VIEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE

Painkiller lawsuit, and a Morrisey mess

A large drug firm paid a $34 million fine and some of its distribution licenses were suspended because its addictive painkillers poured into the illicit dope market.

The firm, Cardinal Health, gave $6,500 to new West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and retains his wife as a Washington lobbyist.

Former Attorney General Darrell McGraw sued Cardinal and other manufacturers on grounds that they abetted painkiller addiction in the Mountain State. But Morrisey issued a news release denouncing McGraw’s “ethics” and making a claim which McGraw says is a total fabrication.

What a mess. State legislative committees or the Ethics Commission or the State Bar’s ethics committee should investigate this disturbing tangle. If possible, McGraw’s lawsuit against Cardinal should be removed from Morrisey’s office and handled by disinterested lawyers.

Statehouse reporter Eric Eyre revealed these facts:The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suspended Cardinal’s license to distribute pills through centers in Florida and Washington state, alleging that the manufacturer shipped “staggering” amounts of oxycodone and hydrocodone, far more than populations required.

The firm paid a $34 million fine in 2008, and faced more accusations in 2012.

Cardinal executives donated $4,000 to Morrisey’s 2012 campaign for attorney general, then gave $2,500 more for his lavish inauguration. Cardinal also paid $100,000 last year to Morrisey’s wife’s Washington lobbying firm. Three months ago, Morrisey’s inaugural fund gave $2,741 to Morrisey’s wife for costs of bringing 18 Eastern Panhandle evangelical teens to the inaugural.

Meanwhile, former Attorney General McGraw sued Cardinal and 13 other drug makers, accusing them of fostering painkiller addiction through notorious Southern West Virginia “pill mills.” Morrisey has recused himself from personally handling the Cardinal suit.

In a statement this week, Morrisey said McGraw previously “implied to me at a campaign stop that he had brought suit against Cardinal Health in retaliation for the fact that I was running against him.” He added: “I ran against my predecessor’s ethics, which we unfortunately are still cleaning up.”

In response, McGraw said that he never spoke with Morrisey about any topic, except for polite greetings at campaign events. As for the alleged retaliation comment, McGraw said: “That did not happen.”

This strange affair raises many questions in the minds of West Virginians. As we said, official inquiries are needed to get reliable answers. And Morrisey’s office shouldn’t be allowed to touch the state’s case against Cardinal.

— From the July 25,

The Charleston Gazette

 

Jails shouldn’t mix juvenile, adult offenders

The attention in recent months on how juvenile offenders are incarcerated in West Virginia has raised a variety of issues, but one of the more troubling ones apparently will require legislative action to fix.

That particular problem is that juvenile offenders are incarcerated with people who are actually young adults, or people older than 18. In some cases, those young adults are people who were sent off to adult prisons before being brought back to juvenile detention facilities.

That does not strike us as a good situation, and a judge who has overseen a lawsuit attacking conditions at two state juvenile detention facilities agrees. Mercer Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn, during a hearing into safety at the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center in Salem, noted that a 20-year-old sexual offender there had been accused of forcing a 15-year-old offender to perform a sexual act.

He rightly questioned the wisdom of housing adult sexual offenders with younger offenders and had this to say about the practice: “It’s a bad idea. It’s a terrible idea. It’s horrific to think that that’s going on.”

However, solving the problem will require a change in state law, officials say.

In cases where an offender has committed a crime while in a juvenile facility, legal action is pursued. If the offender is found guilty, he or she could be sent to an adult prison to serve the sentence, but once that is completed is returned to the juvenile facility if still under the age of 21.

This mix of older offenders who have continued to commit crimes and younger offenders as young as 12 runs counter to a safe situation.

A more reasonable guide would be that incarcerated juvenile offenders who have committed crimes worthy of putting them in an adult facility should remain in the custody of an adult facility.

This is no simple issue, but lawmakers should work with corrections officials to develop an approach that will make younger offenders less vulnerable in our state’s facilities.

 

– From the July 23,

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington

 

Democrat needed to take on Capito

Has West Virginia sunk so badly into right-wing “red state” status that major Democrats won’t even try to retain Jay Rockefeller’s U.S. Senate seat next year?

Former Gov. Gaston Caperton says he won’t file to succeed Rockefeller in 2014. So does Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va. So does former U.S. Sen. Carte Goodwin. So does his cousin, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. So does state Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis.

Do they all assume that Republican Shelley Capito is sure to grab the vacant Senate seat, so they won’t waste time and money challenging her?

So far, the only significant Democrats still considered possible candidates are Secretary of State Natalie Tennant and retired Adjutant Gen. Allen Tackett. Either would be a commendable challenger. And we hope other well-known West Virginia Democrats also contemplate the race.

For decades, a strong majority of West Virginians supported Democratic Party values, which help average working families instead of the wealthy elite. Part of the problem is that most West Virginia Democratic leaders won’t stand up for the party’s beliefs. Last year, the state party headquarters did virtually nothing for President Obama and his agenda for a more humane America.

Party chairman Larry Puccio said West Virginia’s Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate will be decided mostly by Washington party committees, which rally money and support behind the strongest aspirant.

One way or another, we hope a bold, strong, forceful Democrat takes the plunge when the filing period arrives next January.

 

— From the July 22,

The Charleston Gazette

 

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