SCOTUS Decides Fate Of Landmark Opioid Settlement | Crooked Media
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December 04, 2023
What A Day
SCOTUS Decides Fate Of Landmark Opioid Settlement

In This Episode

  • The Biden administration is sounding the alarm to Congress about the need to pass a funding bill to support Ukraine in their war with Russia. White House budget official Shalanda Young sent a letter to party leaders in the House and Senate on Monday warning that “we are out of money — and nearly out of time.”
  • The Supreme Court on Monday heard yet another case with significant implications – this time about the opioid crisis. The question in front of the court will determine whether or not the wealthy Sackler family, which made much of its fortune through opioids like Oxycontin, will be held directly liable for their role in the opioid crisis.
  • And in headlines: Spotify laid off roughly 1,500 employees on Monday, Doug Burgum announced that he suspended his 2024 presidential campaign, and faculty at Cal State University are on strike this week.


Show Notes:



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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, December 5th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson and this is What a Day, the podcast that has a message for Ryan Murphy, who’s reportedly starting a new legal drama starring Kim Kardashian. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, cast me, Ryan. She does not have a law degree yet, but I do. [laughter] Reportedly somewhere around here. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, I would watch any show with you on it Josie.


Josie Duffy Rice: Thank you so much. We should have a show together. [laughter] [music break On today’s show, we go deeper on yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing about the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan. Plus, should we spend $200 on a cameo from George Santos? 


[clip of George Santos] Botox keeps you young, fillers keeps you plump. [kiss sound] 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yikes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: My morality is right up against my interest. All of that is coming up. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, but first, with just a few weeks before the end of the year, the Biden administration is sounding the alarm to Congress about the need to pass a funding bill to support Ukraine in their war with Russia or, quote, “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield.” Those are the words of White House Budget chief Shalanda Young, who sent a letter to party leaders in the House and Senate Monday warning that, quote, “We are out of money and nearly out of time.” 


Josie Duffy Rice: That is extremely concerning and very dire sounding. Can you update us? What is she talking about? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So back in October, we talked about this $106 billion dollar aid package that President Biden wanted Congress to pass. This was the one that tied funding for Israel, Taiwan and the U.S. border with Mexico to additional aid to support Ukraine. Well, that package still hasn’t been voted on, largely because the Republicans want to link any further aid for Ukraine to what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calls, quote, “partisan and extreme immigration measures.” So it has basically stalled. Much of the opposition is coming from Republicans in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson has to navigate his fellow far right fools, also known as the Freedom Caucus. Seems like they would prefer to pass a lot of smaller bills as opposed to one large one. But Schumer is tired of waiting in the Senate. He’s going to hold a vote on the proposal this week, as early as tomorrow or Thursday. Behind the scenes negotiations are still happening, though, so we will likely have updates to come. But it is clear that if our government still cares about supporting Ukraine at all, whatever funding they’re going to approve needs to be done soon. White House Budget Chief Young said in her letter, quote, “This isn’t a next year problem. The time to help a democratic Ukraine fight against Russian aggression is right now.” 


Josie Duffy Rice: Speaking of Ukraine, what is the latest in their fight against Russia? 


Tre’vell Anderson: When it comes to Ukraine, I’ll just be honest. It ain’t looking too good. Ukraine has been trying to fight off Russia since February 2022. That’s almost two years now. And as allies like the US debate, if they’re going to send more aid. Fears are really growing about a potential stalemate in the war. Though there have been many small victories for Ukraine as of late. Their counteroffensive is really stalling. The Washington Post actually just published a two part series that we will link to in the show notes. It details how the U.S. and Ukrainian military have basically been at odds with how to fight back against Russia for some time. And of note, they say that Ukraine has only regained about 200 square miles of territory from Russia. That’s with thousands of deaths over these almost two years and billions of dollars in Western support. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, said in an interview with German broadcaster ARD over the weekend, quote, “Wars develop in phases. We have to support Ukraine in both good and bad times. We should also be prepared for bad news.” That follows Ukraine’s commander in chief, who said in an interview last month that it would take a significant technological advancement in order for things to move forward. So not great news at all for Ukraine in their war with Russia. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It does feel worth noting like two years ago, people said this was going to be over in weeks, right? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Nobody thought–


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –that Ukraine could last this long, and–. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –It’s not over yet. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s not over yet and it’s not easy to fight Russia. [laugh] So.


