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Drug firms move to restore data ban

Pharmaceutical companies are requesting the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals re-evaluate its previous ruling lifting a blanket ban on the release of the Drug Enforcement Administration's pill data, citing a Supreme Court opinion released after its ruling.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing about 1,800 lawsuits filed by local governments seeking damages from drug manufacturers and distributors for the opioid crisis, released the data last month after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said he abused his power in issuing a blanket protective order prohibiting the public release of the data, which records which companies made pills, where they sent them and which pharmacies sold them across the nation from 2006 to 2014.

The case had gone to the appeals court after Polster shot down media attempts to retrieve the data made in court filings by HD Media and The Washington Post. The newspapers had argued that public interest in viewing the data outweighed the government and drug firms' interest in secrecy.

While Polster released nationwide pill data from 2006 to 2012, much remains under seal, including pill data from 2013 to 2014, suspicious pill order reports and several other documents filed in the case.

AmerisourceBergen and McKesson filed a petition Monday for a rehearing based on their opinion that the ruling

directly conflicted with a decision issued by the U.S. Supreme Court issued less than a week after the 6th Circuit Court's opinion was released. The companies had also made the argument with Polster, who turned down the argument.

In their filing Monday, the companies argued that the court's order should only pertain to court filings and not evidence exchanged by the parties, like the pill data.

Patrick McGinley, a Morgantown lawyer representing the Gazette-Mail and Herald-Dispatch in the disclosure of the data, said the filing could delay the progress being made to disclose the rest of the data and sealed documents, like suspicious order reports.

"I don't know if they are trying to delay," he said. "But the impact of this petition can be to delay the forward progress of the litigation, especially the possibility of disclosure of the additional information, data that is still secret under the prior district court protection order."

While a law authorizes a court to enter a protective order to protect "confidential ... commercial information," the 6th Circuit Court ruled Polster had abused his discretion in making that order partially because there was only a "slight and speculative" risk of competitive harm to the defendants. They had previously argued the disclosure would release trade secrets and harm the businesses, but the judges ruled that did not outweigh public interest.

Within days, the Supreme Court rejected the same "competitive harm" analysis test the panel relied on to make its decision, the drug firms argued in their motion, and ruled a company objecting to public disclosure to confidential data did not need to demonstrate the disclosure is likely to cause substantial harm to its competitive position.

While requests for rehearings are common in the 6th Circuit, the hearings are rarely successful, even more so when attempting to convince the court of an extraordinary need for a hearing when a precedent is set, like in this case.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.


Youths in drug court earn fun outing at Battlearium

HUNTINGTON — "This is your one and only time that you can use a weapon against the judge in court," joked Family Judge Jason Spears at the Battlearium on Tuesday.

Members of Spears' juvenile drug court were rewarded with a trip to the Battlearium as part of their intensive program, and they participated in a friendly foam dart battle against the judge.

Spears said he and probation officers plan monthly activities for those involved in drug court.

"What we like to do is do outings with them to get them to bond and take some pressure off of them," Spears said. "But it's part of our program. We took them

bowling last month, so we try to do something every month that keeps them engaged to get to the end goal of putting them on the right track."

Family members also were invited to join in the activities, and Spears said he hoped members of his drug court were able to bond with him and each other.

"I'm hard on them sometimes because I have to uphold the rules, so they see me as that," Spears said. "So I think it helps them if they see me also having fun with them and building that rapport, which is completely different than our normal court system. Court is always adversarial in its nature, so this kind of balances that out."

Cari Burck, owner of the Battlearium, said she was honored to host this day of fun for the juvenile drug court, as well as to give back to the community.

"We are thrilled to have this group here today because these kids have been through a lot and have accomplished a lot, and they're being rewarded for jobs well done," Burck said.

"These kids being here is an important thing. And this is really one of the reasons why we opened this up, because the community needed something else fun. But it really is an honor to be able to kind of give back to the community and just to see how these kids in our area are growing and thriving and have a hopeful future. So I'm glad to be a part of that."

The Battlearium offers foam dart battles, arrow wars and laser tag, and the arena is rented out by the hour. Burck said those interested in playing may book times online, or smaller groups can walk in and play on certain days. The Battlearium is open to people of all ages, and Burck said sometimes adults and parents have the most fun.

"We feel that having something like this positive helps them build on their life skills that they're learning," Spears said. "It gives them, I think, an exciting adventure. They're going through a tough program, and it's intensive. Having something like this, it lets them be kids. And I think in order for a kid to achieve the greatness of becoming an adult, they have to learn to be a kid, too. And I think this does that. That's why we like to do it."


Renovated conference site makes its debut
BIG SANDY ARENA

HUNTINGTON — A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Tuesday afternoon for the newly renovated conference center at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, which is located at the corner of 3rd Avenue and 8th Street in downtown Huntington.

"Amazingly, we did these renovations in about 60 days," said Cindy Collins, general manager for the arena, which is managed by SMG Huntington. "People are very visual, and these renovations are part of the exciting revitalization efforts that are happening in downtown Huntington."

The renovation project involved refreshing the lobby area, grand ballroom and junior ballroom with new flooring, paint, entry storefront, doors and trim. Additionally, the sound system was replaced and the lighting was upgraded as part of the city of Huntington's energy-efficiency contract with Honeywell.

"The design was a refresh of the meeting spaces, which was last renovated in 1996," Collins said. "The new finishes and colors are bright, modern and elegant, with wood accents to add warmth to the spaces."

Collins said the renovation costs of approximately $700,000 also included sound and technology upgrades, including a completely new sound system.

"A lot of the things you don't see that went along with these renovations are sound and technology upgrades," Collins added. "These renovations and upgrades will make it so we can compete with any other venue across the United States."

The arena and conference center have events about 300 days a year, Collins said.

"Everything from small meetings to large conferences and concerts," she said. "I think these renovations and upgrades will increase that usage."

Officials with the city of Huntington, SMG Huntington, Edward Tucker Architects, Huntington Banks and the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce attended the event.

"The arena has always been a very important part of the city," Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said. "Folks want to come to a world-class facility ... when folks come here and experience this new conference center and our dynamic downtown area, we are confident they will want to come back time and time again."

Williams said the Huntington Municipal League is having its 50th annual conference at the facility this week, Aug 6-9.

"This is a wonderful way to unveil this beautiful conference center and arena," he said.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.

"The arena has always been a very important part of the city. ... When folks come here and experience this new conference center and our dynamic downtown area, we are confident they will want to come back time and time again."

Steve Williams

Huntington mayor