CWAG Roundup

September 2, 2015

Greetings! 

 
REGISTRATION OPEN FOR CWAG WINTER DINNER
 
CWAG announces the opening of registration for "Dinner with the Attorneys General," set for Tuesday, December 1, 2015, at The Mills House in Charleston, South Carolina.  We invite your participation in this Endowment Dinner benefiting the programs and goals of CWAG.  Attached please find the registration information. This engaging dinner includes participation by approximately 25-30 Attorneys General and their top staff from across the country. We hope your schedule will allow you to attend this year's event and participate in this premier opportunity for exchanging views and forging relationships. Please contact CWAG Meeting Manager, Janine Knudsen, at 916.704.1057 or Janine.Knudsen@CWAGWeb.Org with any questions or to confirm your participation.
 
CWAG MEMBERS ASSIST NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS AFTER STORM
 
After the Island of Saipan suffered 160 mph sustained winds, which made the typhoon a Category 4 Super Typhoon, the Island had no power, water or telecommunications. The airport was closed for 2 days. Guam and FEMA sent power crews but it will take months to recover. When Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich heard that Guam Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson's Office had started a collection to aid the people in the Saipan AG's Office, he started a fundraiser in support of Guam's efforts. The Arizona Attorney General's staff contributed $2,300 for the relief effort.  
 
NEW CALIFORNIA LAW ENFORCEMENT INITIATIVE ANNOUNCED
 
CWAG Attorney General Kamala Harris of California announced that the Department of Justice is unveiling a state-run website to provide data on law enforcement's interactions with the public. The database is the culmination of months of work aimed at improving transparency and government accountability after law-enforcement interactions with the public sparked a national dialogue on police practices over the past year. The initial "OpenJustice" dashboard (http://openjustice.doj.ca.gov) includes three data sets: law enforcement officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty; deaths in custody, including arrest-related deaths; and arrests and bookings. State officials say the dashboard will likely be expanded to include additional data sets.
 
HUMAN TRAFFICKING
 
Human trafficking isn't often associated with Norway and Iceland. Government leaders from 23 countries in Europe, Africa and South America met in Utah with CWAG Attorney General Sean Reyes of to discuss human trafficking. The Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy brought the visitors to the state through the federal professional exchange program. "It's just critical to work together on an international level to stamp out this evil," General Reyes said. "There's no way that a single country or a single state alone can address it given the demand." General Reyes made human trafficking one of his top priorities. Last fall, he traveled to Columbia with Utah-based Operation Underground Railroad to help rescue child sex slaves. Operation Underground Railroad merged with the Elizabeth Smart Foundation earlier this year to better help trafficking victims.
 
FIGHTING PUBLIC CORRUPTION
 
CWAG Attorney General Hector Balderas of New Mexico charged New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran with a slew of criminal charges related to her alleged use of campaign contributions to pay for personal expenses, including gambling debt. General Balderas alleged 64 total violations in the criminal complaint and investigation, all dating back to 2013 and 2014. Although the amounts withdrawn at casinos run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the counts against her revolve around 19 transactions totaling about $13,000. Specifically, the Attorney General's Office alleged that Duran illegally shifted money between her campaign and personal bank accounts and withdrew sums from eight casinos.
 
ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
 
A federal judge in North Dakota granted a request by Colorado, North Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming, the New Mexico Environment Department and the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer for a preliminary injunction against a rule issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The rule attempts to redefine "Waters of the United States" (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act.  The multistate coalition challenged the rule for illegally removing water and land resources from state control and placing them under the control of the federal government.  "Colorado has primary responsibility to protect and manage its own water resources, and it takes that responsibility seriously," said CWAG Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman.  "The EPA cannot simply ignore state sovereignty as it continues to reach further into state affairs."  "I am very pleased by today's ruling, which protects the state and its citizens from the serious harm presented by this unprecedented federal usurpation of the state's authority," said CWAG Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem of North Dakota. "This is a victory in the first skirmish, but it is only the first. There is much more to do to prevent this widely unpopular rule from ever taking effect. Still, I remain confident that the rule will be declared unlawful once all the issues have been presented."
 
