Health Groups Ask Supreme Court to Authorize Financial Penalties on Tobacco Companies for Decades of Wrongdoing

Groups Seek Funds for Tobacco Cessation and Prevention, Forfeiture of Profits

Feb. 19 2010

Washington, D.C. — Six public health groups today asked the U. S. Supreme Court to authorize a trial court to require major cigarette manufacturers to pay for a broad public education campaign against smoking, as well as programs to help smokers quit. The groups also asked that the trial court be empowered to require the tobacco companies to forfeit profits they made during decades of illegal activity.

The request for the high court to consider the case stems from a landmark ruling in 2006 in which the cigarette manufacturers were found guilty of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). In that ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler found that major cigarette manufacturers had violated civil racketeering laws, defrauded the American people by lying for decades about the health risks of smoking and aggressively marketed their deadly products to children.

However, Judge Kessler ruled that the penalties she could impose on the tobacco companies were limited by a controversial appeals court ruling that restricted the remedies she could impose under the civil RICO law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously upheld Judge Kessler’s ruling on May 22, 2009. The six public health groups are now asking the Supreme Court to overturn that part of the decision that restricted the penalties she could order.

The petition was filed by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund (a 501(c)4 affiliate of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids). The groups are intervenors in the case making them formal parties to the lawsuit.

The public health groups are represented by Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal of Washington, D.C. and by G. Robert Blakey, William J. and Dorothy O’Neill Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame Law School.

The public health intervenors’ petition can be found online.

 

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