Tag Archives: South Carolina

New state voting laws face first presidential election test

, USA TODAY10:22 p.m. EST January 29, 2016

WASHINGTON — Battles are being waged across the country over new voter ID laws and other election changes that have never before been tested in a presidential election.

National and local civil rights groups also have launched grass-roots efforts to fight state laws that they say could suppress voting by minorities and the elderly.

President Obama joined the cause in pledging during his Jan. 12 State of the Union Address to travel the country lobbying for steps to make voting easier.

“You’re going to see some ramping up of activism,’’ said the Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “The president is right, but everybody should be joining in that (effort).’’ Barber’s group will lead a voting rights rally Feb. 13 in Raleigh.

Some of the new state election laws require would-be voters to show specific forms of identification. Others cut back on the time period that voters can cast ballots early, or make it more difficult to register to vote.

Supporters of the laws say they protect against voter fraud. They say Obama and voting rights groups should leave the issue to states.

“It seems that the president is moving to … federalizing the way we handle elections,’’ said Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Fifteen states have enacted more restrictive election laws never before tested in a presidential election, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

Those states — Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin — account for 162 electoral votes of the 270 necessary to win the presidency.

Myrna Pérez, director of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Election Project, said voters in some of those states, “are going to be voting in a presidential election with fewer federal protections than they’ve had in the last 50 years.”

In some states, new voting laws took effect soon after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Courtdecision nullifying a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Under that provision, states and other jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination — mostly in the South — had to obtain advance permission, or “pre-clearance,” from federal officials before making any changes to their election systems.

The new laws attracting the most attention were adopted by Republican-run state legislatures and focus on voter ID requirements. Thirty-three states have voter ID laws — some enacted many years ago — that will be in place on Election Day in November, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Mississippi’s 2012 voter ID law didn’t hamper participation in last year’s governor’s race, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

The law requires would-be voters to show one of 10 forms of photo ID. Eligible IDs include a driver’s license, a firearms license, a passport, and any state or federal government ID bearing a photo.

​Hosemann said Mississippi is the only state that wasn’t sued by the Justice Department over its voter ID law, “because we did it right.’’

“President Obama doesn’t have to come here to talk about voter ID because that’s in our rearview mirror … We’re moving on,’’  he said.

Last week, Hosemann proposed an election law package that includes allowing people to register to vote online, a 21-day early voting period, tougher penalties for election-law crimes, and moving the state’s presidential primary up by a week to the first Tuesday in March. The package is expected to be part of legislation introduced next week.

“I’m just real pleased about where we’re going in Mississippi,’’ Hosemann said. “Right now it’s such a difference from where we were half a century ago.’’

Derrick Johnson, president of the Mississippi NAACP, which opposed the voter ID law, said the group continues to review complaints and monitor its implementation.

Read Full Article – http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/29/new-state-voting-laws-face-first-presidential-election-test/79534420/

Time for J&J to pay up in $124M Risperdal case as SCOTUS deflects final appeal

January 11, 2016 | By

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) fell short Monday in its final effort to escape a Risperdal marketing penalty in South Carolina. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up J&J’s last appeal in the case, putting the company on the hook for a $124 million penalty.

J&J had cited the Eighth Amendment in arguing against the penalty, saying it qualified as an “excessive fine.” As Reuters notes, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had backed the drugmaker in seeking Supreme Court review.

J&J’s Janssen unit has been fighting South Carolina’s deceptive trade practices court win since 2011, when a jury ordered the drugmaker to pay $327 million for Risperdal marketing violations. The company succeeded in lowering the judgment twice, first to $136 million and then, last year, to the final $124 million.

The lawsuit centered on promotional materials Janssen used to market the antipsychotic drug. Key to the case was a letter sent to South Carolina physicians, which overstated Risperdal’s benefits compared with other drugs in its class and downplayed side effects, the jury found. The trial court judge ordered Janssen to pay about $4,000 for each of the more than 7,000 letters mailed.

The original $327 million judgment dwarfed other similar rulings in drug-marketing lawsuits, including sizable decisions and settlements in other Risperdal-related litigation, but it fell far short of a $1.2 billion verdict in Arkansas. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down that judgment in March 2014, and the company later negotiated a settlement of $7.5 million.

The South Carolina decision survived that state’s top court in a ruling last year, in which Justice John Kittredge backed the decision at trial, but lowered the $327 million penalty to $136 million.

In affirming the judgment against the company, Kittredge echoed the trial judge’s “profit-at-all-costs” characterization of Janssen’s marketing efforts. “Janssen’s desire for market share and increased sales knew no bounds, leading to its egregious violation of South Carolina law,” Kittredge wrote in the February 2015 ruling.

Janssen had argued that it did not intentionally deceive doctors with the now-notorious “Risperdal letter” that has featured in several state-court lawsuits. The drugmaker also contended that South Carolina’s attorney general didn’t prove patients were actually harmed by the drug. It was on that point that Kittredge lowered the judgment.

The “Risperdal letter” lawsuits compose only part of the mountain of litigation J&J has fought over the antipsychotic drug. The company agreed to pay $2.2 billion in a marketing settlement with the U.S. Justice Department and a group of states.

And the litigation isn’t over yet. The company now faces more than 1,000 lawsuits over Risperdal’s ability to trigger breast development in boys. J&J lost the first court battle last February, as a Philadelphia jury ordered J&J to pay almost $2.5 million to a young man who developed breasts while using Risperdal. In November, another jury awarded $1.75 million in a similar case.

Read Full Article – http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/time-jj-pay-124m-risperdal-case-scotus-deflects-final-appeal/2016-01-11