BuzzFeed: We Took On Big Tobacco. It's Time To Take On Big Opioid.

We need to start discussing the contours of an opioid settlement today, and to demand that public health principles be front and center. Without that discussion, and the priorities that emerge from it, we are destined to repeat past mistakes that must not be repeated.
— James Tierney

James E. Tierney, "It's Time To Take On Big Opioid Like We Did With Big Tobacco," BuzzFeed News, January 10, 2018.

Related Reading

For California attorney general, suing Trump again and again is a team sport

Former Maine Attorney General James Tierney, for one, says Becerra has demonstrated national leadership “even in cases where his name is not in the headlines.’ The skills that he developed in the House, building consensus and holding a caucus together, seem to have served Becerra in building ties with attorneys general in other states, said Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School who teaches a class on the role of attorneys general. ‘He knew from his congressional experience that everybody counts.’

Ben Christopher, “For California attorney general, suing Trump again and again is a team sport,Los Angeles Daily News, November 30, 2017.

Legislator Targets Tech Perks in Baltimore County District

‘Anything that involves trips to fancy hotels should be looked at pretty closely by school boards,’ said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is a lecturer at Harvard Law School, ‘and they should decide whether the ultimate users — kids — are getting the right products.’

Natasha Singer And Danielle Ivory, "Legislator Targets Tech Perks in Baltimore County District," New York Times, Nov. 9, 2017.

Several Probes Target Insulin Drug Pricing

James Tierney, former attorney general of Maine and a lecturer at Harvard Law School, said the civil investigative demands are not uncommon and the companies ‘may be totally innocent.’

It’s difficult to know exactly what the state and federal prosecutors are looking for, though, Tierney said. The investigations are often sealed from the public, revealed primarily when public companies acknowledge receiving them in their financial filings.

Sarah Jane Tribble, Kaiser Health News, "Several Probes Target Insulin Drug Pricing," NBC News, Oct. 28 2017.

State Attorneys General Lead the Charge Against President Donald Trump

“My long-term concern is that the AGs become seen as one more lawyer, one more politician on the make, and that undercuts the credibility of the office itself,’ says Tierney, the lecturer at Harvard Law who served as Maine’s AG from 1980 to 1990.



What’s more, while AGs are the most prominent members of their offices, the vast majority of employees who work there are civil servants, not political appointees.

’They come in every day, they do a hard job, they don’t care who the president of the United States is. For 90 percent of them, there’s probably no change,’ Tierney says.

Silicon Valley Courts Brand-Name Teachers, Raising Ethics Issues

‘Any time you are paying a public employee to promote a product in the public classroom without transparency, then that’s problematic,’ said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who is a lecturer at Harvard Law School. ‘Should attorneys general be concerned about this practice? The answer is yes.’

67 Former State Attorneys General Have a Message: Condemn Hate Bluntly

‘We’re politicians; we do what we have to do to get elected, but, you know, we draw the line. And Bill drew the line,’ Mr. Tierney said. ‘We wanted to give his courageous act voice at a time when the country needs to hear that there are courageous voices.’

What Happens When the Attorney General Refuses to Defend a Law?

When he was Maine’s attorney general back in the 1990s, Tierney refused to defend a state law he felt was without merit. The state Supreme Court upheld his authority to exercise judgment about which state laws to defend and which ones to leave alone. It may seem problematic to have AGs decide on their own which state laws can stand up to scrutiny, but ultimately someone has to make the call. The American system of governance is all about splitting power. When it comes to legal matters, the attorney general is most often going to be the one who has the final word.

Opioids As The New Big Tobacco

‘[I]f you’re going to get money, don’t make the mistake in tobacco and let it be used by whatever the legislature wants. They’ll use it to pave roads.’

James Tierney interviewed on recent lawsuits by state attorneys general against opioid manufacturers that are reminiscent of lawsuits brought by states in the 1990s against the tobacco industry.

Ailsa Chang, "Opioids As The New Big Tobacco," Morning Edition: Planet Money, NPR, June 30, 2017.

Ohio Opioid Suit Echoes Tobacco Cases

‘Opioids aren’t tobacco,’ said James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general who was a consultant to the states suing the tobacco industry and helped coordinate their legal and press strategy[...]Opioids, when used medically to relieve pain, can have significant health benefits. ‘Opioids aren’t an inherently evil product,’ said Mr. Tierney. ‘Tobacco companies could never come in and say tobacco products are good for you. There are legitimate purposes for opioids.’