CRIME IN INDIAN COUNTRY
 
Several U.S. attorneys and high ranking USDOJ staff attended the 23rd annual Four Corners Indian Country Conference to discuss public safety in Indian country. Moderated by Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh, the panel discussion included U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates, Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery and Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter. With the intent of walking away with a list of priorities, officials listened to conference attendees as they spoke of scant funding, an insufficient number of full-time prosecutors and lack of pre-emptive measures to decrease violence, drug abuse, sexual assault and other crimes plaguing native communities. Deputy Attorney General Yates, who has spent 27 years working in the Justice Department, admitted she had little knowledge of problems in native communities until she recently visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. "For the first time, I saw the unique issues you are dealing with," Yates said. "It's a little strange for me to be on the answer side of this. I've been deputy attorney general for a few months. One of the first things I wanted to do was get more plugged in."
 
STUDENT LOANS
 
A decision by the U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware to approve Corinthian Colleges' liquidation plan ultimately could mean hundreds of thousands of students won't have to repay their loans, according to their lawyers. For now, former students of the now-defunct college chain are still obligated to pay the federal government millions - perhaps billions - of dollars in student loans. U.S. Department of Education officials said it's premature to speculate on how the legal actions might impact loan-relief requests but the bankruptcy approval certainly could mean the loans are never repaid. The bankruptcy court agreed to allow the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and attorneys general from California, Massachusetts and Wisconsin to pursue their legal cases against Corinthian.
 
CONSUMER PROTECTION
 
CWAG Attorney General Mark Brnovich of Arizona announced the settlement of a consumer fraud lawsuit against Go Green Today, LLC ("Go Green"), an Arizona-based solar company that allegedly made thousands of unwanted telephone calls to consumers on the FTC's National Do Not Call Registry (DNC). In addition to making unsolicited telemarketing calls, Go Green also violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act in the marketing and sale of solar products. Under the consent judgment, up to $55,000 in restitution will be paid to victims. "We are aggressively going after companies that make illegal telemarketing and robocalls to scam consumers," said General Brnovich, "Our office intends to pursue a legislative fix this session that will close many of the statutory loopholes that allow telemarketing companies to flourish in our state."
 
CWAG Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington announced resolution of a consumer protection enforcement action against the company Internet Order and its CEO Daniel Roitman for unfair and deceptive practices. The Philadelphia-based online company was accused of using deceptive "negative option" marketing tactics to lure consumers into purchasing language instruction courses in violation of the federal Restore Online Shoppers' Confidence Act and the state's Consumer Protection Act. "Consumers have a right to know exactly what they're purchasing and how much it will cost them," said General Ferguson. "If businesses deceive consumers and use unfair business tactics to make a profit off of Washington residents, I will hold them accountable."
 
CWAG Associate Attorney General Roy Cooper of North Carolina announced that an online fast cash lender that charged North Carolinians oppressive interest rates is now barred by court order from making or collecting on loans in North Carolina. "Consumers in need of quick cash got stuck with loans they could not pay off," General Cooper said. "These kinds of loans are illegal in North Carolina because they bury struggling borrowers even deeper in debt and that's why we're fighting to keep them out of our state." North Carolina filed suit against Western Sky Financial, CashCall, and related companies for violating North Carolina laws that ban excessive interest rates on small consumer loans. As alleged in the complaint, financially strapped North Carolina consumers who took out personal loans of $850 to $10,000 from the defendants faced annual interest rates from 89.68 percent to 342.86 percent, far in excess of what is allowed under state law. Western Sky, based in South Dakota, tried to argue that it is exempt from state laws that ban its loans in North Carolina because it claims to be an Indian tribal entity. The court found that Western Sky is not protected by the fact that it is owned by a Native American.

Chris Coppin

Legal Director

Conference of Western Attorneys General

111 Lomas, NW   Suite 300

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102

505-222-9175

505-660-5901 (cell)

505-222-9183 (fax)

CCoppin@cwagweb.org


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