Attorney claims state AG's office 'blatantly ignoring' court order to turn over FOIA info

By Chris Dickerson | Nov 6, 2018

CHARLESTON – An attorney representing a Democratic group says West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office is “blatantly ignoring” a court order to turn over information regarding his communications with major drug companies.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster had set a deadline for 5 p.m. Nov. 5 for Morrisey’s office to turn over documents between Morrisey’s office and lawyers representing drug companies named in various lawsuits regarding the companies’ role in the state’s opioid epidemic.

Earlier on Nov. 5, Webster had set the 5 p.m. deadline for the office to turn over the documents. That followed a recommendation of Douglas Adkins, who was appointed to mediate the matter filed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Morrisey’s office asked for a 72-hour delay, but Webster refused that saying it was important for voters to have the information before the Nov. 6 election.

“The election is tomorrow,” Webster wrote in her Nov. 5 order. “Delay of 72 hours or more will deprive Plaintiff (the DSCC) of the ability to communicate with West Virginia voters on these important matters of public Interest.


Majestro  

“Public interest favors the Plaintiffs for the same reason noted above. FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) is a legislative determination that the public interest is served by prompt disclosure. There is little public interest in hiding whether the AG was settling claims of West Virginia counties and cities without their consent or knowledge.”

The AG’s office filed a motion with the state Supreme Court regarding Webster’s order and her refusal to grant its requested delay. But, the court was closed Nov. 6 because of the election.

“It is corrupt, frivolous and simply outrageous for the political arm of Senate Democrats to use the courts to mount a political hit on Election Day involving an important question of law that is currently pending before the state Supreme Court of Appeals,” said Curtis Johnson, spokesman for the AG’s office.

Charleston attorney Anthony Majestro, who is representing the DSCC, disagreed.

“It is amazing that our state’s chief legal officer is blatantly disregarding an order from a court that has jurisdiction over him and his office,” Majestro told The West Virginia Record. “There are no provisions in the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure which grant a party a stay of a circuit court order absent an express finding by the state Supreme Court.

“No such finding was made here, and the attorney genereal has chosen to disregard a court order to serve his own political interests. We wonder what he is hiding.”

The DSCC spent thousands of dollars on the U.S. Senate race supporting incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin in his race against Morrisey. The DSCC had requested the information in a FOIA request in October 2017 and filed its lawsuit Oct. 15, 2018.

It sought correspondence between the AG’s office and major drug companies such as Cardinal Health. Before becoming AG in 2013, Morrisey worked for a Washington, D.C., law firm that did lobbying work for the pharmaceutical industry, and his wife also previously lobbied for Cardinal Health.

Many people have blamed companies such as Cardinal Health for contributing to the opioid epidemic that has plagued West Virginia.

“Patrick Morrisey is still hiding critical documents related to his relationship with the companies at the center of West Virginia’s drug epidemic,” DSCC spokesman David Bergstein previously told The Record. “Voters deserve to know immediately what former opioid lobbyist Morrisey is hiding.”

In 2012, before Morrisey took office, former AG Darrell McGraw’s office sued Cardinal Health, saying the company contributed to West Virginia’s opioid epidemic by shipping more than 241 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to the state from 2007 to 2012.

Shortly after Morrisey took office, he stepped away from the case because of his history with Cardinal Health. In 2017, Cardinal settled the case for $20 million.

Morrisey was elected as AG in 2012 and again in 2016. He lost in his bid to oust Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin in the Nov. 6 general election, but he remains the state's AG.

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