CWAG Weekly Roundup

January 8, 2015








CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced she will begin work to create a Bureau of Children's Justice within her office. During her swearing in speech, General Harris stated: "We are going to expand our campaign to end elementary school truancy so that we can keep our children on track to meet their full potential. The evidence is simply overwhelming: a child who is chronically truant in elementary school is three to four times more likely to drop out of high school and become a perpetrator or a victim of crime. We must keep our promise to California's children. It's time to say that in the State of California it is a crime for a child to go without an education. We also have to confront our state's tragically flawed foster care system. We simply cannot let down our most vulnerable children today, then lock them up tomorrow and act surprised! At times like these, I can't help but think of the impact that chronic violence and poverty have on our children."





CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana announced that state officials have reached a new agreement on a water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The new compact will protect the tribes' rights while ensuring irrigators and residents on or near the Flathead Indian Reservation have a reliable water supply. The agreement would set up a $30 million fund in part to pay for water pumping to meet irrigation demands. It also establishes a technical team that includes irrigators to put into effect provisions of the compact that protect historic uses of the reservation's water while also making sure the tribes' stream-flow targets on the Flathead River are met. "Over the last several months, we have been heavily involved in discussions amongst stakeholders," General Fox said. "My primary concerns have been that the Compact be constitutional and that it guarantees irrigators receive sufficient water to continue farming today and in future generations. This Compact, which is significantly better than the previous one, does both. After long and difficult negotiations, the state, the Tribes, and the federal government have reached an agreement that is good for Montana. I urge our legislators to carefully review and ratify it."


A special master presiding over an interstate water rights lawsuit pending before the U.S. Supreme Court recommends denying most of Montana's remaining claims that Wyoming failed to deliver enough water on the Tongue River. If ultimately accepted by the Supreme Court, the report by Barton Thompson Jr. will resolve the bulk of the lawsuit that Montana filed against Wyoming in 2007. "What this case confirms is that the primary solution to water issues in Montana on the Tongue River can be found in Montana's operation of the Tongue River Reservoir," CWAG Attorney General Peter Michael of Wyoming said. He had worked on the case for Wyoming for years before taking over as attorney general. Anastasia Burton, spokeswoman for CWAG Attorney General Tim Fox of Montana, issued a statement emphasizing that Thompson's report found that Wyoming had violated the Yellowstone River Compact. "The decision found Wyoming liable for depriving Montana of water in 2004 and 2006, years in which severe drought conditions significantly harmed Montana farmers and ranchers along the Tongue River," Ms. Burton said.




CWAG Associate Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma joined CWAG Associate Attorney General Jon Bruning of Nebraska in filing a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a declaration that the State of Colorado's commercialized marijuana system violates the U.S. Constitution. "Fundamentally, Oklahoma and states surrounding Colorado are being impacted by Colorado's decision to legalize and promote the commercialization of marijuana which has injured Oklahoma's ability to enforce our state's policies against marijuana. Federal law classifies marijuana as an illegal drug. The health and safety risks posed by marijuana, especially to children and teens, are well documented. The illegal products being distributed in Colorado are being trafficked across state lines thereby injuring neighboring states like Oklahoma and Nebraska. As the state's chief legal officer, the attorney general's office is taking this step to protect the health and safety of Oklahomans," General Pruitt said. In response to the lawsuit, CWAG Attorney General John Suthers of Colorado issued the following statement: "Because neighboring states have expressed concern about Colorado-grown marijuana coming into their states, we are not entirely surprised by this action. However, it appears the plaintiffs' primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court."


Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the U.S. Justice Department told U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice. The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. Attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General's Subcommittee on Native American Issues. The policy comes on the heels of the 2013 Justice Department decision to stop most federal marijuana prosecutions in states that have legalized the possession or sale of pot. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have all moved to legalize the drug, though the D.C. law may be scaled back by Congress. John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, said a primary purpose of the memorandum is to assure U.S. attorney offices and tribes that despite the changes in Justice Department policy announced last year, federal prosecutors still have the authority to prosecute marijuana felonies on tribal lands.




CWAG Attorney General Kamala D. Harris of California announced the arrest of four suspects accused of operating a sex trafficking ring out of Emeryville, California. The arrests are the result of a joint investigation by the California Attorney General's Office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the California Attorney General's Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement Task Force, the Emeryville Police Department, the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Attorneys' Offices for the Northern and Eastern Districts of California. "Human trafficking is one of the world's most profitable criminal enterprises, and it is having a devastating impact right here in our own backyard," said General Harris. "Each year, thousands of women and children of all ages and backgrounds are forced into labor and prostitution. I thank our local, state and federal partners for fighting this serious threat and bringing these perpetrators to justice."


