Scalia's pro-tobacco order tossed by high court

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Registered: 04-07-2002
Scalia's pro-tobacco order tossed by high court
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Thu, 06-30-2011 - 11:59am
Scalia's pro-tobacco order tossed by high court

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia exercised a rarely used power last fall to let Philip Morris USA and three other big tobacco companies delay making multimillion-dollar payments for a program to help people quit smoking.

By MARK SHERMAN

Associated Press

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2015466767_apusscaliatobacco.html

WASHINGTON —

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia exercised a rarely used power last fall to let Philip Morris USA and three other big tobacco companies delay making multimillion-dollar payments for a program to help people quit smoking.

Scalia, a cigarette smoker himself, justified acting on his own by predicting that at least three other justices would see things his way and want to hear the case, and that the high court then would probably strike down the expensive judgment against the companies.

This week, the court said he was wrong about that.

On a court that almost always acts as a group, Scalia singlehandedly blocked a state court order requiring the tobacco companies to pay $270 million to start a smoking cessation program in Louisiana. The payment was ordered as part of a class-action lawsuit that Louisiana smokers filed in 1996. They won a jury verdict seven years ago.

Scalia said in September that the companies met a tough standard to justify the Supreme Court's intervention.

"I think it reasonably probable that four justices will vote to grant certiorari," Scalia said, using the legal term to describe the way the court decides to hear most appeals, "and significantly possible that the judgment below will be reversed."

Not only did the justices say Monday they were leaving the state court order in place, there were not even four votes to hear the companies' full appeal. And the court provided no explanation of its action.

Scalia said through a court spokeswoman that he also had no comment on the matter.

Robert Peck, the Washington-based lawyer representing the Louisiana smokers at the Supreme Court, recalled thinking Scalia had made unwarranted assumptions about the case.

"I was really rather surprised he would issue the stay," Peck said of Scalia's order blocking the judgment from taking effect.

The case went to Scalia because he oversees the 5th Circuit, which includes Louisiana.

Justices have the authority to act on their own to issue an order that blocks another court's decision from taking effect, often in cases that are being appealed to the high court.

But in recent years they rarely have done so. The last time a justice acted alone in similar circumstances was in 2006, when Justice Anthony Kennedy blocked a court order to remove a giant cross from a public park in San Diego while the matter remained under appeal. The cross case still is working its way through the courts.

Thomas Goldstein, a Washington lawyer and close observer of the court, said: "This was a very rare and unusually assertive ruling by a single justice. The later briefing in the case seems to have persuaded the court, and maybe even Scalia himself, not to get involved."

In issuing his order, Scalia noted national concern over the abuse of class-action lawsuits in state courts and raised concerns about the companies' legal rights.

He said that without delaying payment, the companies might not be able to recover all their money if they ended up winning in the Supreme Court. The other companies in the case are Brown and Williamson Holdings Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Lorillard Tobacco Co.

A Louisiana appeals court had a different take on the subject of delay, noting that the plaintiffs are aging and dying at a significant rate.

One of the two named plaintiffs, Gloria Scott, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2000 and died in 2006

 nwtreehugger  

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-03-2009
Scalia is arrogant.

Jabberwocka

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
I agree. I did find it interesting that the rest of the court was willing to do this.

 nwtreehugger  

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2009
It's a pick and choose type thing. Tobacco users almost exclusively kill themselves. Alcoholics more often kill people around them, by all different means.

Everytime I read a story, like yesterday, about another drunk driver taking out 4 people at a time, it makes my stomach turn.

I'm thinking that the main backlash against smokers is money. If it were truly about saving lives, those that advocate banning tobacco would be on board with banning alcohol. Only they know that wouldn't work, as history proves. And banning tobacco sure wouldn't work any better.

Even if tobacco use kills more than actual alcohol users, the effects of alcholics on their families, especially their children, are far higher.

