Times are tough all over. Customers and clients are spending less, businesses are making less, and working people are losing jobs or taking pay cuts.
President Obama offered us a stimulus package, but the people who seemed to benefit most were his friends and supporters.
State Attorney General Darrell McGraw has come up with a stimulus package of his own, targeted to his cronies.
And after months in various courts it comes with the seal of approval of the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Old Quick Draw's stimulus package aims to increase the revenue of plaintiffs attorneys who support his re-election bids.
McGraw hires his attorney pals under state auspices and sics them on businesses alleged to be violating some arcane consumer protection regulations.
If a big settlement is won, McGraw gets a slush fund he can use to win friends, influence people and burnish his image statewide. The lawyers also get a a major slice of the settlement, and gladly devote a portion of it in the form of political donations that help preserve McGraw's profitable public service. Some settlement fees can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
One of Quick Draw's most recent stimulus packages involved a suit against drug store chains allegedly overcharging for generic drugs. To keep the case in lawsuit-friendly Boone County, McGraw claimed he was representing the interests of the state in his parens patriae capacity.
The drug stores argued that the case was really a class action and had it removed to federal court, but McGraw appealed and the U.S. Fourth Circuit decided in his favor.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case, so the decision, however misguided, will stand and the case will continue in bountiful Boone County.
The lesson for attorneys who want to keep a class action suit out of federal court is to partner with a state attorney general and call it a parens patriae case. Better yet, call it what it is: a stimulus package.