Arkansas Court Won’t Pull Prosecutor From Opioid Lawsuit

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ highest court on Friday (April 6) rejected the attorney general’s effort to force a prosecutor to withdraw from a lawsuit filed by a coalition of local governments against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The Arkansas Supreme Court denied Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s request to force Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington to withdraw from the lawsuit he filed with dozens of counties and cities last month. Rutledge argued that Ellington, who represents the 2nd judicial district in northeast Arkansas, didn’t have the authority to sue on behalf of the state.

The local governments’ lawsuit names 65 defendants, including several retailers, pharmacists and physicians. Rutledge has filed a separate lawsuit against three drug manufacturers, accusing them of deceptive marketing that fueled a spike in overdose deaths. Rutledge had argued that having two similar suits could hurt the state’s chances of recouping millions from drug manufacturers over the claims.

The court did not elaborate on its reason for denying the request in its one-page order.

Rutledge’s office said she was disappointed in the decision, but would continue pursuing her lawsuit against the opioid companies.

“The attorney general hopes that both lawsuits are successful in holding those responsible for the opioid crisis accountable and to provide much needed resources to the cities, counties and state to combat it,” Jessica Ray, a spokeswoman for Rutledge, said in an email.

Ellington said he didn’t believe either case would be harmed by having two lawsuits.

“I am a representative of the state and I certainly do not want the state to be harmed in any way,” Ellington said. “I’m also beholden to particularly my six county judges and my six sheriffs and numerous city mayors and police chiefs that have suffered from this opioid epidemic.”

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