Posts

Slatery a ‘Wonderful Choice’ to Replace Cooper: Bredesen

Former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, said he’d have preferred that the five members of Tennessee’s Supreme Court, composed of two Republicans and three Democrats, award Robert E. Cooper with another eight-year term as attorney general.

But Bredesen said the court wasn’t in a position to allow Cooper to continue serving as the state’s most influential government attorney. “I had hoped that he would be able to stay. As a practical matter, that was almost impossible with the changes that have taken place in the governor’s office and so forth,” Bredesen said following an event in Knoxville to promote Amendment 2.

“I am sorry Bob didn’t stay. But if he were not going to stay, this is a wonderful choice to replace him,” Bredesen said of the court’s selection of Herb Slatery, Gov. Bill Haslam’s chief legal advisor since 2011.

Cooper served as the Bredesen administration’s legal counsel from 2003-2006 and was campaign treasurer on Bredesen’s first gubernatorial run in 2002.

Bredesen’s comments indicated he isn’t inclined, at least publicly, to share in criticisms expressed by other prominent Tennessee Democrats, like House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh and state Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron, alleging that the Supreme Court succumbed to partisan political pressure in selecting Slatery.

Fitzhugh issued a statement Monday charging that the court had “capitulated” to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and “the very special interest groups” that unsuccessfully campaigned this summer to replace the three Democratic justices initially appointed by Bredesen.

Herron’s statement said, “It appears to many that General Cooper’s party affiliation was used against him.”

Slatery won appointment over a field of seven other applicants, among them Cooper, Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts Director Bill Young, Republican state Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville, former solicitor general Mark Fulks, Eugene N. Bulso, Jr, a Nashville business lawyer, Andrew Tillman, a former chancery court judge from the Upper Cumberland region, and Nashville attorney William Helou.

Ramsey issued a statement Monday hailing the court’s decision to appoint a Republican attorney general, who he predicted “will be a strong advocate for the people of Tennessee and a vigilant defender of Tennessee’s conservative reforms.”

The lieutenant governor had in fact indicated in comments to the media last week that “Bill Young may be handicapped somewhat because he at least has the impression that he’s Ron Ramsey’s candidate.” On Monday, Ramsey revealed he had met earlier with Chief Justice Sharon Lee and Justice Gary Wade “to bury the hatchet” with respect to the retention campaign fight, and also to lobby for “a more conservative AG.”

Cooper is in the processes of transitioning out of the attorney general’s office, a space he’s occupied since 2006.

Following a swearing-in ceremony for Chief Justice Lee in Knoxville Wednesday, Slatery told TNReport he’s in the process of preparing to move into his new role as attorney general. But he said a date hasn’t yet formally been set for when he will officially take over. “We’re are trying to figure that out right now. There is a transition and we want to be sure we leave my office (as the governor’s lawyer) in real good shape,” he said, adding that Cooper “continues to hold the office until the successor comes on.”

Regarding the allegations by Herron and Fitzhugh that the Supreme Court felt pressured to pick a Republican, Slatery said, “I am not going to be partisan, and they know that,” he said.

With respect to the court’s decision-making, Slatery said, “I don’t think it was a real political process.”

Witnesses Announced for Mid-Sept Criminal Justice Reform Hearing

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; August 26, 2014:

(NASHVILLE, TN) August 26, 2014 – Senator Brian Kelsey today released the names of the witnesses scheduled to testify regarding proposed criminal justice reforms in Tennessee. The hearing will occur before the Senate Judiciary Committee September 15 – 16.

“These experts will help us learn from other states how to best protect the public while saving taxpayer dollars. Our committee is privileged to partner with such talented witnesses in the effort to improve the criminal justice system in Tennessee,” explained Senator Kelsey.

The witnesses will provide testimony on the following three subjects: 1) Criminal Justice Reform: How we got where we are in Tennessee, 2) Criminal Justice Reform: What other states have done, and 3) Criminal Justice Reform: Suggested changes for Tennessee.

The scheduled witnesses for the hearings are as follows:

  • Sheriff Robert Arnold, Rutherford County
  • Beth Ashe, Executive Director, Tennessee Corrections Institute
  • Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper
  • District Attorney General D. Michael Dunavant, 25th Judicial District, Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy, and Tipton Counties
  • Paige Edwards, Tennessee Public Defender’s Conference
  • Rebecca Silber and Nancy Fishman, VERA Institute of Justice
  • Tommy Francis, Tennessee State Employees Association
  • Mayor Terry Frank, Anderson County, Tennessee
  • Commissioner Bill Gibbons, Tennessee Department of Safety
  • Mark Gwyn, Director, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Marc Levin, Director, Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation
  • Mayor Mark Luttrell, Shelby County, Tennessee
  • John G. Malcolm, Director, Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies
  • Richard Montgomery, Chairman, Tennessee Board of Parole
  • Justin Owen, President/CEO, Beacon Center of Tennessee
  • Chief David Rausch, Knoxville Police Department
  • David Raybin, Esq., criminal defense attorney
  • Justyna Scalpone, Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender
  • Commissioner Derrick D. Schofield, Tennessee Department of Correction
  • Chris Slobogin, Professor, Vanderbilt College of Law; member, Tennessee Consultation on Criminal Justice
  • District Attorney General Barry Staubus, 2nd Judicial District, Sullivan County, Tennessee
  • Thomas E. Tique, Chief Deputy Attorney, Tennessee General Assembly Office of Legal Services
  • Commissioner E. Douglas Varney, Tennessee Department of Mental Health
  • Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director, ACLU of Tennessee
  • Charlie White, Director, Tennessee Association of Professional Bail Agents
  • Judge John Everett Williams, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TN Forum Criticizes AG for Silence on Federal Release of Immigrant Children

Press release from The Tennessee Forum; July 29, 2014:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Forum today chastised Tennessee’s Supreme Court-appointed Attorney General Bob Cooper for failing to take any action against the federal government for releasing 760 illegal immigrants into the state of Tennessee.

“Barack Obama has once again imposed what amounts to an unfunded mandate on the state of Tennessee and once again Bob Cooper has failed to act,” said Susan Kaestner, president of the Tennessee Forum. “This is just the most recent example of what happens when you have a liberal Supreme Court appointing a liberal attorney general.”

“An attorney general is supposed to look out for the legal interests of the people of Tennessee. When the federal government falls short or oversteps, we need to have an attorney general we can count on to stand up for our interests,” Kaestner explained.

“Connie Clark and Gary Wade did not call Cooper to the carpet for his refusal to stand up against Obamacare. Instead they defended his actions. Now he has gone and done it again,” Kaestner stated. “How much abuse must our state take from the Obama administration before our Supreme Court and its attorney general deem it appropriate to fight back?”

“It is time to vote replace and send this liberal Supreme Court home. Maybe then we can get an attorney general who actually stands up for the state and looks out for the interests of Tennesseans,” Kaestner concluded.

Bill Haslam wrote in a letter to President Obama last week that he had learned of the White House’s dumping of 760 illegal immigrants in Tennessee only after seeing a notification on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. He had previously asked the Obama administration to give him advance notice of any illegals who were on their way to his state.

As of this writing, the Attorney General Cooper has made no public statements on the matter and taken no legal action.

Attorney General Cooper previously failed to stand up for Tennessee by refusing to join any of the various multi-state suits against Obamacare. Supreme Court Judges Connie Clark and Gary Wade defended his refusal. Wade said it was the “right decision for taxpayers.” Clark argued that the refusal was justified because Obamacare was a “federal issue.”

Bell: Tennesseans Want AG to Join Legal Fight Against Obamacare

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; July 23, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennesseans should be vigorously represented in the nation’s highest court as two new federal appeals court decisions delivered yesterday point to a final legal battle on Obamacare says Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville). Bell said State Attorney General Bob Cooper chose not to join other states in challenging the illegal action of the IRS and the Obama administration to put into place a federally-run insurance exchange program in Tennessee. The federal exchange program also triggers unauthorized taxes against individuals and employers in Tennessee.

“This was a huge decision,” said Bell. “The federal appeals court ruled in Halbig v. Burwell that the IRS and Obama administration are imposing taxes and spending funds through federal exchanges in the 36 states which rejected state exchanges, without statutory authority. Tennesseans want their voices heard in fighting against federal overreach of power. We, again, urge General Cooper to join in the efforts to defend the rights of Tennesseans as this case appears to be headed for a final decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Unlike other states, Tennessee’s attorney general is selected by the State Supreme Court. Three court justices who face election this August and have received increased criticism for liberal actions involving cases in the state’s highest court, voted to appoint Cooper to the Attorney General position.

“This inaction by our state’s highest legal officer to represent the overwhelming desire of Tennesseans just underscores our skepticism about the court and their decisions,” added Bell. “The legislature and the governor have chosen not to establish state exchanges and to reject Obamacare. We need our views represented at this critical juncture as this and other cases challenging the federal overreach of power move to a final decision in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Several other similar cases are progressing elsewhere in the judicial system, including one in which the court ruled in favor of the federal government’s actions on Tuesday afternoon.

“We continue to see one decision after another by the Obama administration that ignores the law,” added Bell. “It’s time that Tennessee steps up and defends our citizens’ rights.”

