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Drug industry hired dozens of officials from the DEA as the agency tried to curb opioid abuse

By Scott Higham, Lenny Bernstein, Steven Rich and Alice Crites

Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture or distribute highly addictive pain pills have hired dozens of officials from the top levels of the Drug Enforcement Administration during the past decade, according to a Washington Post investigation.

The hires came after the DEA launched an aggressive campaign to curb a rising opioid epidemic that has resulted in thousands of overdose deaths each year. In 2005, the DEA began to crack down on companies that were distributing inordinate numbers of pills such as oxycodone to pain-management clinics and pharmacies around the country.

Since then, the pharmaceutical companies and law firms that represent them have hired at least 42 officials from the DEA — 31 of them directly from the division responsible for regulating the industry, according to work histories compiled by The Post and interviews with current and former agency officials.

The number of hires has prompted some current and former government officials to ask whether the companies raided the division to hire away DEA officials who were architects of the agency’s enforcement campaign or were most responsible for enforcing the laws the firms were accused of violating.

“The number of employees recruited from that division points to a deliberate strategy by the pharmaceutical industry to hire people who are the biggest headaches for them,” said John Carnevale, former director of planning for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, who now runs a consulting firm. “These people understand how DEA operates, the culture around diversion and DEA’s goals, and they can advise their clients how to stay within the guidelines.”

Read Full – https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/key-officials-switch-sides-from-dea-to-pharmaceutical-industry/2016/12/22/55d2e938-c07b-11e6-b527-949c5893595e_story.html?utm_term=.a6e6664d1a03

Hollywood’s Top 10 Legal Disputes of 2015

DECEMBER 28, 2015 8:42am PT by Eriq Gardner

This legal blog, recently inducted into the ABA Journal’s Hall of Fame, has been providing a Top 10 list for the past five years. The way we’d describe 2015 is eclectic, full of interesting disputes covering a wide range of legal topics including privacy, intellectual property, bankruptcy, antitrust, contracts and defamation.

Our top disputes of 2015 leaves out some long-running ones that came to momentous decisions (see: “Happy Birthday” or Google Books) and shortchanges some new ones that will likely provide plenty to write about moving forward (see: Sean Penn vs. Lee Daniels or the “Bones” lawsuit). There’s obviously room for debate about what belongs on the list. Our goal is to spotlight legal controversy both significant and much-discussed within and outside Hollywood. (A separate list for top legal and regulatory matters on the international front is also forthcoming.)

Without further ado, here — in reverse order — are the legal dramas that were most gripping this past year:

10: Gawker steps into the legal ring against Hulk Hogan

Well, the first trial ever over a celebrity sex tape didn’t happen. Not yet. After a postponement, Hogan’s $100 million lawsuit over the gossip site’s posting of a sex tape excerpt, and Gawker’s “newsworthy” defense, is now primed to begin trial in March. But plenty of fireworks in the case proceeded nevertheless. Gawker filed a lawsuit against the FBI to uncover documents from the government’s investigation of the Hogan tape. As Gawker faced backlash over a separate story about a Conde Nast executive who allegedly was involved with a male escort, other tabloids gained access to and printed an extended transcript of the sex-tape footage that showed Hogan uttering the N-word and making racist comments. A tarnished Hogan has been hunting the source of that leak, blaming Gawker, and a Florida judge in October allowed extensive discovery including an examination of Gawker employee tech equipment. Recently, Gawker announced that it would be switching its coverage to more politically-focused matters.

9. HBO beats defamation claims over a child labor report

Gawker hasn’t gone to trial yet over its news practices, but HBO did after a seven-year buildup in a case that examined an episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel where young children in India were shown hand-stitching Mitre-branded soccer balls for pennies or less in order to pay off their parents’ debts. The trial inside a New York federal courthouse lasted a full month! It opened with harrowing images and an attack on HBO’s journalism just as the pay network was celebrating documentary hits like The Jinx and Going Clear. HBOfought back against Mitre’s defamation claims, and a jury heard conflicting testimony about who was exploitative and who was socially responsible. HBO prevailed, which represented a good outcome for the network, but one that also leaves untouched the judge’s controversial decision that the plaintiff — a multinational corporation — shouldn’t be considered a “public figure” for the purpose of figuring out whether defamation occurred.

