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DOJ optimistic about tobacco suit despite high court denial of damages appeal

[JURIST] Though the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official site] is disappointed with Monday's denial of certiorari by the US Supreme Court in the damages aspect of its suit against the tobacco industry [JURIST news archive], US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says that the administration "continue[s] to believe very strongly in [the] case." The high court refused the government's appeal [JURIST report; cert petition; PDF] of a federal appeals court decision [PDF text; JURIST report] that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text] does not permit "backward-looking" remedies of disgorging illegally obtained proceeds. Instead, the appeals court said Congress intended RICO to apply to "forward-looking" orders that would prevent continuing or future violations, thus severely limiting the amount of possible damages in the case. The case went to trial [JURIST report] earlier this year, and a verdict has not yet been issued. US District Judge Gladys Kessler has urged the government and tobacco companies to settle the lawsuit [JURIST report], but organizations supporting the DOJ say the DOJ should not take the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari as an excuse to push for a "watered-down settlement." The DOJ has background material on the litigation. Altria, Philip Morris' parent company, offers its own case backgrounder and legal filings. AP has more.

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