Via America’s Lawyer: A bombshell report reveals 131 federal judges failed to recuse themselves from hundreds of cases involving companies they or their families owned stock in. RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins Mike Papantonio to explain more. Plus, Juul has been in the hot seat since 2019, after the company was found to be aggressively marketing its products to children. Meanwhile, the FDA has yet to crack down on their e-cigarettes despite users reporting seizures, lung disease, and strokes. Attorney Madeline Pendley joins Mike Papantonio to how regulators continue to turn a blind eye when it comes to Juul.

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*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             Dozens of federal judges have broken the law by failing to recuse themselves from lawsuits in which they had a financial clear conflict of interest. Brigida Santos joins me now to talk about the story. Brigida, you know, when the public sees this, it is outrageous. They get so angry. How many judges are implicated in the scheme? And tell me what’s going on. Give me the big picture and then how many judges are implicated.

Brigida Santos:                   So far, at least 131 federal judges have broken the law and violated judicial ethics by hearing 685 legal cases involving companies in which they or their family members owned stock. Now over five dozen judges have been ordered to notify parties in 329 lawsuits that they should have recused themselves. The outcome of those cases could now be overturned. At least six dozen judges or their families also held shares in companies that were plaintiffs or defendants in the judges courts. And they actively traded the stocks as legal proceedings were underway. And if that is not corrupt enough, roughly two thirds of the judges rulings on motions that were contested came down in favor of their own financial interests or the financial interests of their family members.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, you know, let me tell you how broad this is. When you’ve got a case, let’s take a mass tort case. Mass torts case is where there are thousands of people that have been injured with a product. Okay. The product may be Bayer, it might be Merck, it might be Pfizer. All of a sudden this judge clearly, clearly knows they own interest in that company. Like if you are, if you’re a judge right now and you own interest in Johnson and Johnson, you’re worried that the stock is going to drop because of all these lawsuits. So don’t you recuse yourself. It’s just common sense. It’s not like these judges, judges didn’t understand what their obligation was. Which companies did the federal judges own shares of in? I could name half a dozen to a dozen. But why don’t you tell me what the story’s actually showing.

Brigida Santos:                   So some of the companies that federal judges owned shares in that were involved in the judges lawsuits include ExxonMobil, Comcast, and Ford motor just to name a few. Now conflict of interest laws are meant to ensure that no one is a judge of their own cause and to reassure the public that the courts can be trusted. The disclosure cited in this report only span an eight year period between 2010 and 2018. So Mike, there are likely more examples that we simply don’t know about because no one’s looked into it.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. And hopefully good lawyers are going to take these cases that might involve thousands, one decision by a judge on something like a class action can involve tens of thousands of people. Hopefully we’ll find lawyers that will go and overturn those decisions and then report that judge to the folks that ought to be re, ought to be reprimanding the judge. Ought to be reviewing what that judge did. Ought to be saying, how many times did you do this judge? I mean, this is a very troubling story. How, how have the judges responded now, now that they’ve been, they’ve been caught, how are they responding to this?

Brigida Santos:                   Well, they claim they mistakenly broke the law and they gave reporters quotes like quote, I dropped the ball, thanks for helping me stay on my toes, when they were interviewed or they say they accidentally omitted some of their holdings from financial disclosure forms. And sadly corruption doesn’t just take place at the federal level. In fact, last year reporters conducted the first comprehensive accounting of judicial misconduct nationally, finding that thousands of American judges remained on the bench despite breaking laws or oaths, including state and local judges. Judges have incredible power and oversee hundreds of thousands of civil and criminal cases every year and federal judges have the most power. They hold lifetime appointments and they can only be removed by impeachment.

Mike Papantonio:             One judge can affect tens of thousands of people in something like a class action or a mass tort case where you’ve got a product that’s defective and it’s killed people, that judges decision can affect tens of thousands of people. And so that’s why this is so troublesome. I’m wondering, Brigida, would, I’d like to do another story on this. Let’s, let’s tease this story out a little. Would you come back on and let’s do, let’s do a part two on this story. Okay. It’s, it’s that troubling.

Brigida Santos:                   Of course.

