2021 has been quite a year for justice. Here are my top five “justice stories:”
1. I just finished watching the Hulu produced mini-series “Dopesick.” The series details the OxyContin fraud perpetrated by executives at Purdue Pharma, which resulted in huge numbers of our citizens becoming addicted to opioids. 2021 is the year that Purdue Pharma is finally being held accountable to our citizens and our government for the harm it caused.
Purdue Pharma is effectively out of business. In addition, the Sackler family, which founded the company and was principally responsible for the opioid pandemic, must pay $4.5 billion in damages to settle thousands of opioid claims filed against Purdue. This is in addition to the company’s $8 billion 2020 settlement with the federal government.
The litigation is still being played out in court as the most recent version of final settlement terms was rejected because recipients felt the level of personal protection being afforded to members of the Sackler family was too generous. Thus, the Sackler’s personal level of responsibility is still being litigated. Stay tuned.
2. As most of my readers know, I am from the great state of Michigan. I was born, raised, and educated there—I went to law school and practiced law in the Michigan courts for decades. Michigan has been a “purple” state for most of my life. In most federal elections, the state leans blue. Its state legislature has been predominately Republican; Republicans and Democrats have swapped gubernatorial victories for decades. Like the feds, Republicans, for most of my career, have been able to stack the state supreme court, and access to justice has been seriously impacted.
That’s why this next justice story is so special to me. In what may be the largest settlement in Michigan history, $626 million will be paid to 85,000 Flint residents who were negatively impacted by what has become known as the ‘Flint water crisis.”
What’s the ‘Flint water crisis?’ you ask? In 2014, the state of Michigan, under Republican governor Rick Snyder, decided to save money by switching the city’s water supply from Detroit’s safe water system to the Flint River. The river had no corrosion control system and many residents were literally poisoned by lead and other substances/bacteria. The former governor was indicted by the feds for his role in the environmental disaster, which contaminated the majority of Flint’s Black residents’ drinking water. Hopefully, this settlement teaches our leaders to never again jeopardize public health to save a few bucks.
3. Those familiar with my novels know that I have a particular disdain for organizations that cover-up incidents of child sexual abuse. My novel, Betrayal of Faith, tells the story of one such incident. I am most pleased to report that 2021 is the year that the Boy Scouts of America organization is finally being held accountable for its despicable indifference to the sexual assault of minors by scout leaders. After filing for bankruptcy protection, the organization has announced a tentative $800 million settlement agreement with decades of sex abuse survivors.
It is wonderful to see that our civil justice system and some terrific trial lawyers are working to hold these predators and enablers responsible for years of abuse and assault by scout leaders, and the organization’s neglect in ignoring reports and failing to stop the abuse.
4. In what might be the most important civil rights lawsuit of the 21st Century, Capitol Police Officers have filed a civil rights lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. The officers seek to hold the former president accountable for the January 6th attack on our Capitol. While the litigation will not be concluded in 2021, its filing is an historic occasion. Citizens have to go back to civil war days to recall a time of disruption, division, and chaos equal to what this man has unleashed in our beloved country. Why did he do it, you ask? Because he’s not just a loser; he’s a poor loser.
2021 also features the Attorney General for Washington D.C.’s filing of a civil lawsuit seeking to hold the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other White supremacist groups accountable for the January 6th insurrection. Will the combination of lawsuits mark the end of this type of divisive behavior? I doubt it, but it is heartening to see the good guys fighting back and supporting equal justice for all.
5. Dominion Voting Systems initiated two interesting pieces of litigation in 2021. The company, a subject of multiple baseless claims of voter fraud broadcast to and in the media, filed suit against former president Trump’s legal team, which includes former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, and another against “My Pillow Guy” Mike Lindell.
The lawsuit against the lawyers is premised on the fact that lawyers are held to a higher standard of conduct. They cannot make false statements or accusations to the media, and they especially may not do so in court. These clowns are accused of doing both. The lawsuit against Lindell is a defamation suit. Lindell alleged that Dominion’s voting machines were manipulated or ‘hacked’ by foreign governments to alter the outcome of the 2020 election. Dominion must provide that the statements were false, Lindell knew them to be false, and that Dominion was damaged by them. I wish Dominion success in its pursuit of justice and vindication These seem like slam dunks to this writer/reporter. We shall see.
These lawsuits and settlements are shining examples of how our justice system is used to hold powerful wrongdoers accountable to the citizens they’ve harmed. Donald Trump is the only president in history to ever make lying and personal gain a political platform. It is my fervent wish that 2022 will be the year that the former president and his laughable cronies are held accountable for actions detrimental to our country.
Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series, ripped-from-the headlines, realistic fiction that speak truth to power and champion the rights of citizens in our justice system. These novels, dedicated to the social justice movement, are not only enjoyable, they educate, spark discussion and inspire readers to action. For more information, please visit www.markmbello.com. Mark also hosts the Justice Counts podcast with Not Fake News editor & publisher Bob Gatty, presenting bi-weekly interviews focused on social justice.