U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack is incensed at Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for seizing X-rays, some of which are now missing, that are key to federal and state investigations into potentially fraudulent diagnoses of the lung disease silicosis.
Jack made national headlines last year when she issued an opinion that the majority of more than 10,000 silicosis lawsuits before her were about litigation rather than medical care and that the "diagnoses were driven neither by health nor justice: they were manufactured for money."
Abbott's office, along with a congressional committee and the U.S. Attorney's Office, have been investigating since.
Four armed agents from Abbott's office visited the storage facility where thousands of X-rays related to the case were being housed on behalf of the federal court with a subpoena June 23, threatening to arrest the storage supervisor if he did not turn them over.
When Jack learned July 5 that the state attorney general's office had removed the X-rays, she ordered the office to return them by noon the following day, according to court records.
Forty boxes of X-rays came back, but an inventory by records custodian Gary Cosgrove showed that 152 X-rays are missing.
"Let me tell you that real, real clearly. It may be a criminal matter, and we're going to have to turn this over to the appropriate people," Jack said during an Aug. 11 telephone hearing that included representatives from Abbott's office. "The arrogance of taking those documents from a federal court supervised depository is astounding. You all took documents that did not belong to you, under - with armed guards."
How is it beneficial to anyone -- the plaintiffs, the defendants, the courts, an atmosphere of cooperation between federal and state authorities and oh, maybe all of the people of the state of Texas -- when the OAG runs amok, seizing X-rays from a US federal record depository using men with guns, and then losing some of them?
Or are the X-rays even actually "misplaced"? Can we next expect Greg Abbott to grandstand something outlandish in order to bring attention to himself in an election season?
Abbott, suddenly realizing that he's in a tough re-election fight, is scrambling to show that he has been doing something -- anything -- to justify his term as the state's chief law enforcement officer and protector of Texas consumers (clue: he hasn't done a damn thing for anyone except conservative evangelicals and greedy corporations). All he's got to show for the past four years is a couple of online child predator convictions and some charges of voter fraud against little old ladies who took mail-in ballots to the post office.
Appalling. This is what it looks like when power-mad Republicans get desperate. To paraphrase the car commercials: they are arrogant, incompetent, and built to stay that way.Of course, no matter how this matter is eventually resolved between Judge Jack and Abbott -- whether by sober discussion, flying subpoenas or flying bullets -- you have a clear choice in the Texas Attorney General's race.
Update: Tom Kirkendall links to the New York Sun, which has more on the legal backstory.
Update II (8/24): The Houston Chronicle remains mute on this story. They didn't even pick up the AP report, which the Dallas News had first, and the Austin Statesman and several Texas radio and TV stations managed. To the Chronic's credit, however, somebody over there reads (and maybe even likes) this blog, because this posting appeared on the Opinion page (it's now cycled off; it was listed shortly after I put it up). Other blogs commented ...
Short story: A federal judge was keeping thousands of X-rays under lock and key. They were to be used as part of a federal investigation into potentially fraudulent diagnoses of the lung disease silicosis. 4 armed men from the Attorney General's office, carrying a subpoena, threatened to arrest the owner of a storage complex if he wouldn't fork over the X-rays. They then walked off with the X-rays. Thing is, the Constitution bars states from intervening in a federal court's jurisdiction. Abbott could now be deposed in a federal court if it turns out he ordered the seizure of the X-rays.
Daily Kos (TXsharon's diary):
There's more to this story then an overzealous attorney general. That is out of character for Greg Abbott who is a corrupt, Karl Rove and Tom DeLay crony and an enabler of predatory corporations and monopolists.
John Colyandro, who worked for Karl Rove, was laundering Tom Delay's TRMPAC money while on Greg Abbott's campaign payroll during 2002. Colyandro has been indicted for money laundering and also faces 13 charges of unlawful acceptance of corporate political contributions.
Abbott's biggest donor is Bob Perry, tycoon homebuilder and financier of Karl Rove's Swift Boat smear campaign tactics.I have a burning desire to discover those doctor's names and see if they happen to show up on Abbott's Texas Ethics Commission report. I do note that doctors seem to contribute heavily to Abbott.
This isn't, by any means, an exhaustive list of the things which should not be entrusted to Attorney General Greg Abbott so please, just because you don't see something here, don't assume that Attorney General Greg Abbott can be trusted to care for it.
In fact, it would be best if you just didn't trust Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Ok. I understand the war on class action suits. Republicans don't want little people to band together to fight the big guys when the big guys do bad things. I understand that companies want plantiffs near death when they begin the process to sue for medical injury. What I don't understand is the battle between the judge who wanted the injured near death and the AG who is a Republican tool.
Capitol Annex reported the story and also David Van Os' response:
“I’m not surprised by this arrogant conduct. Greg Abbott is part of the silk-stocking social clique that runs Texas government as if it were their private club. This it the same Greg Abbott who lets the Texas Department of Transportation hide its contracts with foreign companies, who uses the taxpayers’ money to file legal briefs and maps on behalf of the Republican Party, who employs Tom Delay’s cronies, and who refuses to challenge the oil companies on behalf of the people of Texas. Seizing and then losing working people’s personal medical records from a court file is par for his course.”