Justices reject Brnovich attempt to go straight to Supreme Court over opioid cash

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaking after being sworn into office in January 2019. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a novel legal maneuver by Attorney General Mark Brnovich aimed at forcing the owners of opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma to return billions of dollars that he accused them of “looting” from the company to shield it from litigation by Arizona and other states.

The high court took up the matter in conference late last week and denied Brnovich’s motion on Monday.

Brnovich wants to force the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, to return at least $4 billion it pulled from the company. The family members took the money out of the company as Purdue was considering declaring bankruptcy in the face of thousands of lawsuits from states, counties, cities and other governmental entities alleging that it and other companies of fueling the nationwide opioid epidemic through reckless marketing practices.

Rather than start in U.S. District Court, as is common in most federal cases, Brnovich asked the Supreme Court to take his case directly. Article III of the U.S. Constitution permits the Supreme Court to take original jurisdiction over cases in which states are parties, though it is rare for the court to do so.

Brnovich said he’s disappointed that the Attorney General’s Office won’t be able to take its claims directly to the Supreme Court, but respects the court’s decision.

“Today’s ruling will not end our efforts to hold Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for their role in the opioid crisis. We will continue to fight for Arizona’s interests in the Purdue bankruptcy proceedings,” Brnovich said in a statement emailed to the Arizona Mirror.

Arizona was among a group of about two dozen states that agreed to a settlement with Purdue Pharma in September. Litigation by more than 2,400 other entities, including more than a dozen from Arizona, continues against other opioid companies.

Jeremy Duda
Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”