The attorney general’s efforts to investigate the role of drug companies in the state's ongoing opioid crisis took a big leap forward last week, thanks to a favorable ruling from the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
There were two basic issues at stake: Whether or not the Office of the Attorney General could get help on its investigation from an outside law firm, and whether the state could force the pharmaceutical companies it’s suing to turn over records related to their opioid sales in the state.
In August 2015, under then-Attorney General Joe Foster, New Hampshire subpoenaed five drug companies seeking such records. According to court documents, the companies initially agreed to comply but then backtracked, and in turn tried to prevent the state from being able to use outside counsel in its investigation.
In a ruling issued Friday, the New Hampshire Supreme Court said the drug companies didn’t have standing to take issue with the attorney general’s use of outside counsel and sent the case back down to a lower court for reconsideration.
It's unclear what the lower court will do from here, but the state Supreme Court's decision could pave the way for the state to move forward in its efforts to get more information about the companies' practices.
One of the lawyers listed in the court ruling as a representative of one of the drug companies in this case is now-attorney general Gordon MacDonald, who was involved in this capacity at Nixon Peabody, the law firm where he previously worked.
Because of his prior role in the lawsuit, MacDonald has recused himself. The case is now being handled by the deputy attorney general.