Drug companies back effort to remove judge from federal lawsuit

Drug companies back effort to remove judge from federal lawsuit
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Lawyers for drug companies and pharmacies have expressed support for removing a federal judge who has been overseeing lawsuits against the companies over their alleged role in the opioid crisis.

In court documents filed Saturday, the companies questioned whether U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland was impartial because he has encouraged both sides to settle.

"Taken as a whole and viewed objectively, the record clearly demonstrates that recusal is necessary," the lawyers wrote.

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They added that the record includes "judicial and extra-judicial statements evidencing a personal objective to do something meaningful to abate the opioid crisis."

They also asserted "numerous improper comments to the media and in public forums about the litigation," "apparent prejudgment of the merits and outcome of the litigation" and "singular focus on, and substantial involvement in, settlement discussions."

Their motion follows a series of rulings by Polster, a Clinton nominee, against the defendants.

He denied several efforts, including a motion to dismiss arguments alleging that drug companies conspired to protect themselves from federal regulations and a motion to dismiss action by the plaintiffs to invoke the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, according to The Washington Post.

The drug industry companies are facing more than 2,000 lawsuits from cities, counties, Native American tribes and others who have called for them to pay billions of dollars over their alleged role in the nation's opioid crisis.

Lead attorneys for the plaintiffs on Saturday slammed the defense memorandum in a statement obtained by The Hill while defending Polster's tenure as a federal judge.

Polster "has been held in the highest regard for decades on the Federal bench as a judge with great integrity, intelligence, and impartiality," attorneys Paul Hanly Jr., Paul Farrell Jr. and Joe Rice said in the statement.

"This is simply a desperate move on the eve of trial by opioid companies that created, fueled and sustained the crisis following rulings by the court concluding that there is sufficient evidence to find that these companies created a public nuisance and conspired together to avoid regulation and sanctions," the lawyers added. "It’s past time that they stop trying to avoid accountability and face judgment."

This week, Purdue Pharma, a prominent opioid manufacturer, also reached a multibillion-dollar tentative settlement with state and local governments over its alleged role in the opioid epidemic.