Posts Tagged ‘Darrell McGraw’

“Worst state attorneys general”, cont’d

Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute informs me that Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal has in a sense won his recount after all: a recalculation taking into account a bit of overlooked data has now moved him up from #3 to #2 on this year’s list, though he’s still essentially tied with Oklahoma’s Drew Edmondson. In first place: California’s Jerry Brown, while perennial favorites Patrick Lynch of Rhode Island and Darrell McGraw of West Virginia fill the #4 and #5 places, and a newcomer, William Sorrell of Vermont, makes an appearance at #6.

More: Bader in the Examiner on the selection process.

Darrell McGraw and his outside counsel

Analyzing the upcoming race between the incumbent, Darrell McGraw, and his clean-government opponent, Dan Greear, the West Virginia Record has an extensive story on the West Virginia attorney general’s habit of giving lucrative no-bid contingency-fee contracts to his campaign contributors, as well as holding on to settlement money for his own personal slush fund.  I am quoted at length and described as “widely regarded as one of the country’s leading voices in tort reform.”  Also notable are quotes from another “Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who has written articles about the need for reform.”  Kim Strassel also has a good piece on the subject in Friday’s Wall Street Journal:

To Mr. Greear’s advantage, his opponent is a case study of abuse in office. Mr. McGraw, in more than 14 years as West Virginia’s attorney general, has been a pioneer in the practice of filing questionable lawsuits against big companies, secretly doling out the legal work to outside trial lawyer friends who reap millions in fees. Those lawyers then turn around and donate heavily to Mr. McGraw’s re-election.

Polls show the public, in theory, disapproves. In a Tarrance Group survey last year, 75% of West Virginians think an attorney general should publicly disclose outside contracts with lawyers. Nearly 60% think attorneys should have to competitively bid for those jobs.

It’s this that motivates Mr. Greear. “I’ve watched what’s going on and thought: ‘If I were doing this to a client, I’d lose my law license.’ I don’t think any fair-thinking person can think this is good government, or good solid legal representation for West Virginia,” he tells me.

Also helping is that Mr. McGraw’s own sense of political immortality has recently landed him, and his state, in hot water. In 2001, he appointed four private law firms to sue drug companies for alleged deceptive advertising of OxyContin. Having forced a settlement in 2004, he handed his tort allies $3.3 million of the $10 million haul. Mr. McGraw had sued on behalf of state agencies (including the state’s Medicaid program) — yet his office kept the rest of the settlement money.

The federal government, which pays a significant portion of the state’s Medicaid bills, remains furious the program received none of the settlement, and is now threatening to withhold millions in Medicaid money. Mr. Greear is hitting hard on the uproar, using it to suggest Mr. McGraw has lost sight of why he’s suing companies, other than for the headlines.

Prosecutors Gone Wild

[A] large deal of the gleeful Spitzerfreude on Wall Street arose from of the poetic justice of Spitzer’s undoing at the hands of the same extra-judicial tactics he regularly used against Wall Street firms and corporate executives when he was attorney general of New York. The real scandal of Spitzer’s career was not so much the former Girls Gone Wild model as the prosecutors gone wild.

My retrospective of Eliot Spitzer as both archetype and victim of overaggressive prosecutors in the July/August American Spectator is now on line at the AEI website.

Updates – May 31

Updating a couple of stories recently covered here on Overlawyered:

  • First rule of damage control: when you’re in a hole, stop digging. A few weeks ago, we mentioned the West Virginia Attorney General Medicaid scandal (May 19) in which AG Darrell McGraw took it upon himself to spend state funds that he had recovered from Purdue Pharma after suing them for selling Oxycontin. This upset both the federal government, which argues that it has a legal right to some of these funds, and the state legislature, which felt that it should decide how to appropriate state funds. McGraw appears unapologetic and unworried about the federal investigation, but his office did promise the legislature that he would stop spending money. Now LegalNewsline reports that he’s going back on that promise:

    Despite promises and a federal investigation, West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw on Wednesday handed out even more of the settlement funds gained in a 2004 agreement with Purdue Pharma.

    McGraw gave $75,000 to the Kanawha Valley Fellowship Home, which will use the money for its drug treatment and education program. He says the program will affect 20 counties.

    The real problem here is not that the state legislature is annoyed — that’s local politics. The real problem is that if the federal government decides that it is entitled to a share of this money, the state is going to have to come up with millions of dollars to give to the federal government — money that McGraw already spent.

