Click here for full articles
CWAG ANNUAL METING NEWS
Did you miss the CWAG Annual Meeting in Park City this year? If so, you can watch our programs On Demand and receive CLE credits through the WestLegalEdCenter by searching "CWAG" in the content partners search field.
ATTORNEY GENERAL PRUITT HONORED FOR SERVING VETERANS
CWAG Associate Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma and members of his office were recognized by the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve office at the Department of Defense for their support of employees who serve in the National Guard or Reserve. General Pruitt was presented with the Patriotic Employer Award. "Not only do we appreciate the work Timothy Downing and Thomas Tucker provide as assistant attorneys general, but we are grateful for their service as members of the National Guard and Reserve. Their service and sacrifice helps keep our nation free. The Attorney General's Office is happy to support them in that mission and I am truly humbled that our office received this award," General Pruitt said.
NATURAL RESOURCES LAW
CWAG Attorney General Michael Geraghty of Alaska announced that State officials will deliver comments at a public hearing strongly opposing the proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to close the fall 2014 and spring 2015 brown bear hunting season on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. "Federal land managers have again proposed limiting Alaskans' access to a state resource," Governor Parnell said. "The proposed closure is not justified by either resource protection concerns or federal policy." In 2012, the Alaska Board of Game heard multiple requests from the public to respond to an increasing brown bear population and associated negative human-bear interactions on the Kenai Peninsula. The board considered those requests, resulting in a decision to increase opportunities for brown bear hunting within sustainable levels determined by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency heard directly from Alaskans about the agency's proposal to block Pebble mine development. At a public hearing in Anchorage, 133 attendees testified before EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran and Bristol Bay Management Lead Richard Parkin about the unprecedented use of the agency's Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authority to ban a project before permit applications are filed if it determines there would be an adverse effect on fish and wildlife habitat. CWAG Attorney General Michael Geraghty has sued EPA, claiming the agency is denying the state its right to develop its resources on state-owned land. General Geraghty testified, "Our state is legally entitled to be a part of (the review) process."
MENTAL HEALTH LAW
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington, in conjunction with a broad coalition of organizations, filed a motion in the Washington State Supreme Court to address the impacts of the court's recent decision on psychiatric boarding. The motion asks the court to delay the effect of its decision so that the state can implement a plan to make sure alternative care is available. Under state law, counties may detain individuals with "a mental disorder" for evaluation and treatment who are a threat to themselves or others. In recent years, counties have often relied on psychiatric boarding in hospital emergency rooms for such individuals because of a lack of space in certified evaluation and treatment facilities. "My office wants to ensure the state is able to implement the court's decision in a way that protects vulnerable individuals, public safety and healthcare providers," said General Ferguson. "No one would benefit from the release of people in mental health crisis without treatment. We hope the court will see the broad consensus in support of this motion and grant it."
PROTECTING PUBLIC FUNDS
CWAG Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon sued Oracle America, Inc., and a number of its high-level executives, for defrauding Oregonians in connection with Oracle's failure to provide a timely and functional health exchange website. The civil complaint demands recovery of the state's and Cover Oregon's financial losses, as well as penalties for the damages caused by Oracle's broken promises, fraud, racketeering, and false claims for payment. It alleges that Oracle officials repeatedly made numerous false statements and that Oracle submitted false claims to the state and Cover Oregon for hundreds of millions of dollars based on those false statements. "Today's lawsuit clearly explains how egregiously Oracle has disserved Oregonians and our state agencies," said General Rosenblum. "Over the course of our investigation, it became abundantly clear that Oracle repeatedly lied and defrauded the state. Through this legal action, we intend to make our state whole, and make sure taxpayers aren't left holding the bag."
CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and state partners, announced a settlement with Bank of America to resolve federal and state civil claims related to Bank of America's conduct in the packaging, securitization, marketing, sale, and issuance of residential mortgage-backed securities prior to January 1, 2009. Nationally, the settlement totals $16.65 billion including cash and credit for consumer relief. California will recover $300 million in damages, which will reimburse the state's pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, for losses on investments in mortgage-backed securities of Bank of America and its affiliates. "Bank of America profited by misleading investors about the risky nature of the mortgage-backed securities it sold," General Harris said. "This settlement makes our pension funds whole for the financial losses caused by these misrepresentations and brings help to hard-pressed homeowners and communities in California."
CWAG Attorney General Gary King of New Mexico announced that New Mexico customers of a national payday loan company may be eligible for a full refund of all payments, interest, and fees. "There are 17 ACE Cash Express stores doing business in New Mexico, so there is a good chance a number of customers here may qualify for a part of the $5 million in refunds," said General King. The refunds are the result of an enforcement action by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against ACE, one of the largest payday lenders in the United States, for pushing payday borrowers into a cycle of debt. The CFPB found that ACE used illegal debt collection tactics, including harassment and false threats of lawsuits or criminal prosecution, to pressure overdue borrowers into taking out additional loans they could not afford. In addition to the $5 million in refunds, ACE is required to pay a $5 million penalty for these violations.
CWAG Associate Attorney General Dustin McDaniel of Arkansas filed a consumer-protection lawsuit against the makers of identification cards that are advertised as being "legally issued" or "required by law" even though there is nothing official about the cards. General McDaniel said Connecticut-based AmeraCard Enterprises Inc. and its owner, Joseph Cassara of Stamford, Conn., produce and sell ID cards that are designed to resemble state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards, except that the IDs produced by the defendants have no official function or legal significance. "These cards are advertised as being acceptable as secondary identification and in some instances, even as a primary ID. Those claims and the other claims used by the company to urge Arkansas vendors to sell these IDs are patently false," General McDaniel said. "These bogus ID cards are a waste of money for consumers."