8. Sony Pictures settles claims by ex-employees over hacked data

A nightmare of the scariest sorts best describes what happened to Sony Pictures when hackers stole the company’s most sensitive information and distributed it to the public on the verge of the release of The Interview. The subsequent class actions from ex-employees were just part of the fallout from this situation. Sony’s responsibility for safeguarding private data came into examination in the litigation, but the case didn’t go far. In October, Sony came to a proposed settlement to pay at least $5.5 million to resolve negligence claims. Some of the provocative issues that came up in the case — for example, how do victims of identity theft prove specific hacks are to blamed for their troubles when hacking has now become commonplace — will await testing in future cases.

7. Sports broadcasting faces a flood of antitrust lawsuits in the wake of a judge’s May ruling

The health of over-the-air and cable television is increasingly tied to live sports, the phenomenon that resists ad-skipping and cord-cutting. Thus, an antitrust lawsuit against Major League Baseball over how telecasts of games are packaged and distributed represents a huge deal. In May, a federal judge in New York agreed to certify a class of plaintiffs who aim to cut down territorial restrictions on game telecasts. The following month, the National Hockey League settled its own class action by agreeing to allow fans to obtain price-discounted streams of their favorite teams. These developments encouraged a flurry of similar antitrust lawsuits against the National Football League and their broadcast partners. Those latter cases have now been consolidated. Meanwhile, MLB is now set to go to trial in January. The outcome will be worth the ticket.

6. Hollywood talent agencies go to war

Agents in the entertainment industry have been defecting to rival agencies for decades. There’s often a bit ofEntourage-like drama that follows such flights, but nothing quite like the lawsuit that resulted when 12 agents at Creative Artists Agency moved over to United Talent Agency and brought with them top clients including Will Ferrell, Chris Pratt and Ed Helms. California usually favors employee mobility, but CAA alleges a “lawless midnight raid” with claims of interference against UTA, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of the duty of loyalty against the agents themselves. Much of the dispute is now playing out in arbitration, but there’s a big piece being litigated in open court. Unless settled, the war between CAA and UTA figures to addressCalifornia’s “seven-year rule” limiting lengthy personal services contracts. Typically applied to talent, the arguments on this subject will impact the alignment of stars and their dealmakers for decades to come.

5. Judge stops Aretha Franklin documentary from playing Telluride

In terms of shocking legal decisions, witness a judge’s decision in September to grant iconic soul singer Aretha Franklin’s emergency injunction motion to stop the film Amazing Grace from premiering at the Telluride Film Festival. Usually judges frown on prior restraints under the First Amendment, but in this instance, the judge determined the Amazing Grace producer had a contractual obligation to get her permission to use old concert footage and thus violated her right of publicity when he didn’t. We think the judge got it terribly wrong. The parties in the dispute are still negotiating a settlement in time for Sundance next month. If that doesn’t happen, the case could provide an important appellate review squaring a celebrity’s publicity rights with free speech.

4. Relativity Media declares bankruptcy

Hollywood’s biggest Chapter 11 filing in years hasn’t provided a satisfying answer to the core mystery of what went wrong for a studio aiming to bring a Moneyball-type quantitative approach to producing films. The bankruptcy of Ryan Kavanaugh’s company did, however, deliver a front row seat to the kind of arm-twisting and jockeying that happens when big financial institutions lend hundreds of millions of dollars only to see debt mature. Besides providing months of vicious legal filings — from accusations of

Read Full Article – http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/hollywoods-top-10-legal-disputes-850945

Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical marijuana

Tucked deep inside the 1,603-page federal spending measure is a provision that effectively ends the federal government’s prohibition on medical marijuana and signals a major shift in drug policy.

The bill’s passage over the weekend marks the first time Congress has approved nationally significant legislation backed by legalization advocates. It brings almost to a close two decades of tension between the states and Washington over medical use of marijuana.

Under the provision, states where medical pot is legal would no longer need to worry about federal drug agents raiding retail operations. Agents would be prohibited from doing so.

The Obama administration has largely followed that rule since last year as a matter of policy. But the measure approved as part of the spending bill, which President Obama plans to sign this week, will codify it as a matter of law.

Pot advocates had lobbied Congress to embrace the administration’s policy, which they warned was vulnerable to revision under a less tolerant future administration.

