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In a case that has attracted national attention, Massachusetts' highest court ruled Monday that judges in the state have the authority to order people to remain drug free as a condition of probation and under some circumstances order a defendant jailed for violating the drug-free requirement.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that such a requirement does not violate the constitutional rights of people with substance use disorder or unfairly penalize them because of a medical condition beyond their control.

The court ruled in the case of Julie Eldred, who was jailed in 2016 after she tested positive for the powerful opioid fentanyl days into her probation on larceny charges. Eldred, who has severe substance use disorder, spent more than a week in jail after relapsing until her lawyer could find a bed for her at a treatment facility.

Eldred's lawyer argued before the high court in October that her client's substance use disorder made her powerless to control her desire to use drugs, and that jailing her effectively criminalized relapse - which often happens in the recovery process.

But the justices said the defendant's claims were based partly on untested science.

"Nor do we agree with the defendant that the requirement of remaining drug free is an outdated moral judgment about an individual's addiction," wrote Associate Justice Barbara Lenk. "The judge here did not abuse her discretion by imposing the special condition of probation requiring the defendant to remain drug free."

The court called the actions of two district court judges and the state probation department "exemplary." The justices noted that Eldred had admitted to police that she had stolen to support her drug habit.

Most addiction specialists - including groups such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and American Society of Addiction Medicine - view substance use disorder as a brain disease that interferes with a person's ability to control his or her desire to use drugs.


A Detroit-area woman seeking custody of as many as 10 frozen embryos is asking a judge to appoint a guardian over them while she clashes with her former partner for control.

Gloria Karungi and Ronaldlee Ejalu have a daughter who has sickle cell disease. Karungi believes if she can bear another child with one of the embryos, bone marrow cells from that sibling could potentially cure the girl's blood illness.

But Ejalu must give his consent, according to a contract with an in vitro fertilization clinic, and he's not interested. Karungi and Ejalu never married and are no longer together.

Oakland County Judge Lisa Langton last year said she didn't have the authority to wade into the embryo dispute; she was simply determining financial support and parenting time for the couple's daughter. But the Michigan appeals court sent the case back to Langton for more work, including an evidentiary hearing if necessary.

Karungi "wants to cure her daughter and is seeking the embryos to that end. ... Without the embryos coming to term, that child has no ability to be cured," the woman's attorney, Dan Marsh, said in a court filing.

Ejalu's lawyer, Dan Weberman, said he'll argue again that a Family Division judge has no role in what's basically a contract quarrel. He also said it's misleading for Karungi to claim that cells from a sibling are the only cure for the 7-year-old girl.

"They want to paint a picture like she's on her death bed," Weberman told The Associated Press. "She's in school. She's a happy girl. She gets treatment once a month."

Ejalu no longer believes that using frozen embryos is a good idea.

"He doesn't feel ethically that a life should be created for human tissue harvesting. That's somewhat mind-boggling," Weberman said.

Under orders from the appeals court, Langton on June 20 again will hear arguments on whether she has jurisdiction over contested property held by unmarried parties. But in the meantime, the judge has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday on Karungi's request to have a lawyer appointed as guardian over the embryos.


A dispute about the size of eye drops has failed to catch the eye of the Supreme Court.

Drug companies including Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer had asked the court to get involved in the case.

The companies were sued by patients using their eye drops to treat glaucoma and other eye conditions. The high court said Monday that it won't take the case.

That means a lower-court decision allowing the lawsuit to go forward will stand.

The patients said that drug companies' bottles dispense drops that are too large, leaving wasted medication running down their faces. The patients said they would pay less for their treatment if their bottles were designed to dispense smaller drops.


In the war being waged by large corporations against individual rights — and, yes, it is a war — a potentially decisive battle was recently fought. It will come as little surprise to any informed observer of American society that it was not the little guy who won.

The U.S. Supreme Court case of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. vs. Superior Court of California, which was decided in favor of BMS in June, may seem like an arcane question of legal jurisdiction. It’s anything but.

The case centered on a drug called Plavix that BMS developed. Plavix, also known by its generic name, clopidogrel, is an anti-platelet used to prevent blood from clotting inside blood vessels. Ever since the drug was approved by the FDA in 1997, thousands of people have claimed that it caused them gastrointestinal bleeding, severe bleeding from relatively minor cuts, and even brain damage.