TN Forum: ‘Predictable’ that TN is First State Sued Over Obamacare

Press release from The Tennessee Forum; July 23, 2014:

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Forum today reacted to the news that Tennessee is now the first state in the union to be sued over Obamacare calling it “predictable.”

“When 28 states around the country were banding together to resist the federal intrusion of Obamacare, Attorney General Bob Cooper was missing in action,” said Susan Kaestner. “Today, it looks like the Obamacare fight has come to him. This was the predictable result of a liberal Supreme Court choosing a liberal attorney general.”

Just last week, Chief Judge Gary Wade defended the attorney general’s refusal to fight Obamacare asserting that it was “the right decision for the taxpayer.” Connie Clark agreed saying it was the right decision because Obamacare is “a federal issue.”

“Obamacare certainly doesn’t look like a ‘federal issue’ today. And the taxpayer will continue to get a raw deal across the board,” Kaestner continued. “The Supreme Court’s decision to pick a partisan Democrat as attorney general looks worse and worse everyday. These judges are responsible and the voters need to hold them accountable by voting to replace Connie Clark, Sharon Lee and Gary Wade.”

Kelsey Again Urges TN AG to Join in Lawsuit Against Obamacare

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; July 22, 2014:

(NASHVILLE, TN) July 22, 2014 – In light of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision today in the case of Halbig v. Burwell, Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) renewed his call to Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper to join in the lawsuit against ObamaCare. The decision prohibited the IRS from penalizing certain employers in states like Tennessee that did not set up a state-run health exchange. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals today created a split among the circuits by issuing an opposite decision.

“Since January of this year, I have been urging our attorney general to challenge the poorly drafted Obamacare law. Attorneys General in other states are successfully fighting back against federal government overreach while ours is remaining silent.”

Senator Kelsey represents Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown. He is Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

TN AG Announces Settlement Proposal from Apple in E-books Price-fixing Case

Press release from Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper; July 16, 2014:

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper today announced a proposed settlement of claims for monetary relief against Apple Inc. related to its participation in a price-fixing conspiracy in the market for E-books. The settlement agreement, which remains subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, would resolve claims for consumer damages brought by Tennessee and 32 other states and territories.

Pursuant to the terms of the settlement, the amount to be received by consumers is contingent upon the resolution of Apple’s appeal of the District Court’s July 2013 finding that Apple violated the antitrust laws by orchestrating a conspiracy with five publishers to artificially raise prices for E-books between 2010 and 2012. That appeal is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Consumers nationwide (including those represented by private counsel in a related class action) will receive $400 million if the court’s ruling is ultimately affirmed. If the appellate courts do not affirm the court’s ruling, the settlement provides for a smaller recovery, or no recovery if Apple is ultimately determined not to have violated the antitrust laws.

Attorney General Cooper said he is pleased with this settlement, which, combined with previous publisher settlements, will provide consumers with over twice their actual damages, assuming the liability finding is upheld on appeal. Tennessee consumers comprise approximately 1.7 % percent of E-book purchasers in the country.

E-book purchasers nationwide have already received compensation from $166 million in settlement funds paid by the five publishers involved in the conspiracy – Penguin Group (USA), Inc. (now part of Penguin Random House); Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC d/b/a Macmillan; Hachette Book Group Inc.; HarperCollins Publishers LLC; and Simon & Schuster Inc.

Gresham Requests AG Opinion on TN Teacher Employment Laws

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; June 30, 2014:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) said today she has requested an attorney general’s opinion on whether Tennessee’s teacher employment laws are constitutional. The request comes after a California Superior Court struck down various teacher tenure and seniority statutes under that state’s constitution and the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause in the Vergara v. California case. Teacher unions plan to appeal the ruling.

“This is a very important decision regarding teacher employment laws, which will reverberate to states across the nation, said Senator Gresham. “Tennessee, like California, has its own constitutional provision regarding student’s education rights in addition to the Equal Protection Clause afforded by the U.S. Constitution. We certainly need to make sure that we are on sound constitutional footing, and especially whether the reforms passed over the last several years will satisfy the constitutional tests as decided in this ruling.”

The California case was filed by nine public school students who charged that state laws forced districts to give tenure to teachers, regardless of whether they can do the job. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu found the California law was unconstitutional, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. That decision declared that state laws which established that separate schools for white and black children were unconstitutional. “In these days,” the court said, “it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

Gresham asked Attorney General Robert Cooper whether the current statutes or state law in effect prior to July 1, 2011 governing permanent employment violate students’ rights to a free education under the equal protection provisions of the Tennessee or U.S. Constitution. The General Assembly passed teacher tenure reform legislation in 2011 which changes a teacher’s probationary period before becoming eligible for tenure from three to five years as well as linking tenure status to performance evaluations. Gresham also asked the Attorney General if Tennessee law or the statutes in effect prior to July 1, 2014, governing layoffs or the dismissal and suspension of teachers violate student’s rights to a free education under the federal and state constitutions.

