MARSHALL ISLANDS REPLIES TO TOBACCO CASE RULING

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (February 2, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Lead Attorney for the RMI government’s case against American tobacco industry, Don Howarth, provided the following comments on Judge Johnson’s ruling last week for the tobacco companies (See: Judge Tosses Out 10 Of 11 Marshall Islands Tobacco Case Claims at http://pidp.ewc.hawaii.edu/pireport/2001/March/03-06-UP4.htm  and High Court Criticizes RMI’s American Attorneys In Tobacco Case at http://pidp.ewc.hawaii.edu/pireport/2001/March/03-06-UP5.htm ):

The expert for the government who was challenged gave an opinion quantifying damages. The Court rejected use of a U.S. database for calculating health care costs. The expert’s work calculated ongoing damages based on the cost to provide the best standard of health care available, and we are confident that if such facilities were put into place utilization would mirror that of the U.S.

A number of the facts recited in the Order are simply wrong or relate to issues not in the record. For example, the Order says that Dr. Miller never came to the RMI to learn about conditions here. In fact, Dr. Miller did come to the RMI with Dr. Palafox and visited Ebeye and Majuro, and the hospitals and facilities. The Court also speculates that the Marshallese population cannot understand damage numbers, because they are so high.

The Order, if not reconsidered, means that injuring the Marshallese is not as expensive for Tobacco as injuring the people represented by the Attorney Generals of the United States.

The opinion also goes into political issues, criticizes counsel and the government, and goes into matters far afield of the record. It does not read like Justice Johnson’s rulings in the past.

We believe that the tobacco companies’ conduct in the MI is more egregious than in the States. We believe that the RMI has every right to hold the tobacco industry accountable. The RMI’s tobacco case is virtually identical to the cases filed by 46 out of the 50 US state attorneys general and the Depart of Justice.

There is no support for the proposition that the RMI is wrong to do what those governments did.

The Court’s ruling, if it is not modified, would give a massive windfall to the tobacco companies. As to appeal, the Court specified that this was not a final judgment because the claims for damages measure by recovery of past sales have not yet been addressed. Until this is resolved there can be no appeal.

If, however, the Court will not reconsider its views and will not reopen the matter for the development of another approach to estimating damages, the Court certainly should certify its decision for immediate review by the Supreme Court – just as it has done for the rulings now under challenge by the tobacco companies, which come on for Supreme Court argument next week.

We expect to file our motion for reconsideration and reopening this week.

CHIEF JUSTICE FIELDS PUTS HIS VIEW

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (March 2, 2001 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Marshall Islands Supreme Court Chief Justice Allen Fields said this week that the High Court doesn’t have authority to hear a request from the tobacco companies seeking to withdraw constitutional issues from Supreme Court review.

Last year, the tobacco companies appealed to the Supreme Court to rule on constitutional-related issues in the tobacco cases but have now moved the High Court to withdraw its order transmitting certain constitutional issues for the Supreme Court to consider.

"The High Court has lost jurisdiction over all matters relating to the writ filed in this matter as well as the issues removed to the Supreme Court," Allen said in order Tuesday. "The validity of the recent orders issued by the High Court will depend upon the decisions rendered by the Supreme Court following oral arguments to be held on March 7 in the Supreme Court in Majuro." The request to delay the hearing was denied.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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