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Thanks for that, Tre’vell. We will keep the WAD Squad updated. Now on to a case we mentioned on yesterday’s show. Yesterday morning, the Supreme Court heard yet another case with significant implications, this time about the opioid crisis. We wanted to follow up to explain it in more detail and lay out how things went at oral argument. The question in front of the court is a kind of complicated one, but ultimately it’s going to determine whether or not the wealthy Sackler family, which made much of its fortune through opioids like OxyContin, can avoid liability for their role in the opioid crisis. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Gotcha. So you said that the question the court was considering was complicated. What is the actual question that they are expected to resolve here? 


Josie Duffy Rice: As it often is in front of the court, right, the actual question is a narrow, very tiny one that has much bigger implications for a lot of things. Right. So the actual question here is about federal bankruptcy code, which even given how many boring areas of the law there are. This is one of the most boring. [laughter] But the court has to decide whether or not a bankruptcy court judge had the authority to approve a settlement that gave billions of dollars to victims of the opioid crisis while shielding members of the Sackler family from being individually held liable. So basically, the Sackler family gave victims and states affected by the opioid crisis a total of about $6 billion dollars. The deal was that that means nobody can sue them any more in civil court for having anything to do with the harm of the opioid crisis. So that’s basically the trade off. And the US trustee program, which is a little known DOJ office, is the one that actually challenged this settlement. So they say basically that the bankruptcy court judge just didn’t have the right to approve this deal. They didn’t have the right to grant legal immunity to the Sacklers. You know, the Sacklers weren’t even filing for bankruptcy. So their argument is basically about like this deal is not enforceable because the person who approved it didn’t have the right to. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, I got it. So I also know that this was a particularly long oral argument, about two hours in total. I got to know what was said, why did it take two hours? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, two hours is really long for the court. Um. And it sort of seemed to be one of those really complicated things where, like, theory is butting up against practice. There were legit questions about whether a bankruptcy judge should have this power to do this. And this isn’t the first time. This is kind of a practice in bankruptcy court. But they’re really trying to make a decision of whether or not the judge overstepped here. Do we want bankruptcy court judges to be able to grant billionaires civil immunity? Obviously, the victims also get something in exchange for that. But it’s not really clear that, like the Sacklers are really paying a huge price here, like they’re not about to go broke. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: They have more money than God himself. As Justice Elena Kagan said:


[clip of Justice Elena Kagan] In some ways, they’re getting a better deal than the usual bankruptcy discharge because as Justice Gorsuch indicated, they’re being protected from claims of fraud and claims of willful misconduct. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Not only were they not filing for bankruptcy, they got a better deal than they would have had they filed for bankruptcy. And there’s a real question of whether or not that is fair. But on the other hand, the actual victims where this money is going, they really support this deal overwhelmingly. And it’s not because they, like, feel bad for the Sacklers. Most of them really hate the Sacklers. So if they support it, that is a major victory. And this was a deal that was many years in the making. So if the court overturns this agreement, that is like years and years of negotiation down the drain. And if the Sacklers can’t get immunity through this deal, there is no incentive for them to take a deal at all. They’ll just run with their money. Right. As a victim’s lawyer, Pratik Shah said in court yesterday: 


