Judges and Courts Respond to Opioid Litigation Engulfing U.S. Court Systems

8 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2019

Date Written: February 7, 2019


This editorial summarizes the epidemic in the U.S. of opioid addiction, its lethality in the addict community, and its impact on the justice and social-services sectors. It focuses on the pursuit by federal, state and local court systems of innovative alternatives to traditional models of civil and criminal litigation. Judicial officials are determined to save lives by expediting case processing, compelling settlements from prescription manufacturers and distributors, and orchestrating a range of social services to detour addiction’s lethal path. The urgency of settlement is exacerbated by the need to reimburse an array of treatment-oriented public-sector institutions for the enormous costs they are incurring. As new laws and regulations constrain those suffering chronic pain from access to prescription opioids, many pivot to street traffickers for illicit heroin, meth, and fentanyl analogs and derivatives. Because those remedies are distributed through multi-national criminal enterprises, even the longest arms of the law are hard put to extract settlements, leaving essential and costly treatment modalities essentially unfunded except through taxpayer revenues. Whatever settlement proceeds obtain from the prescription opioid litigation must not be diverted, as they continue to be in the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, from addressing the harm and the resulting costs of the epidemic.

Keywords: opioid litigation, opioid courts, drug courts, opioid case consolidation, multi-district litigation, Judge Polster, opioid litigation settlement, treatment costs, fentanyl

Suggested Citation

Zimmer, Markus B., Judges and Courts Respond to Opioid Litigation Engulfing U.S. Court Systems (February 7, 2019). International Journal for Court Administration, Vol. 10, No. 1, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3399914

Markus B. Zimmer (Contact Author)

Justice Systems Advisors ( email )

8884 Willow Green Drive
Sandy, UT 84093
United States
801-733-6282 (Phone)

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