Legislation would give executive branch exclusive power over AG settlements
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 20, 2019) – Attorney General Andy Beshear is opposing legislation that would give a cabinet secretary appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin the exclusive decision-making power over whether and how to settle lawsuits brought by the Office of the Attorney General.
Beshear called Senate Bill 41 a “power grab” by the governor during testimony today before the Senate State and Local Government committee. He sent a letter to lawmakers regarding his concerns with SB 41 before today’s hearing.
“This bill is yet another unconstitutional power grab by a governor who wants to control the attorney general and even the judiciary,” Beshear said. “It clearly violates Kentucky’s separation of powers among independent constitutional officers. It also unlawfully interferes with the AG’s role as the chief law officer for the Commonwealth regardless of who holds this office.”
Beshear said the Supreme Court of Kentucky has repeatedly held that laws or actions that place the attorney general under the control of the governor are unconstitutional.
The Franklin Circuit Court recently reaffirmed this law by validating Beshear’s contracts to fight Kentucky’s opioid epidemic.
Beshear said the purpose of SB 41 is another attempt to undermine his lawsuits against nine pharmaceutical companies.
Beshear has filed lawsuits against AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Insys, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, Mallinckrodt, McKesson Corporation, Teva and Walgreens on state law allegations that they directly contributed to the Kentucky’s drug epidemic.
In a Feb. 20, 2018, ruling in Commonwealth v. Landrum, Franklin Circuit Court invalidated the Finance and Administration Secretary’s attempt to cancel Beshear’s opioid lawsuit contracts, in part, because doing so unconstitutionally interfered with the authority by the Office of the Attorney General.
The court further noted that “the office of the Secretary of Finance and Administration is a position that requires no legal training or expertise,” and by allowing the secretary to hold veto power over the contracts would inappropriately inject the cabinet into the attorney general’s exercise of legal judgment, strategy and tactics in discharging the office’s fundamental constitutional duties.
The Supreme Court of Kentucky will hear the Commonwealth v. Landrum case March 7.