[clip of Pratik Shah] Without the release, the plan will unravel. Chapter seven liquidation will follow and there will be no viable path to any victim recovery. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s important to point out like this is going to have an impact on more than just this case, because bankruptcy court is a place where increasing numbers of mass injury cases are heard. And so if this settlement is overturned, it’s going to have like a much broader effect than just this case. And this case is huge. So it’s going to matter. As for where the court will come down, it’s not exactly clear at this point. They seem pretty split at the end of arguments and not along typical ideological lines either. Justices Jackson and Gorsuch seem slightly more concerned about granting this power to bankruptcy court. While the other justices seemed like a teensy bit to lean towards preserving the agreement. But there’s kind of no telling right now. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So it’s kind of unclear where this is going to end up. We will have to wait until the decision comes down, which will likely be next June. We will keep you posted. That is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Starting with an update on the latest in the Israel-Hamas war. Israel’s military has widened its offensive into southern Gaza and started its invasion into the area, according to satellite imagery analyzed by The New York Times. The images captured at 9 a.m. Sunday local time show dozens of Israeli armored vehicles just outside of Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza. That’s where Israeli officials allegedly claim that some of Hamas’s military and leaders are and where many civilians sheltered after they fled the north. Israel also ordered more evacuations in parts of southern Gaza as warplanes bombarded the area around the southern city on Monday. The war has already displaced more than three fourths of Gaza’s residents, and humanitarian groups have said that civilians have nowhere safe to go. The director general of the World Health Organization, or W.H.O., said in a post on X yesterday that the Israel Defense Forces told the W.H.O. to remove supplies from the organization’s medical warehouse in southern Gaza within 24 hours. Remove supplies. The director general continued on to say, quote, “We appeal to Israel to withdraw the order and take every possible measure to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and humanitarian facilities.” 


Tre’vell Anderson: Spotify laid off roughly 1500 employees on Monday, citing the need to, quote, “rightsize their costs in their third round of job cuts this year.” That’s equivalent to about 17% of the company’s workforce. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said in a staff memo that the company hired too many people during the height of the pandemic and that they had to let folks go because economic growth slowed down. But we should know that this comes after Spotify reported a record profit of $70 million dollars in the third quarter after raising subscription prices and expanding its podcast and audiobook departments in 2023. And as we mentioned here on WAD this years Spotify wrapped campaign also renewed the discourse about how little the platform pays artists who make a maximum of half a cent per stream. So Monday’s layoffs have many wondering why Spotify would need to cut more costs after raking in so much money over the past several months. I think Joe Rogan might have an answer, but you know, what do I know? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I know that money’s going somewhere and it’s not to us. Keep streaming, guys. If you don’t remember who Doug Burgum is, don’t worry. Neither do we. Even though we have talked about him on the show before but it kind of goes in one ear out the other. The North Dakota Republican governor announced yesterday that he suspended his 2024 presidential campaign. Burgum, who is a former software entrepreneur, launched his campaign in June. He leaned into the issues of national security, the economy and China being the quote, “number one threat to the US.” But he was polling in the low single digits and did not qualify for the third GOP debate last month. He was actually pouring millions of his own dollars into his campaign and even offered $20 gift cards to people who donated at least a dollar for his fundraising. The guy who says his issue is the economy. That’s not a good sign. You were trading $20 for a dollar. The number of GOP primary candidates has shrunk by more than half. And with a little over a month to go before the Iowa caucuses, there are five GOP candidates attempting to beat out the Trump bid. At this point, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie and Vivek Ramaswamy have qualified to take the stage tomorrow night for the fourth GOP debate. We here at WAD will be watching so you don’t have to. So stay tuned. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Faculty at Cal State University, the largest public university system in the U.S., are on strike this week as part of a series of one day work stoppages happening across four campuses. They’re demanding higher pay and an increase in paid parental leave, as well as things like caps on class sizes, gender inclusive restrooms and changing rooms and more manageable workloads, among other things. The Union California Faculty Association represents about 29,000 workers across the 23 campuses. It’s asking for a 12% salary increase for the 2023, 2024 academic year, a demand that the university system said would cost $380 million dollars in new recurring spending. The university system most recently offered a 5% raise each of the next three years. Take a listen to John Gove, a lecturer at Cal State University, speaking to KCAL News. 


