”