More important, from the standpoint of activists, Congress’ action marked the emergence of a new alliance in marijuana politics: Republicans are taking a prominent role in backing states’ right to allow use of a drug the federal government still officially classifies as more dangerous than cocaine.

“This is a victory for so many,” said the measure’s coauthor, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa. The measure’s approval, he said, represents “the first time in decades that the federal government has curtailed its oppressive prohibition of marijuana.”

The war on medical marijuana is over. Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana.– Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance

By now, 32 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot or its ingredients to treat ailments, a movement that began in the 1990s. Even back then, some states had been approving broader decriminalization measures for two decades.

The medical marijuana movement has picked up considerable momentum in recent years. The Drug Enforcement Administration, however, continues to place marijuana in the most dangerous category of narcotics, with no accepted medical use.

Congress for years had resisted calls to allow states to chart their own path on pot. The marijuana measure, which forbids the federal government from using any of its resources to impede state medical marijuana laws, was previously rejected half a dozen times. When Washington, D.C., voters approved medical marijuana in 1998, Congress used its authority over the city’s affairs to block the law from taking effect for 11 years.

Even as Congress has shifted ground on medical marijuana, lawmakers remain uneasy about full legalization. A separate amendment to the spending package, tacked on at the behest of anti-marijuana crusader Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), will jeopardize the legalization of recreational pot in Washington, D.C., which voters approved last month.

Marijuana proponents nonetheless said they felt more confident than ever that Congress was drifting toward their point of view.

“The war on medical marijuana is over,” said Bill Piper, a lobbyist with the Drug Policy Alliance, who called the move historic.

“Now the fight moves on to legalization of all marijuana,” he said. “This is the strongest signal we have received from Congress [that] the politics have really shifted. … Congress has been slow to catch up with the states and American people, but it is catching up.”

The measure, which Rohrabacher championed with Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat from Carmel, had the support of large numbers of Democrats for years. Enough Republicans joined them this year to put it over the top. When the House first passed the measure earlier this year, 49 Republicans voted aye.

Some Republicans are pivoting off their traditional anti-drug platform at a time when most voters live in states where medical marijuana is legal, in many cases as a result of ballot measures.

Polls show that while Republican voters are far less likely than the broader public to support outright legalization, they favor allowing marijuana for medical use by a commanding majority. Legalization also has great appeal to millennials, a demographic group with which Republicans are aggressively trying to make inroads.

Approval of the pot measure comes after the Obama administration directed federal prosecutors last year to stop enforcing drug laws that contradict state marijuana policies. Since then, federal raids of marijuana merchants and growers who are operating legally in their states have been limited to those accused of other violations, such as money laundering.

Read Full Article – http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-medical-pot-20141216-story.html

 

Smith County plans to sue Volkswagen over faulty emissions

Posted: Nov 27, 2015 3:23 PM PSTUpdated: Nov 27, 2015 3:43 PM PST

Why YouTube is offering legal support for users threatened with takedowns

In a bid to raise awareness about issues of ‘fair use,’ the site will provide legal aid to four users threatened with takedown notices.

When an online video creator receives a notice instructing them to take down a video because it contains copyrighted material — such as a snippet of a TV show or, until recently, even the song “Happy Birthday” — they often have few options but to comply.

Copyright battles can often prove expensive and drag on for years, presenting a challenge for video creators and for video sharing sites, which have often cracked down harshly in a bid to stop the spread of pirated material.

Now, YouTube is offering an alternative, announcing on Thursday that it will begin providing “legal support” to a handful of users so they can fight claims from copyright holders. If the copyright-holder sues, the tech giant will assist users by paying up to $1 million in legal fees.

The site, which is owned by Google, is offering aid to the creators of four videos that it says meet the standard of fair use, an exemption to US copyright law that allows new projects that make use of copyrighted material in a way that goes beyond the copyright holder’s original intent, for example by commenting, parodying, or satirizing it.

The company says the move is intended to correct some of the power balance that can be directed against content creators in the wake of the controversial 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which implemented digital rights management software often used to protect music or downloadable movies from online piracy.

Full Article – http://www.csmonitor.com/Technology/2015/1122/Why-YouTube-is-offering-legal-support-for-users-threatened-with-takedowns