CWAG Weekly Roundup
August 21, 2014



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CWAG Associate Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida convened the first Statewide Council on Human Trafficking meeting in Tallahassee. General Bondi worked with the Legislature to create the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. The 15-member Council, which is chaired by General Bondi, will build on existing state and local partnerships working to combat human trafficking. "The Statewide Council on Human Trafficking provides a coordinated, all-hands-on-deck approach to combating human trafficking in Florida," stated General Bondi. "Today's meeting is just the beginning of the extensive efforts this Council will make to shape how Florida tackles this horrific crime and assists human trafficking victims."


CWAG Associate Attorney General Dustin McDaniel of Arkansas announced that the final report of the Attorney General's State Task Force for the Prevention of Human Trafficking was presented to members of the General Assembly. The Task Force's report identifies 19 recommendations for the State to consider as it addresses the wide-ranging and growing problem of human trafficking. "A group of 40 men and women who are dedicated to ending human trafficking in our State worked tirelessly over the course of eight months to develop this plan," General McDaniel said. "Their findings and recommendations represent a clear strategy for addressing this problem and make clear that we want Arkansas to be a safe haven for anyone seeking to escape captivity and reclaim his or her freedom."





CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington petitioned a U.S. District Court for permission to file an amicus brief in the J.E.F.M. v. Holder lawsuit. General Ferguson believes that unaccompanied immigrant children - children under the age of 18 who are not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian when they are apprehended in the United States - should not be forced to represent themselves in complex deportation hearings in which the child's future is at stake. This class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of thousands of children, challenging the federal government's failure to ensure they have legal representation as it carries out deportation hearings against them. "The consequences these children face are dire if they return to their countries," said General Ferguson. "I am calling on the federal government to ensure every child who faces deportation has an attorney by his or her side in order to receive a fair hearing."




Oregon state regulators rejected a proposal for a coal terminal on the Columbia River that would be a conduit for exporting millions of tons of American coal a year to Asia. The decision is a victory for tribal groups that said the terminal threatened their fishing and environmentalists opposed to sending what they call "dirty coal" abroad. The department said the applicant, Ambre Energy, presented some possible options to mitigate the effect on fishing, but failed to commit to any specific action. It also said Ambre had not properly investigated alternatives that would avoid construction of a new dock. Ambre Energy, based in Brisbane, Australia, wants to transport coal mined from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming through Oregon on its way to Asian markets. The company proposed bringing the coal by train to Boardman, Oregon, where it would be loaded on barges at the Port of Morrow and then sent down the Columbia River to the Port of St. Helens, where it would be transferred to oceangoing ships.


Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant's concentrated sun rays - "streamers," for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair. Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one "streamer" every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator's application to build a still-bigger version. More than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect solar rays onto three boiler towers each measuring up to 40 stories high. The water inside is heated to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes. Federal wildlife officials said the plant might act as a "mega-trap" for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays.








CWAG Associate Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas urged the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to drop its claims to private property along the Red River. The letter seeks specific answers about the exact property the BLM now claims belongs to the federal government, asks the BLM to further explain the legal basis for its claim to private property, and highlights the economic harm that the BLM's actions are imposing on Texas landowners. This is the second letter General Abbott has written to the BLM seeking this information. General Abbott stated in his letter, "Given the BLM's apparent commitment to pursuing the current course of simply claiming private land as its own-while in the meantime clouding the title of private property along the Red River-I must reiterate two questions that I first posed in my April 22 letter, but that still have not been adequately answered:  (1) what land does the BLM now claim belongs to the federal government; and (2) what is the legal basis for that claim?"




CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced that the Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the state in two important pension cases. The cases dealt with two pension enhancements enacted by the Legislature in the mid-1990's. In enacting both, the Legislature said that the enhancements could be terminated at any time. When the Legislature terminated both enhancements due to fiscal constraints and the recession, state employee unions and public employees sued, claiming a permanent right to receive these enhancements under Washington case law. General Ferguson stated: "These were difficult cases that had gone on for years, and the trial courts in both cases had ruled against the state. Through the hard work of our excellent team, we were able to demonstrate to the Supreme Court that those rulings were incorrect. Public employees work hard and deserve the pension benefits they have earned. Today's decisions preserve the rights of public employees to receive the basic pension benefits the Legislature has promised, but make clear that the Legislature has the flexibility to add temporary benefits without being locked into providing them forever."




CWAG Attorney General Lawrence Wasden of Idaho reached agreements with three business owners accused of misrepresenting themselves to consumers by failing to deliver services sold to dozens of Idahoans. Under terms of the deals, each of the business owners has agreed to cease operations in the state. "The activities of these three Treasure Valley business owners represent the variety of consumer protection issues my office handles every single day," General Wasden said. Complaints filed against Geo Marketing allege it misrepresented the amount of savings promised to customers who bought his security, satellite television systems and Internet services. In the second case, customers complained they paid to reserve space as vendors at events Idaho Promotions Group sponsored, but later discovered misrepresentations regarding the terms and conditions of those events, including venues, dates and facilities. In the third case, Canyon College of Idaho was allowed to teach at the certificate course completion level, but not authorized to award degrees to students or teach courses for college credit. Former students alleged they purchased degrees and college credit that were not accepted by accredited universities or employers.


A judge has barred a veteran's charity from soliciting in Massachusetts following a lawsuit filed by the CWAG Associate Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts. The lawsuit alleges that the charity used deceptive practices while soliciting funds in Massachusetts. "There are many generous people in Massachusetts who donate money to assist veterans in their communities," General Coakley said. "We allege that this charity violated the public's trust and disadvantaged veterans by falsely claiming that donations would assist Massachusetts veterans. Donors should be able to trust that their dollars are going to the programs, communities, and people they intended them to." The complaint alleges that Focus on Veterans misled potential donors by falsely representing that their donations would be used to assist Massachusetts veterans in various ways, including providing housing and transportation assistance.


CWAG Associate Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia is warning consumers about a data breach reported by Community Health Systems Inc., the parent company of four hospitals in southern West Virginia. The company believes the breach, which originated in China, occurred in April and June 2014. The breaches resulted in the theft of personal information including patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of people who received treatment from doctors affiliated with the hospital group, or who were referred for services to the group, within the past five years. "This announcement by Community Health Systems today can be unsettling for many of the people who received care at these hospitals," General Morrisey said. "Our Office will work to help protect those who may have their information compromised."


CWAG Associate Attorney General Buddy Caldwell of Louisiana filed a lawsuit against State Farm Insurance alleging the nationwide insurer has engaged in a pattern of unfair and fraudulent business practices aimed at controlling the auto repair industry and forcing unsafe repairs on vehicles without the knowledge or consent of Louisiana consumers. The suit alleges State Farm violated Louisiana's Unfair Trade Practices Act and Monopolies Law by using scare tactics to steer Louisiana consumers to State Farm's preferred repair shops and forcing shops to perform vehicle repairs cheaply and quickly, rather than in accordance with consumer safety and vehicle manufacturer performance standards.  General Caldwell said, "State Farm has created a culture of unsafe business practices in which consumer vehicle repairs are performed with cost-savings as the primary goal rather than safety and reliability. In some cases, we've found that these parts are nothing more than used junk yard parts. In others, we've found them to be foreign knock-off parts of questionable quality." 


Chris Coppin

Legal Director

Conference of Western Attorneys General

111 Lomas, NW   Suite 300

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102


505-660-5901 (cell)

505-222-9183 (fax)