state courts

State attorney general actions: Strategies for venue and settlement differ from typical litigation

February 16, 2023 – Litigation against a state attorney general can be catastrophic for the company on the receiving end of the confidential regulatory investigation that precipitated the filing of a complaint. When a state attorney general makes the previously unknown regulatory investigation public, a company will likely face negative publicity, customer or consumer questions, outrage, regulatory scrutiny, and private lawsuits. And that is before taking into account the business opportunities, employee recruitment efforts, goodwill in the marketplace, and valuations that are all likely to suffer in the wake of an investigation being made public.

Many companies and their outside counsel mistakenly believe that the same tactics they employ for typical litigation against the plaintiffs’ bar or commercial competitors would be just as effective when litigating a state attorney general action. Relying on these same tactics, however, could cost companies dearly because litigation initiated by state attorneys general differs significantly from litigation initiated by private plaintiffs.

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In the first part of this two-part series, we discuss three reasons why litigators must approach state attorney general actions differently than typical litigation:

(1) Unlike private plaintiffs, state attorneys general can and usually do investigate companies before filing a lawsuit.

(2) State attorneys general are motivated by public policy considerations.

(3) Changes within state attorneys general offices can affect the direction of a suit.

There are two additional reasons why litigators should approach these two kinds of actions differently. State attorneys general may have procedural advantages in that venue normally remains in state court; and they could have leverage in settlement discussions when civil penalties were available. Both concern the way litigators must engage with state attorneys general in the litigation trenches.

Litigation involving state attorneys general will almost always take place in state

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Healey, the state’s top judge rallied for $49M state investment into legal aid for low-income residents

Lawyers, bar association leaders and advocates are urging Massachusetts legislators to allocate more money for civil legal aid programs in the next state budget. They say the past few years showed an increased demand for these programs, which provide low-income residents with free legal advice and representation.

Hundreds of people attended a virtual event Thursday in support of a $49 million allocation, including some heavy hitters in Boston’s legal circles, such as Gov. Maura Healey and Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd. The budget-writing process for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is revving up as the governor drafts her ideas for tens of billions in state spending.

“Our legal system is dedicated to the principle of providing equal justice for all,” said Budd. “But too often we fall short of the ideal because many people still lack the legal resources that they need to present their cases in the courts, and our legal aid organizations work tirelessly simply do not have enough funding to provide counsel for everyone who comes to them seeking help.”

Budd said in the last three years, civil legal aid cases involving unemployment insurance quadrupled from pre-pandemic figures, and that domestic violence cases, housing and immigration all increased by 20%.

Fewer people were turned away from legal aid services this past year thanks to state funding — but advocates say more is needed.

Louis Tompros, chair of the Equal Justice Coalition, which hosted Thursday’s event, said last year state dollars helped cut down on how many qualified recipients had to be turned away by legal aid programs across the state: 47% last year, down from 57% the year before.

“More funding means more people being served, and yet there remains a huge unmet need,” he said. “Almost half of low-income residents

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Mass. SJC chief justice calls for an increase in state funding for civil legal aid for low-income residents

The pandemic has spurred low-income people to seek legal aid for unemployment, domestic violence, housing and immigration cases. But there’s not nearly enough funding for legal aid organizations to meet the exploding demand, says Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly S. Budd.

So Budd is calling for more state funding to address the growing equity concerns.

“Our legal system is dedicated to the principle of providing equal justice for all. But too often we fall short of that ideal, because many people still lack the resources that they need to present their cases in the courts,” Budd said Thursday in remarks delivered during the 24th annual Talk to the Hill event organized by the Equal Justice coalition, a collaboration between the Boston and Massachusetts bar associations and the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation.

“Our legal aid organizations, who work tirelessly, simply don’t have enough funding to provide counsel for everyone who comes to them seeking help,” Budd said. “Nearly half of the people who seek assistance do not get it.”

Budd and advocates called for $49 million in increased state funding in fiscal year 2024 for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, the largest funding source for civil legal aid organizations in the state. The body was established by the Legislature in 1983 to ensure low-income residents have representation in noncriminal matters including housing, employment, health care, immigration, and domestic violence issues such as restraining orders.

Over the last three fiscal years, civil legal aid cases involving unemployment insurance have quadrupled, and domestic violence, housing and immigration have all grown by 20 percent or more, Budd said.

“The need is clear,” Budd said.

Budd referred to a recent nationwide poll conducted by the National Center for State Courts which found that nearly half of all respondents questioned whether state courts

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