Governors, Attorneys General Clash Amid Political Tensions

The offices of state attorneys general are supposed to serve as a check on power, which has historically triggered fights and lawsuits with governors—including some battles within party lines. ‘The friction is there on purpose, it’s there in the Constitution,’ said James Tierney, a lecturer at Harvard Law School.

Dem AGs join front lines of Trump opposition

James Tierney, who fought the Reagan administration on acid rain prevention as Maine’s Democratic attorney general, said the legal fights have grown more partisan over the years.

‘It used to be we did this all on a bipartisan basis,’ he said.

‘I was a Democrat, but the Vermont AG [John Easton] was a Republican, and we frankly didn’t notice much whether somebody was a Democrat or Republican, we just went in and did it.’

The Hour of the Attorneys General

‘It’s actually much less complicated than reporters think it is,’ Tierney says. ‘If someone does not enforce the law, then someone has to do something about it. We haven’t even begun to see what cases will be dropped, what unfair settlements will be struck—but people are watching very closely. And if [Trump] operates in a way that impacts the sovereignty or the proprietary interests of the citizens of the state, AGs will sue.’

Hawaii Sues to Block Trump Travel Ban; First Challenge to Order

James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine who works extensively with current state attorneys general, said most Democrats were approaching Mr. Trump’s new order cautiously.

Mr. Tierney, a Democrat, said state lawyers were “researching the constitutionality” of the order before settling on a public course of action.

“They believe strongly that just because they don’t like something, doesn’t mean it is unconstitutional,” Mr. Tierney said.
  • Alexander Burns, “Hawaii Sues to Block Trump Travel Ban; First Challenge to Order,” The New York Times, March 8, 2017.

Democratic attorneys general lead the charge against Trump

‘The AGs consider themselves a thin blue line against federal overreach, there’s no question about it,’ said James Tierney, the former attorney general of Maine who runs a blog about state attorneys general.

There are 23 Democratic state attorneys general, including the District of Columbia, and 27 Republicans. Alaska’s attorney general is an independent.

About 10 Democratic AGs, grouped on the East and West coasts, are known to take a more activist role in suing the federal government, Tierney said. Some others would be more active but Republican Legislatures have curtailed their power and resources.

Tierney advises many of the Democrats coordinating their efforts against Trump. The group is braced to file more suits in coming months.

‘It’s actually an essential part of federalism in that attorneys general will hold the president’s feet to the fire,’ Tierney said.

AGs Ready to Take On Trump

Trump doesn’t come to office with a clean slate when it comes to relations with attorneys general. [New York Attorney General Eric] Schneiderman helped negotiate a $25 million settlement immediately after the election regarding allegations of fraud involving Trump University….

‘Donald Trump, citizen, not Donald Trump, president, enters the world of AGs on a watch list,’ says James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general who now teaches at Harvard University. ‘He ran a routine, garden-variety fraud — Trump University — and he was caught. Every attorney general I’ve talked to has had complainants in his state. Everybody opened files. When somebody’s a fraudster, they get on everybody’s agenda. It changes the way you look at him or her.’

To Combat Trump, Democrats Ready a G.O.P. Tactic: Lawsuits

People are coming up to me and saying, ‘What’s going to happen?’ said James E. Tierney, a former attorney general of Maine, who ran a program studying attorneys general at Columbia Law School. Mr. Tierney, a Democrat, now lectures at Harvard Law School. ‘There’s a lot of eye-rolling down here, in both parties, like, ‘Oh my God.’

In Exxon Case, Judge Cancels Massachusetts AG’s Dallas Deposition

‘The implications of this are really, really serious,’ said Mr. Tierney, a Democrat who has worked with attorneys general of both political parties, noting that he believes the effect is that it ‘chills all legitimate investigations. ‘This isn’t about Exxon. This is about an attempt to chill government’s ability to investigate malfeasance.’

Conservatives pour money into races for state attorneys general

‘The amount of money is staggering,”’ said James Tierney, a former Maine attorney general and an adjunct professor at Harvard Law School who blames the Citizens United ruling, which lifted limits on corporate political contributions. ‘But that’s because it’s legal, and it’s legal because the Supreme Court said it was legal.’