Landry Gets Win Over Edwards In Opioid Fight

Let’s face it – Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry and its governor, John Bel Edwards, don’t get along all that well.

This manifests itself again and again when the two find themselves at loggerheads over issues where the governor and attorney general see overlap in their duties. For example, Landry’s portfolio of responsibilities includes the approval or veto over the state’s legal contracts, and he and Edwards went to court – Landry won – over whether the governor could include protections against discrimination for transgenders and other similar people in state legal contracts which are not included in Louisiana law. As a result of that court battle Landry had it confirmed that he could veto state legal contracts for any reason, something which becomes significant in another case at issue between the two – namely, Landry’s rejection of a contract extension for convicted bribe-taking former state senator Larry Bankston, who had been the executive counsel for the State Licensing Board for Contractors. Bankston has sued Landry over his veto, with many observers believing Edwards is behind the suit.

Among the other examples of the skirmishes between Edwards and Landry is another case which appears to be resolved in Landry’s favor – namely, that he’s going to represent the state in pursuing litigation against the manufacturers of opioid pain reliever drugs. This is the hot new legal craze, and Edwards had directed the Louisiana Department of Health to get in on it – but he may have overstepped his boundaries in doing so.

That’s been rectified.

Louisiana’s attorney general will take charge of a state lawsuit against drug manufacturers, under a deal announced Tuesday that ends a dispute with the governor’s office over who controls litigation accusing the companies of worsening opioid abuse in Louisiana.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry said the lawsuit, initially filed through the state health department, will be broadened to more state agencies alleging damaging impacts from opioid use.

The two men issued a joint statement in which Edwards said “a coordinated effort from the state will produce the best results.”

“I am confident that the attorney general’s office will be able to pursue these claims vigorously and will hold the opioid manufacturers responsible for flooding our state with these highly addictive drugs and misleading the public about their addictive nature,” he said.

Before the announcement, the disagreement between the Democratic governor and Republican attorney general had worked its way into court, with a state district judge asked to decide which elected official should handle the litigation. Each side accused the other of playing politics with the lawsuit.

But on Tuesday, lawyers for Edwards and Landry notified Judge Wilson Fields that an agreement was struck — in a win for the attorney general.

“I thank the governor for putting his faith in our office’s leadership on this issue. We will work hard to hold drug companies accountable for contributing to the opioid abuse, misuse and addiction that have destroyed so many Louisiana families,” Landry said.

The issue here is that there are lots of other state agencies who can claim damages due to Big Pharma’s allegedly abusive marketing practices, and those claims might be unduly negatively affected if LDH, rather than the attorney general, was pushing the lawsuit.

According to the deal, any settlement – and there will be a settlement of the opioid case – will have to be agreed on by both Landry and Edwards. Or whoever is the attorney general and/or governor when the settlement is reached, which might be an interesting question because it’s likely going to take a couple of years before this lawsuit gets resolved.

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