James Tierney

  • March 14, 2018
    Guest Post

    by James Tierney, Former Maine Attorney General and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School

    *This piece originally appeared on StateAG.org.  

    One of the hallmarks of the Obama Administration was its commitment to cooperate with state efforts to enforce the law. President Obama's sweeping anti-preemption Executive Order ushered in eight years of joint federal/state (and completely non partisan) law enforcement that led to success in a wide array of areas, including but not limited to antitrust, consumer protection, environmental justice and criminal law. 

  • March 5, 2018
    Guest Post

    by James E. Tierney, former Maine Attorney General and lecturer in law at Harvard Law School

    *This piece was originally posted on Buzzfeed

    The unchecked flood of opioids into our country has caused unspeakable damage, and the companies that manufacture them will inevitably be held accountable. When that moment comes, it is vital that we avoid the mistakes made in our attempts to hold Big Tobacco accountable.

    I helped coordinate the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, which ended with a giant settlement deal that would cost cigarette makers more than $200 billion and require major changes to the industry. But much of that money was wasted, and countless people have died as a result.

    We can’t let that happen again, and now is the time to start talking about what a Big Tobacco–style national settlement with Big Opioid should look like — and to demand nothing less from our state and federal leaders.

  • May 2, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on StateAG.org.  

    by James Tierney, Former Maine Attorney General and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School

    In a letter sent last week, 21 state attorneys general and the Office of Consumer Protection of Hawaii urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to immediately reconsider “the Department of Education’s revocation of critical student loan service reforms.” The policy and guidance memoranda withdrawn by the Department addressed industry-wide procedures by student loan servicing companies that were the subject of investigations and enforcement actions by the Illinois and Washington state attorneys general, among others.

    The April 24 letter highlights some of the industry practices that contributed to more than a quarter of borrowers being delinquent or in default on a student loan, according to a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB):

    “In its 2015 report, the CFPB identified troubling student loan servicer practices – including paperwork processing errors and failure to provide accurate information – that discourage the use of income-driven repayment plans. By reforming service incentives and strengthening consumer protections, the rescinded guidance sought to eliminate the loan servicing failures that keep borrowers from entering affordable repayment plans.” — April 24 letter from 21 state attorneys general to Department of Education

    According to Forbes, 44 million borrowers owe approximately $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, making it the second-largest type of consumer debt behind mortgages.

  • March 16, 2017
    Guest Post

    by James Tierney, Former Maine Attorney General and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School

    In the face of a reduced federal presence, Columbia Law School's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, in partnership with StateAG.org, has produced a valuable legal research tool for those interested in environmental law and policy. The State AG Environmental Action Database includes a variety of environmental lawsuits and other actions involving state attorneys general. Users can search its contents by state, issue or type of action. The database also includes links to relevant documents and resources.

    This impressive database has been put together by dedicated Columbia Law School students under the supervision of Jessica Wentz, who serves as staff attorney and associate research scholar for the Sabin Center.

    I cannot overstate the importance of this effort. It is the only place where this information has been brought together in a coherent, organized fashion. The database will remain a "work in progress" as AG offices provide more cases to be uploaded. Notwithstanding the efforts by some in Washington D.C., this database is demonstrable proof that state attorneys general remain vigorous protectors of our environmental heritage.

  • March 3, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on StateAG.org's Tierney Blog

    by James Tierney, Former Maine Attorney General and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School

    The Maryland Legislature has finally gotten around to giving that state's outstanding AG - Brian Frosh - the authority that is enjoyed by almost every other AG, e.g. the authority to protect and defend the public interest by exercising his or her own best legal judgement without the approval of the Governor or the Legislature. This initiative finally consigns to the historical dustbin a wrongly decided 1984 decision by the Maryland Supreme Court.

    As the Rhode Island Supreme Court said in 2008, "the holder of that high office (state attorney general), as distinguished from the usual advocate, has a special and enduring duty to seek justice." State of Rhode Island v. Lead Industries Association Inc.et al., 951 A.2d 428 (R.I. 2008). 

    Residents of Maryland can now be assured that their attorney general will now work to "seek justice" for them. And other attorneys general around the country can now fully welcome Maryland into their midst.