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U.S. seeks $280 billion tobacco remedy

FURTHER UPDATED 2-24-10:  All docket numbers have now been entered.

UPDATED Sunday 10:45 p.m. with link to Lorillard petition.


The Obama Administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to restore the government’s power to demand a huge turnover of tobacco industry profits, putting it in position to recover some $280 billion of what federal lawyers called “ill-gotten gains.” In a series of industry appeals, also filed Friday, the tobacco companies asked the Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that they did violate the federal RICO anti-racketeering law by the way they marketed cigarettes and other smoking products.  If the Court were to overturn the RICO violation ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court, it might never reach the government’s plea for “disgorgement” of profits.

By the time new filings are finished later today, the Court may have as many as seven cases seeking review of this massive case — first filed 11 years ago during the Clinton Administration — involving government challenges to decades of industry marketing practices.  The D.C. Circuit Court ruling finding a violation of the RICO law was discussed in this post last May.  The issue of whether the government could pursue a $280 billion “disgorgement” was decided against the government in an earlier ruling, in 2005.  The Supreme Court refused to hear a government appeal on that issue on October 17, 2005 (see this post), but the issue has remained alive through the later developments in the Circuit Court.

The Administration’s new petition (docketed as 09-978) is here.  A petition by Philip Morris Co. (09-976) is here; one by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco (09-977) is here. Altria Group’s petition (09-979) is here; British American Tobacco Co.’s petition (08-980) is here, and Lorillard Tobacco (09-1012) is here.  A coalition of anti-smoking advocates also appealed, urging the Court to restore a trial judge’s order requiring the tobacco industry to create a smoking-cessation program for youths; that petition is 09-994.