Federal Judge Rejects Tobacco Companies’ Motion To Dismiss Justice Department Lawsuit
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler on Wednesday rejected a motion by four tobacco companies to dismiss a racketeering lawsuit filed by the Justice Department based on claims that the suit violated the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution, Bloomberg/Winston-Salem Journal reports (Bloomberg/Winston-Salem Journal, 3/18). The Justice Department announced the lawsuit, which names Brown & Williamson, Philip Morris USA, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard Tobacco and the Liggett Group as defendants, in March 2003. The suit seeks $289 billion in profits that resulted from alleged fraud and dangerous promotional practices. The Justice Department in more than 1,400 pages of court documents alleges that the tobacco companies manipulated nicotine levels, misled consumers about the health risks of smoking and directed multibillion-dollar promotional campaigns at children. The Justice Department made the allegations as part of larger federal lawsuit first filed by the Clinton administration in 1999 that accuses the tobacco industry of conspiracy to mislead consumers about the health risks of smoking (California Healthline, 5/27/03). On Wednesday, the companies argued that the Justice Department had improperly sought to regulate them with the lawsuit, which seeks to impose new rules on the tobacco industry (Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, 3/18). The companies accused the Justice Department of "usurping the legislative function" of Congress (Bloomberg/Winston-Salem Journal, 3/18). However, Kessler said that the Justice Department was "not engaging in policymaking" and that Congress "explicitly authorized the attorney general" to file such racketeering lawsuits (AP/Los Angeles Times, 3/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.