  • Three weeks ago, we noted that a prominent anonymous medical blogger, “Flea,” was liveblogging his malpractice trial, and we discussed the ramifications for Flea’s case. A few hours after we posted about this, Flea stopped — presumably after his attorney had a fit. But apparently that was at least a few hours, or a few weeks, too late; Flea had left enough clues to enable the plaintiff’s lawyer to figure out that Flea is Robert Lindeman, and she questioned him about it on the stand:

    With the jury looking on in puzzlement, Lindeman admitted that he was, in fact, Flea.

    The next morning, on May 15, he agreed to pay what members of Boston’s tight-knit legal community describe as a substantial settlement — case closed.

    The Globe also quotes a trial lawyer as claiming that the plaintiff’s attorney “had telegraphed that she was ready to share Lindeman’s blog — containing his unvarnished views of lawyers, jurors, and the legal process — with the jury,” although it’s not clear to me how his views of lawyers, jurors, and the legal process would be relevant to a medical-malpractice case.

    Incidentally, Flea’s blog is apparently now totally kaput.

West Virginia Attorney General Involved in Medicaid Fraud?

One of the tricks states have used in recent years to raise money without raising taxes is to sue companies for the products they manufacture, on the legal theory that the use of those products lead to increased state health care spending. (The most prominent example, obviously, is the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.) Not surprisingly, it often turns out that this legal theory is more of a pretext by state attorney generals to get their names in the paper than it is to actually remedy the alleged harms caused by the companies.

In 2004, West Virginia settled with Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, over the increased Medicaid costs allegedly caused by addiction to the drug. The settlement was worth $10 million. Logically, then, that $10 million should have gone to the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources to defray Medicaid costs. But there was a problem. Two problems, actually. The first was that giving the money to the DHHR wouldn’t allow Darrell McGraw, the state Attorney General, to dole out money as he saw fit. The second was that the state shares its Medicaid expenses with the federal government, so giving money to the DHHR would enable the federal government to recover part of the settlement.

The first issue has caused political controversy in West Virginia, because McGraw has given out the settlement proceeds to pretty much everybody except the underfunded DHHR, including private law firms that he hired to work on the case. But even the money that the state actually kept was handed out by McGraw based on his personal whims ($500,000 to establish a state pharmacy school (!) at the University of Charleston) rather than by the state legislature, which is constitutionally tasked with making spending decisions about state money.

But the second issue may be causing legal controversy. Legalnewsline reports that the federal government is now investigating the state’s handling of the funds, trying to find out why it hasn’t been credited for its share of the Medicaid funds. But it’s not as if it’s a secret; the deputy attorney general recently testified as to their thinking:

“We have arranged a methodology that has prevented the federal government from coming back and seizing money,” Hughes said.

Or maybe not. If you’re going to try to cheat the federal government, you should probably be a little more subtle about it. No formal charges have been filed, to be sure, and the federal government may simply resolve the problem by withholding future federal payments to the state. But that certainly won’t fix the problem caused by McGraw’s behavior; it will leave a large hole in the state’s budget which could make them worse off than if he hadn’t sued Purdue in the first place.

W.Va.: McGraw holds off challenge

Incumbent West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Warren McGraw (see Sept. 4) withstood a stiff challenge in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The race was one of the more expensive in state history, with plaintiff’s lawyers and labor unions backing McGraw and business groups heavily supporting challenger Jim Rowe, who won the endorsement of both Charleston papers. McGraw must still face Republican Brent Benjamin in November. (Toby Coleman, “McGraw defeats challenger”, Charleston Daily Mail, May 12; Scott Wartman, “Some say Justice race most important”, Huntington Herald-Dispatch, May 5).

W. Va.’s judge-advocate?

High on the list of upcoming showdowns between the Chamber of Commerce and organized trial lawyerdom is the race for control of the West Virginia Supreme Court, which is considered to tip pro-plaintiff at present by a slender margin. Incumbent Justice Warren McGraw drew particular ire from the state’s business community when he “authored a 1999 decision that allows people who claim exposure to toxic chemicals to win huge sums of money for a lifetime of medical testing — without ever having to prove that they are sick.” “In a fund-raising letter sent out this spring, Wheeling lawyer Bob Fitzsimmons wrote, ‘Justice Warren McGraw has consistently advocated for the injured persons of our state.'” (Toby Coleman, “McGraw ahead in race, poll says”, Charleston Daily Mail, Aug. 28)(via Brian Peterson, who also (Aug. 28) wonders about that “advocated”). Update May 13: McGraw holds off challenge.