Newly sworn-in CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona made his first public comments on the fight against human trafficking in Arizona with Cindy McCain. The event unveiled an anti-human trafficking campaign sponsored by Clear Channel Outdoor. These efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking come just weeks before the Super Bowl comes to Phoenix. The influx of fans serves as an opportunity for traffickers, but also for law enforcement to seek the public's help in combating this terrible crime. The United States Department of Justice considers Phoenix one of the top human trafficking areas in the country. Most victims are forced into sex trafficking before they are 15 years old. While the spotlight of the nation's largest sporting event is on Arizona, General Brnovich intends to make it clear that his office will be ramping up efforts to end this crime against humanity. "Enslaving innocent children for sexual exploitation and profit is despicable," said General Brnovich. "This type of crime against some of our most vulnerable must never be tolerated." Cindy McCain believes General Brnovich's presence at the event will highlight his commitment to thwarting human trafficking in Arizona, just three days into his term. "Mark and I have discussed this issue in depth and I know he is committed to aggressively prosecuting those who dare to traffic our children for sex, "said McCain. "I am grateful for his commitment and look forward to working with him in the coming years to stop trafficking in our state."




CWAG Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon testified before the joint Senate and House Judiciary Committee in support of legislation to better protect the data of Oregonians. She called on the Oregon legislature to update Oregon's Data Breach Law, and extend data breach enforcement and notification to the Oregon Department of Justice.  Currently, Oregon is one of only a handful of states that does not give data breach enforcement and notification power to the state Department of Justice. "As technology changes, so must the legal infrastructure which protects that technology. Oregonians want-and should-know who is collecting their personal information and data, how it is being used and protected, as well as to whom it is being sold. If asked today, most people would have little idea how to answer these questions. We need to protect and educate Oregonians-as they should, but often cannot, understand how their data is being used," testified General Rosenblum.


CWAG Associate Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida announced a settlement with Nevada-based online retailer, Inc. The settlement resolves allegations that Zappos placed consumers' personal data at risk by allegedly failing to protect financial information during a data breach that occurred in 2012. Zappos has agreed to pay $106,000 and must take certain actions intended to better protect consumers' information. Under the terms of the settlement, Zappos is required to: (1) Maintain and comply with its information security policies and procedures; (2) provide the attorney general with its current security policy; (3) provide the attorney generals copies of reports demonstrating compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard for two years; (4) have a third party conduct an audit of its security of personal information; and (5) provide relevant training to employees.


CWAG Associate Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina announced that a company that set up shops near military bases and targeted North Carolina military consumers with unfair practices now has to forgive debts and pay refunds. "Military servicemembers work hard to protect our country, but unfortunately their steady paychecks can make them targets for shady practices," General Cooper said. "We won't tolerate unscrupulous businesses that take advantage of military consumers in North Carolina." Freedom Furniture is a national retailer that sells furniture, electronics, jewelry and other products online and at 14 retail locations near military bases, including one in North Carolina near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville.  FAC services credit and collects debts on behalf of Freedom Furniture, and MCS extends credit for purchases made by military consumers at independent retailers. Under the judgment, Freedom Furniture, FAC and MCS will pay more than $2.5 million in consumer relief and $100,000 in civil penalties.  Consumer relief includes $2.2 million in debt forgiveness and $373,279.06 in refunds for consumers who had default judgments entered against them in court as a result of the debts.


Dollar Tree Stores, Inc., will permanently keep all jewelry off its shelves in Vermont and pay the State $42,500 in settlement of a lawsuit filed by the CWAG Associate Attorney General Bill Sorrell of Vermont. The suit alleged that Dollar Tree, a national discount chain based in Chesapeake, Virginia, violated a prior settlement with the State to minimize children's exposure to toxic substances by refraining from selling jewelry in Vermont. General Sorrell noted that the new settlement "reflects my continued commitment to keeping products that may contain toxic substances out of the hands of Vermont's children." The lawsuit alleged that Dollar Tree failed to comply with a 2010 settlement under the Vermont Consumer Protection Act that resolved claims that Dollar Tree had sold products containing high amounts of toxic lead and cadmium. 






CWAG is proud to announce the recent release of our latest book,  American Indian Law Deskbook.


Indian law is a dynamic, ever-evolving field of law that overlaps other areas of the law as tribes expand their economic and political reach in our society. If a lawyer needs a concise, direct and easy to understand handbook on Indian law, the American Indian Law Deskbook meets that need. As the chief legal officers of the States, the State Attorneys General offer a unique insight into Indian law. The States have been parties to many of the cases that have shaped Indian law over the years before the United States Supreme Court and the lower courts. Beginning in 1988, the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) saw the need not only to develop a treatise that reflected the current status of Indian law, but also to create a framework adaptable to new developments - decisional or statutory - on a frequent basis. The chapter authors of this book are experienced state lawyers who have been involved in Indian law for many years.



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)

[email protected]