Even though the company had significant business activities in California, as well as sales of Plavix and other drugs, a contract with a California distributor to distribute Plavix nationally, and employed hundreds of people in the state, BMS argued that California state courts could not exercise “personal jurisdiction” over the company for claims brought on behalf of people who lived, used Plavix, and were allegedly injured by the drug outside of California.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of BMS is a staggering blow for millions of Americans harmed each year by the reckless and abusive behavior of pharmaceutical companies. The decision raises an almost insurmountably high hurdle between victims and their hopes for obtaining justice in state courts throughout the country.

By foreclosing to plaintiffs’ state court venues other than those where these companies are “at home” — generally meaning where they are headquartered or incorporated — the Supreme Court has placed an almost impossible burden on state court litigants. They will now be forced to sue in far-off courts, convince experts to travel out of state to testify, and shuttle between their home states and wherever the drug company is at home. Their alternative will be pursing claims in federal court — but still also likely in a different state — where they will be subject to different laws, rules, and standards to prove their claims.


A federal appeals court panel has lifted an order blocking restrictions on how the abortion pill is administered in Arkansas, saying a judge didn't estimate how many women would be burdened by the law's requirements.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Friday vacated U.S. District Court Judge Kristine Baker's preliminary injunction against the 2015 law. The measure requires doctors providing the pill to maintain a contract with another physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications.

The panel said Baker should look into the number of women who would be unduly burdened by the contracting physician requirement and whether it amounts to a "large fraction" of women seeking the abortion pill in Arkansas.



Uncertainty over the future of health care for millions grew deeper Monday as insurers released a blueprint for stabilizing wobbly markets and the Trump administration left in limbo billions of dollars in federal payments.

At the federal courthouse, the administration and House Republicans asked appeals judges for a 90-day extension in a case that involves federal payments to reduce deductibles and copayments for people with modest incomes who buy their own policies. The fate of $7 billion in “cost-sharing subsidies” remains under a cloud as insurers finalize their premium requests for next year.

The court case is known as House v. Price. In requesting the extension, lawyers for the Trump administration and the House said the parties are continuing to work on measures, “including potential legislative action,” to resolve the issue. Requests for extensions are usually granted routinely.

Hours before the filing, a major insurer group released a framework for market stability that relies in part on a continuation of such subsidies.

The BlueCross BlueShield Association represents plans that are the backbone of insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, and would also be the mainstay with a Republican approach.

As the GOP-led Congress works on rolling back major parts of the Obama law, the BlueCross BlueShield plan called for:

Continued protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and sustained federal funding to offset the cost of care for the sickest patients.

More leeway for states to experiment with health insurance benefits, with a basic floor of federal standards.

Preserving ACA consumer safeguards including no lifetime caps on benefits, no higher premium for women based on gender, and a requirement that insurers spend a minimum of 80 cents of every premium dollar on medical care.


A media advocacy group and the American Civil Liberties Union are asking Missouri's highest court to settle whether the state's prison system must reveal the closely guarded source of the drug it uses in executions.

The nonprofit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs asked the Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday to review the matter, saying the issue has led to conflicting lower-court rulings.

The Missouri Department of Corrections has refused to disclose who supplies it with pentobarbital, saying suppliers' identities are shielded as part of its "execution team."

But the sources of the drugs in Missouri and other death-penalty states are widely believed to be compounding pharmacies, which make drugs tailored to a client's specific needs. Those pharmacies do not face the same approval process or testing standards of larger pharmaceutical companies, spawning lawsuits by watchdogs pressing for them to be publicly known and properly scrutinized.

Wednesday's filing insisted that "any resolution of this question directly affects the ability of the public to exercise effective oversight."

"Transparency is critical for the public to maintain trust in the manner in which executions are carried out in this state," the filing added. "Given this court's special, constitutionally enshrined role in monitoring executions in Missouri, it is in the best position to resolve this issue of immense public interest."

The Missouri Department of Corrections has not returned calls left Thursday morning seeking comment.

The Missouri Court of Appeals' Western District ruled in February that prison administrators aren't obligated to divulge who supplies the execution drugs, overturning a 2016 trial court ruling that found the state wrongly withheld documents that would identify pharmaceutical suppliers.


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