Six Anti-Smoking Groups May Join DOJ Lawsuit Against Tobacco Companies, Judge Rules
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler on Friday granted a request by six anti-smoking groups to join the Department of Justice's civil racketeering lawsuit against several major tobacco companies, the AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (Sherman, AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/22). The groups include the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund, which is affiliated with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
In June, the six groups filed a motion with Kessler requesting to intervene in the case after DOJ reduced the size of its proposed smoking-cessation remedy from $130 billion to $14 billion during closing arguments. The motion stated, "As the actions of the government demonstrate, the interests represented by the proposed interveners are no longer being adequately represented."
The groups said they did not wish to present new evidence in the trial, which ended in June, but instead wished to present "arguments solely on the issue of the appropriate and necessary remedies that should be imposed in this case." Filings on remedies are scheduled for Aug. 24 and Sept. 19 (California Healthline, 6/30).
In her ruling, Kessler said the government "no longer adequately represents" the interests of the anti-smoking groups, citing DOJ's decision to reduce its proposed penalty. According to the AP/Times-Dispatch, the groups will be allowed to intervene only if Kessler rules against the tobacco industry in the lawsuit. A ruling is not expected for months.
William Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "The government is no longer representing the health interests of the American people. Our organizations will do so."
According to Kessler, DOJ did not take a position on the anti-smoking groups' request, while the tobacco industry was opposed (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/22).