May 14, 2018

Attorney General Bondi to make "major announcement" about opioid crisis

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi

Attorney General Pam Bondi is making a "major announcement" about the opioid crisis in Tampa tomorrow.

The announcement is being made at Riverside Recovery Center at 2 p.m.

While the details of her announcement were not released, she's been working for months to find a team of lawyers to sue the drug makers and distributors accused of causing the state's heroin crisis, which has killed thousands of Floridians.

The Herald/Times reported today that some top lawyers and law firms did not apply to represent the state, citing an 8-year-old state law that caps attorneys' fees.

May 08, 2018

Gwen Graham to Pam Bondi: "stop stalling" and sue the drug companies

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Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham stands with supporters for a photo after she announced that she is running for governor at a park in Miami Gardens in 2017.

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham called on Attorney General Pam Bondi to "stop stalling" and sue the drug companies that many believe are responsible for creating the nation's opioid crisis.

"Florida families are tired of waiting," Graham, an attorney, said in a statement. "If Pam Bondi, the attorney general and a lawyer, can’t find an attorney to file a lawsuit, she can call me directly and I’ll help guide her through the process."

Bondi has spent months searching for a lawyer to take the case, while hundreds of other states, cities and counties - some in Florida - have already filed lawsuits.

The suits generally target the makers of powerful prescription drugs and the companies that distributed them, arguing that the companies either turned a blind eye to or knowingly sold highly addictive opioids.

Bondi has said that Florida will be filing a separate lawsuit and won't be joining a massive multi-state action taking shape in a federal court in Ohio.

Graham first called on Bondi to sue back in September. State Democratic lawmakers have also urged the attorney general to take action.

"For years, Attorney General Bondi looked the other way as powerful drug companies profited off abusive practices and fueling the opioid addictions of countless Floridians," Graham said. "Finally, after thousands of Floridians have died, Bondi says she'll sue — but words are meaningless without action."

She said that as governor, "I will hold the drug companies accountable and use all the powers of the office to address the opioid epidemic."

Bondi's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

January 18, 2018

AG Pam Bondi: "We're prepared to go to litigation" against opioid manufacturers


Florida officials are meeting with a federal judge in Ohio in a few weeks to try to reach a settlement with the drug manufacturers and distributors who helped create America's opioid crisis, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said Thursday.

Bondi said she's sending her chief deputy to a Jan. 31 hearing in Cleveland before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing more than 200 lawsuits filed by states, cities, counties and individuals against the drug companies. 

"Am I optimistic we’re going to resolve it that day? No," Bondi said. "And if we’re not, we’re prepared to go to litigation."

She said her office was also hiring outside counsel to represent Florida, which has not yet filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers.

"I feel it’s in their (the drug companies') best interests to attempt to resolve it as early as possible and at least correct their conduct," she said. "And then we’ll go back and get all the money that they owe these people."

Bondi, who led the crackdown on pill mills that inadvertently led to the heroin crisis, has been a proponent of expanding treatment for addicts. But she has not filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers, distributors and doctors who helped create the crisis, and cities like Delray Beach and some counties have started to pursue legal action on their own.

Instead of filing a lawsuit, like attorneys general in Ohio and other states have done, she joined 40 other states in an investigation into the drug companies last year. She would not answer questions Thursday about whether the companies have complied with the investigators' subpoenas.

However, despite not filing a lawsuit, Florida could end up getting money from a settlement that comes out of Polston's courtroom.

The judge has been pushing for plaintiffs and drug companies to reach a settlement, and earlier this month he invited the members of the multi-state investigation to attend the Jan. 31 hearing.

“It’s clear that any resolution has to be a global one and needs to include the states, and lawsuits that have been filed and lawsuits that are contemplated,” Polster told the Associated Press.

Bondi on Thursday called the drug companies' actions over the last two decades "outrageous" and said, "I'm over them."

"It’s about time they all step up to the plate and admit what they’ve been doing, and we won’t back down on that," she said. 

September 07, 2017

Donald Trump will appoint Pam Bondi to a presidential commission addressing the opioid crisis



Donald Trump announced Thursday that he will appoint Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a political ally, to the President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The appointment was first reported in March but made official on Thursday, the White House said.

Trump gave Bondi a $25,000 political contribution in 2013, setting off controversy when Trump launched his presidential bid that Trump's contribution steered Bondi's office away from an investigation into Trump University. Bondi was a vocal surrogate for Trump on the campaign trail as he narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton in Florida. 

"“I’ve just known Pam Bondi for years,” Trump told reporters during the campaign. “I have a lot of respect for her.”

Trump signed an executive order establishing the opioid commission in March. The commission is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and includes Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper

"Governor Christie will be instrumental in researching how best to combat this serious epidemic and how to treat those it has affected," Trump said in a statement when the commission was launched. "He will work with people on both sides of the aisle to find the best ways for the Federal Government to treat and protect the American people from this serious problem. This is an epidemic that knows no boundaries and shows no mercy, and we will show great compassion and resolve as we work together on this important issue."

The Christie-led committee missed two deadlines to issue an interim report over the summer, and asked the President to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency when it released its initial report in August. 

"Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch even further to deal with
this loss of life," the report said. "It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will."