TN, 44 Other States Reach $105M Advair Settlement

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper; June 4, 2014:

Attorney General Bob Cooper today announced a settlement that signals a major change in the way pharmaceutical sales teams are motivated and paid for the ultimate benefit of consumers. The 45 Attorneys General led by a bipartisan leadership committee have reached a $105 million settlement with GlaxoSmithKline, LLC to resolve allegations that GlaxoSmithKline unlawfully promoted its asthma drug, Advair, and antidepressant drugs, Paxil and Wellbutrin. Tennessee will receive $3 million for the Attorney General’s work on the leadership committee of this multistate consumer protection investigation.

The complaint and agreed final judgment filed today in Davidson County Circuit Court alleges that GlaxoSmithKline violated state consumer protection laws by misrepresenting the uses and qualities of these drugs. In particular, the complaint alleges that GSK used false and misleading representations to promote Advair as a first line treatment for all asthma patients, including mild asthma patients who only occasionally needed a rescue inhaler. Furthermore, GSK allegedly provided financial incentives to GSK sales representatives to deceptively promote Advair for mild asthma patients.

“We appreciate the cooperative work of all the states participating in this consumer protection investigation,” Attorney General Cooper said. “My office remains vigilant in its efforts to stop deceptive marketing practices by some drug companies which may lead to unnecessary, expensive drugs and risk the health of Tennesseans.”

The agreed final judgment also requires GlaxoSmithKline to reform its marketing and promotional practices. Specifically, GSK shall not:

• Make, or cause to be made, any written or oral claim that is false, misleading, or deceptive about any GSK product;
• Make promotional claims, not approved or permitted by the FDA that a GSK product is better, more effective, safer, or has less serious side effects or contraindications than has been demonstrated by substantial evidence or substantial clinical experience;
• Present favorable information or conclusions from a study that is inadequate in design, scope or conduct to furnish significant support for such information or conclusions, when presenting information about a clinical study regarding GSK products in any promotional materials;
• Provide samples of GSK products to those health care professionals who are not expected to prescribe the sampled GSK products for an approved use, but who would be expected to prescribe the sampled products for an off-label use; or
• Disseminate information describing any off-label use of a GSK product, unless such information and materials are consistent with applicable FDA regulations and FDA Guidances for Industry.

The agreed final judgment also requires GSK to continue its Patient First Program at least through March 2019. The Patient First Program reduces financial incentives for sales representatives to engage in deceptive marketing. In addition, the judgment requires scientifically-trained personnel to be ultimately responsible for developing and approving responses to health care provider questions and for these responses to be unbiased and non-promotional.

The State’s Complaint and Agreed Final Judgment may be viewed by going online to www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral and clicking on “Filings of Interest.”

TN Reaches Agreement in Challenge to US Airways-American Airlines Merger

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper; November 12, 2013:

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper announced an agreement today in the State’s challenge to the proposed merger of US Airways and American Airlines. The settlement will require the New American Airlines to continue to serve each of Tennessee’s five major airports in Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga and the Tri-Cities for five years.

Since 2008, several other major airlines have merged including Delta and Northwest, United and Continental and Southwest and Airtran. Each of those mergers has resulted in reductions in seat capacity and in some cases a dramatic reduction of service such as in Memphis following the Delta and Northwest merger. This resulted fewer flying options and higher prices for Tennesseans.

“Today’s agreement should provide Tennesseans more opportunities to buy low-cost airline options,” Attorney General Cooper said. “It also opens the door to increased competition to smaller carriers, benefitting consumers and businesses.”

As part of the agreement, US Airways and American commit to continue to offer service in Tennessee. At issue for Tennesseans was divestiture of airline slots at Reagan National Airport and LaGuardia International Airport. The divestiture of 104 Reagan slots and 34 LaGuardia slots will allow lower-cost carriers such as Jet Blue and Southwest to bid for the slots. Without divestiture, the New American Airlines would have controlled 69 percent of the slots at Reagan.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the States also signed off on a related proposed final judgment that will remain in place for 10 years. That judgment requires the divestiture of flight slots at Reagan National in Washington, DC, LaGuardia in New York City and of gates at Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Love Field and Los Angeles International. The divestitures of flight slots will enable new carriers to enter the Washington and New York markets. Divestitures of gates should enable new carriers to enter the other affected markets.

The States and DOJ filed the action on August 13 this year and a trial was scheduled to begin on November 25. Tennessee was joined by the States of Arizona, the District of Columbia, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.