I see smokers as becoming a scapegoat, and are being unfairly targeted when states have mismanaged their money and are now scraping up any way they can.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
As a former smoker (quit 15 yrs ago), I disagree to an extent. Secondhand smoke is known to be a cause of cancer. And, while I don't believe banning tobaccco would work (any more than banning alcohol), I do believe in making sure that everyone is educated to the dangers. I also believe that if someone is going to willingly commit suicide, that the public shouldn't be responsible for their medical bills. ;) If they want to smoke, they should pay the price.

As the daughter of an alcoholic, I rarely drink. However, I would hate to have to give up the occasional glass of red wine, cider, or gin & tonic. And, in my state, we have some of the highest alcohol taxes around. That's fine with me too.

 nwtreehugger  

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-05-2011
Scalia may have known the Supreme Court was going to take on the Wal-Mart class action suit, or was likely to. He may have made assumptions about the scope of that ruling with respect to this case.

Unfortunately we will never really know. The Supreme Court could have reversed his order at any time after it was issued.
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-03-2009
You're forgetting something. Smokers don't just affect themselves, they affect those who live and work with them. My father had a lobe of his lung removed almost twenty years ago for what were diagnosed as "precancerous cells at the microscopic level". Though he never smoked himself, he worked for years in offices which were full of cigarette smoke.

Smokers also have health issues which are chronic and expensive for employers to cover.

Jabberwocka

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2007

As someone who lives in an apt. building of 6

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2009
<< And, while I don't believe banning tobaccco would work (any more than banning alcohol), I do believe in making sure that everyone is educated to the dangers. I also believe that if someone is going to willingly commit suicide, that the public shouldn't be responsible for their medical bills. ;) >>

Well, if we're going there....

Again, why single out smokers? Do you extend that opinion to alcoholics? Fat people? Diabetes caused by a poor diet and/or drinking? I hear that's going to explode in the next 30 years and overtake our medical system.

I don't want my tax dollars necessarily going to a drunk driver who's slammed into a car load of young adults and kids, killing 4 of them. But guess what? If they have no insurance, that's exactly what happens. And we'll probably be paying their living expenses and medical bills for a long time to come.

And I'd sure rather my tax dollars go to smokers (which are still US citizens like the rest of the unhealthy) than waging war. We'll never know how much money was spent/disappeared/stolen/embezzled/wasted.

Do you not have a family member, or friend, that smokes? If so, what would you have happen to them if they got lung cancer and couldn't pay for it?

I've met many people living off disability for decades for BS stuff, and outright fraud, and then of course, that includes their medical bills, for now and the future. Met one just this morning.

Like I said, smokers are the easiest targets.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2009
I didn't forget about second hand smoke. But I also know that other pollutants are causing lung cancer, also.

And I don't hear good things about the coal plant behind my house that chokes me some days. ;)

I still hold the belief that alcoholics do the most damage to society at large, and possibly financial, but I don't think all those numbers are grouped together enough to know.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-07-2002
First of all, I feel the same way about alcoholics. My state has one of the highest alcohol taxes too. And I stated in my last post that I had no problem with that either.

One needn't be 'fat' to be diabetic, btw. One of my mom's best friends has Type 2 Diabetes & has never been overweight a day in her life. Diabetes (Type 2) can & quite often is caused by being overweight but by losing weight, one can quite often reduce or completely forego medication.

No one in my extended family smokes anymore. However, my father was an alcoholic (he smoked for years too); my younger SIL is an alcoholic; my MIL was an alcoholic (in remission); and so was my FIL (he quit when he was diagnosed with diabetes). The only friend that I have that smoked quit about 6 months ago & hasn't had the urge to smoke since. Besides,what does being able to pay for treatment have to do with taxes charged per pack, etc.?

To me, the more expensive they are, the less people will smoke. Also, I just saw an article the other day that said when they started putting pictures of cancerous lungs, etc., on cigarette packages, the number of calls to facilities/help lines for quitting smoking went way up!

As for those defrauding the system, I wish that they could be caught & made to pay back even a little of what they have stolen from the rest of us.

Smokers are only 'easy targets' because they put themselves in that position. Yes, I know for some that it is like a bad drug addiction, but most could quit if they really wanted to.

 nwtreehugger  

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