June 05, 2017

Bondi to back Tampa's Ashley Moody to succeed her as attorney general


From the Tampa Bay Times' Dan Sullivan:

Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody has yet to officially announce her candidacy for attorney general. But she already has the support of that office's current occupant.

Pam Bondi told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday that Moody is her preferred successor, and the candidate she will support in the 2018 race.

"I've known her most of her life," Bondi said. "I don't think there could be a more qualified candidate for attorney general in the entire state of Florida. I whole-heartedly support Ashley and I'm proud of her for wanting to sacrifice so much for our state."

Bondi said she met Moody when the future judge was a teenager, having attended law school with her mother, Carol, at Stetson University College of Law. They have remained close throughout the years.

Moody served as a circuit judge in Hillsborough for 10 years before abruptly resigning in April. Speculation swirled that her departure from the bench was in preparation for a higher office.

After Moody resigned as a judge in April, Bondi said she encouraged her to run for attorney general. Last week, Moody filed to run for the office with the state Division of Elections. She is expected to officially announce her candidacy Tuesday. The other candidates are Republican State Representative Jay Fant of Jacksonville and Democrat Ryan Torrens of Tampa.

"No one will outwork Ashley Moody in this race," Bondi said. 

Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times file photo

May 23, 2017

Bondi on Sunshine exemption sealing criminal records: What about sex offenders?


Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says she’s “concerned” about a new exemption to the state’s Sunshine Law, which would virtually eliminate Floridians’ access to millions of criminal and arrest records.

Approved unanimously by lawmakers last month, SB 118 would require clerks to seal more than 2.7 million criminal records and hundreds of thousands of arrest records for individuals who were found not guilty, acquitted at trial, had charges against them dropped or dismissed, or weren’t charged after being arrested.

That would effectively prevent people from knowing whether someone was arrested or charged with a crime when they ultimately aren’t convicted in a court of law.

“What concerns me about this — just as a career prosecutor: Sex offenders,” Bondi told reporters Tuesday. “I think some of those cases are very important, to be able to know about the past and the history. That does concern me.”

Full details here.

Herald/Times staff writer Michael Auslen contributed.

Photo credit: AP

May 18, 2017

Firing Comey was 'justified,' Bondi says


via @adamsmithtimes

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the earliest high profile endorser of Donald Trump, said the president did the right thing firing FBI Director James Comey, regardless of whether he was in the midst of overseeing an investigation into the Trump administration's dealings with Russia.

"I think it was justified. He has every legal right to do so. Democrats were complaining about him, Republicans were complaining about him. That job should not be a political job. We should not be hearing very publicly from the leader of the FBI," said Bondi, who also called former FBI Director Robert Mueller a good choice for special counsel looking at the Russia matter.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

May 08, 2017

Mayor Jack Seiler continues to mull Florida Attorney General bid



Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said he is in no rush to decide whether to run for Florida Attorney General in 2018 and will make up his mind at some point this year.

Seiler said he spoke with Democrats about the possibility of running while in Tallahassee in recent days for his daughter's law school graduation.

Seiler said he initially thought he would have to reach a decision by the spring but doesn't feel pressure to do so now that no one has announced on the Democratic side. (State Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican, filed May 5th and there are several other potential contenders on the Republican side.)

"The campaign starts the day you announce your decision -- I don't need to have a 15, 16, 17-month campaign if I don't have to," Seiler said Monday. "I have time to make a more educated and informed decision. I am looking at all the factors: Can a Democrat win statewide? Can a Democrat win in an off-year?"

Seiler, who is term-limited as mayor, is also weighing the impact of President Donald Trump's presidency on his chances and whether Seiler can win as a moderate. If Seiler jumps in and faces a competitive Democratic primary, he could take heat from the LGBTQ community over his stance on same-sex marriage.

Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi is term limited.



April 06, 2017

Prosecutor drops Bondi bribery case due to lack of evidence

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From the Associated Press:

A bribery complaint against President Donald Trump and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi lacks enough evidence to move forward, a state prosecutor told the governor Thursday.

The complaint filed by a Massachusetts attorney stemmed from scrutiny last year over a $25,000 campaign contribution Bondi received from Trump in 2013. Bondi asked for the donation near the same time that her office was being asked about a New York investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott handed the case to a southwest Florida prosecutor after another prosecutor said he could not investigate the case because Bondi used to work him.

A prosecutor working in State Attorney Stephen Russell's office concluded that there is no reasonable suspicion that Trump or Bondi broke Florida's bribery law.

More here.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal, Miami Herald staff

March 28, 2017

Bondi heads to White House -- to moderate panel

via @adamsmithtimes

Attorney General Pam Bondi may or may not wind up with a Trump administration job that months ago was widely assumed by her friends and allies to be imminent, but on Wednesday she will moderate President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump’s Women’s Empowerment Panel at the White House. 

Panelists include U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma.

“As Florida’s first female attorney general, I am honored to moderate this panel with such remarkable and accomplished leaders,” said Attorney General Bondi.

Also, according to Politico, Bondi also used the opportunity to "talk about children's issues" in a meeting with Trump, DeVos and Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development.

She even took time to pose for a photo with Trump in the Oval Office. She was accompanied by former Tampa Bay Bucs coach Tony Dungy and fellow All Pro Dads advocate Mark Merrill, and Derrick Brooks, former Buc and co-founder of Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School in Tampa.

--ADAM C. SMITH, Tampa Bay Times