That's the breaking news headline from Law.com's Blog of Legal Times. The article is posted by Zoe Tillman, datelined Washington, DC. Here's an extended excerpt:
A District of Columbia federal judge today ruled in favor of a group of death row inmates seeking a court order to stop the shipment of a "misbranded and unapproved" drug used in state legal injections.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon found (PDF) that the Food and Drug Administration acted "arbitrarily and capriciously and abused its discretion" in approving shipments of sodium thiopental, commonly known as thiopental, which is used to induce general anesthesia during the lethal injection process.
The FDA had argued that it allowed the shipments out of deference to law enforcement officials when it came to lethal injections. Leon rejected that argument, writing that federal law clearly requires the FDA to review and approve all drugs.
“In the final analysis, the FDA appears to be simply wrapping itself in the flag of law enforcement discretion to justify its authority and masquerade an otherwise seemingly callous indifference to the health consequences of those imminently facing the executioner's needle,” Leon wrote. “How utterly disappointing!”
Lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Bradford Berenson of Sidley Austin in Washington, said in a phone interview today that Leon’s decision was “gratifying.”
“He saw that the agency was behaving in a clearly unlawful way and took steps to make sure that even the most despised members of society got the benefit of the protections that Congress put in place,” he said.
The FDA, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.
The inmates, who are in jails in Arizona, California and Tennessee, sued the FDA in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in February 2011, accusing officials of approving shipments of thiopental without first reviewing and approving the drug in accordance with the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.
Michael Kiefer posts, "Judge: FDA allowed state to illegally gain execution drug," at the Arizona Republic.
A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday morning found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration violated the law by allowing Arizona and other states to bypass regulations while importing unapproved drugs to carry out executions by lethal injection.
The ruling was made in a lawsuit filed in the name of Donald Beaty, an Arizona Death Row inmate who was executed last year.
The drug sodium thiopental, a short-acting anesthesia, that was used in executions. became unavailable in mid-2010 because its sole U.S. manufacturer had ceased production. That fall, The Arizona Republic first reported that Arizona corrections officials had obtained the drug from a distributor in London, although FDA officials were saying that it was not possible to import the drug; such exports also violated Bristish law and were shut down shortly afterward. In late December 2010, FDA officials told The Republic that it would exercise "enforcement discretion" on the matter.
Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender's Office in Phoenix said, "The states that have imported non-FDA approved drugs are now on notice that those drugs are illegal."