Mike Papantonio:             Thank you for joining me.

Brigida Santos:                   Yeah, absolutely. Thanks, Mike.

Mike Papantonio:             Juul has been in the hot seat since 2019 after the company was found to be aggressively marketing its product to children. Meanwhile, the FDA has yet to crack down on their e-cigarettes despite users reporting seizures, lung disease, and strokes. I have Madeley, Madeline Pendley with me to talk about this. Wow, seizures, strokes, the FDA completely sitting on the sidelines, not doing what they’re supposed to do. Did I get that right?

Madeline Pendley:        You did. So this is just the latest issue we’re having with Juul. As you mentioned, we’ve been dealing with this litigation for years, their problems with marketing to children, which we’ll get into. Now we’ve got seizures. And so essentially the seizures are being caused by nicotine toxicity, which just means you’re being exposed to more nicotine than your body can handle and it causes other things like respiratory failure as well.

Mike Papantonio:             Hmm. Okay. So the FDA responded to these seizures how? They’re, I mean, there’s no question they’re getting these reports. People are dying of seizures.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             They’re dying of a list of things. And the FDA says, well, we’re going to do it someday. That has been going about five years.

Madeline Pendley:        Yeah. And so they did what they’ve, what they typically do is this non-committal answer of, well, we can’t prove e-cigarettes are causing these seizures. But recently they did acknowledge that due to the volume and uptick in reporting of these seizures, that there’s probably a correlation there that does need to be investigated. When, I don’t know, but at least they said it. And they also mentioned that there’s likely more cases out there than we’re currently aware of because of the issue with self-reporting, which is all the information the FDA has right now.

Mike Papantonio:             Yeah. Who are these people at the FDA? I mean, who literally, who the hell are they?

Madeline Pendley:        They’re people that used to work at corporations

Mike Papantonio:             Exactly.

Madeline Pendley:        So they don’t care.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. So this isn’t Juul’s only problem. They’ve been hit for going out and specifically trying to market to, to children’s with goofy grape cigarettes, olly olly orange, Susie strawberry. It’s like candy. And that’s been going on for five years. It has been reported for about five years and the FDA has done nothing for five years until finally they get hit. Right?

Madeline Pendley:        Right. And actually earlier this year, Juul settled with the attorney general of North Carolina for $40 million to resolve those exact allegations that you mentioned. And so the way they’ve been marketing to children is they use, you know, young people in their ads. So people who at least appear to be teenagers, they made their device look like a USB or a flash drive that kids take to and from school anyway. So it’s very discreet, it blends in, and then the flavors. So they’re using candy and fruit stuff that obviously appeals to children more so than adults so they can market their product.

Mike Papantonio:             I had Juul children’s camp. Did you know this?

Madeline Pendley:        Yes.

Mike Papantonio:             Where kids went to Juul children’s camp and they were introduced. Now the, what they said was, well, we’re only doing the camp so we can talk to them about the dangers of smoking. But oh, by the way, we’ve got olly olly orange here, we’ve got goofy grape. You might really like these things.

Madeline Pendley:        Right.

Mike Papantonio:             What does it take for the FDA to say enough is enough? I know I’m working for the FDA, and I know I want to go to work for corporate America, but at some time, at some point, doesn’t your decency meter kick in? Doesn’t your shame meter kick in?

Madeline Pendley:        You would hope so. And the FDA has already acknowledged that there’s been an 80% increase in high school vaping, a 50% increase in middle school vaping, you know, people younger than 13, all in the last few years, all since Juul has been on the market. And so Juul did pull their fruit flavors, you know, as a result of all of this. But they’re still hoping to get permission to continue selling their menthol and tobacco flavors because they think it’s safer than smoking.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay. Full, full disclosure, we’re the ones that brought the case against the tobacco industry. We started that case right here. We have all the documents, you know, I know the documents really well. The documents show that the Juul company is using exactly the same marketing scheme that all the tobacco companies used. This isn’t new. It’s not new to the FDA. The truth is the FDA simply won’t do their job because they want a job with corporate America. They’re owned by corporate America.

Madeline Pendley:        Exactly.

Mike Papantonio:             Thank you for joining me. Okay.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.