[clip of John Gove] The last time we negotiated, they offered 4% and came through with three in the end. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not going to sit around and take a potential 5% raise over the next couple of years. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The series of strikes kicked off yesterday at the campus of Cal Poly Pomona, and the next faculty walkout is set to happen today at San Francisco State University. That will be followed by strikes at Cal State Los Angeles and Sacramento State on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And now just a couple of criminal justice stories you might have missed this past week. Over in New Jersey, the Justice Department is investigating gender and racial discrimination claims against the New Jersey State Police. Three retired and one active female officer have filed a lawsuit accusing the department of systematically keeping women from leadership. That’s according to a New York Times investigation. The state police have faced similar suits in the past and have been accused of discriminating against gay, Black and Latino officers as well. That is called equal opportunity discrimination. And over on the other side of the country, in California, Riverside County officials submitted a proposal yesterday to separate the sheriff’s department from the coroner’s office because, yes, in California, the sheriff and the coroner are the same job. If that sounds crazy to you, that’s because it is. This comes after it was revealed that officials failed to report a surge of jail deaths in 2022 on time. And even when the county did report them, some are reported with false information. Because the sheriff runs the jail and then the sheriff gets to determine cause of death. That doesn’t make any sense. The idea here is to ensure that jail deaths are investigated by a separate entity. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, we hate to bring it back up, but there is a proof of life after Congress. HBO is reportedly set to produce a movie about ousted Congressman George Santos. It’s headed by Frank Rich, the former New York Times columnist who was the executive producer on HBO’s Veep. But something else we can’t look away from is that Santos has been busy on the app Cameo, currently charging $200 for videos wishing happy birthdays, happy holidays, dishing out gossip and advice. And he is describing himself as, quote, “a former congressional icon,” which is why all you young folks need to stop using icon all willy nilly because you got folks like George Santos thinking he’s a legend of some sort. Okay, Josie, I need to play you a few of these cameos he’s been doing. Firstly, here’s a video posted on X that Santos made for someone named Katie. 


[clip of George Santos] Um. Thank you for the love. Thank you for the kindness. You know, Botox keeps you young, fillers keeps you plump. [kiss sound] Look, don’t let the haters get to you. Haters are going to hate. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh my god. 


[clip of George Santos] And if you have haters, that means you’re doing something right, girl. So just keep going. You know, you’re a Harvard Law School girl. Like, are you kidding? You’re you have haters, let them hate. Just do you, girl. Screw the haters. Enjoy life. Live life. And make sure that all these haters in your life, they can go all you know where. [laugh]


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s giving Marianne Williamson. Okay.


Josie Duffy Rice: That man had no business being in Congress. Like, what on earth? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Haters going to hate girl.


Josie Duffy Rice: Haters going to hate. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Don’t hate, and the haters hate like, uh, no. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh, wow. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. What else do you have? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Here’s one that Senator John Fetterman bought asking Santos to make a video for indicted Senator Bobby Menendez. 


[clip of George Santos] Hey, Bobby. Uh. Look, I don’t think I need to tell you, but these people that want to make you get in trouble and want to kick you out and make you run away. 


Tre’vell Anderson: What? 


[clip of George Santos] You make them put up or shut up. You stand your ground, sir, And don’t get bogged down by all the haters out there. Stay strong, Merry Christmas.


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. First of all, I did not like the vibe of that stand your ground. It sounded racist to me personally. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It did. [laughing]


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m sorry it did. I was like George Santos. George Zimmerman, I’m confused. [indistinct]


Tre’vell Anderson: Cut it out Josie.


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m sorry. That is literally the first thing I thought. Second of all, I understand that George Santos doesn’t like directly process this like transaction. When you pay the $200. But I feel like it’s not a great idea to give your credit card information to anybody within a degree of separation from George Santos. [laughter] This man has been known to like play fast and loose with people’s credit cards. 


Tre’vell Anderson: He has. And yet the fact that he is now getting, you know, $200 a pop for these, you know, ten second videos, you know what they say, you can knock a diva down, but she’ll always get back up. [laughter] We hate it. It’s fine. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I do think look, as far as Cameo goes, $200 is kind of cheap. Like there are more expensive Cameos so if you’re looking for a deal, you can get the world’s worst congressman. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Cast Josie, Ryan Murphy. And tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just casting announcements featuring me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And Santos is right. Haters gonna hate.


Tre’vell Anderson: Even a broken clock is right twice. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Or 16 times I think I counted him saying that. [laughter] So. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz, our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers, and our show runner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.