THE CHEROKEE NATION

The Cherokee Nation has filed a lawsuit against major distributors and pharmacy retailers of opioids that do business in and around the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdictional area, including McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc..

The tribe charges that those companies have failed to prevent diversion, breaching their legal duties, and that the resulting flood of opioid drugs into Indian country has fueled the opioid crisis gripping the Cherokee Nation. The lawsuit alleges that as a result of the defendants’ conduct, babies are born addicted to opioids, suffering severe, long-term health effects that significantly diminish their life prospects. Teens, adults, and the elderly fall into a spiral of addiction that threatens their health and even their lives. Every day that passes without action to abate the opioid crisis, Cherokee Nation babies continue to suffer the harms of opioid addiction, more Cherokee Nation children have to enter foster care, and more Cherokee Nation citizens are put at risk of death or injury from opioid overdoses. For adults within the 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation, overdose deaths now outnumber deaths due to car accidents—and the crisis is only getting worse. The opioid epidemic is ripping apart families, devastating communities, straining society’s resources, and affecting nearly every citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

By taking this decisive legal action, the Cherokee Nation hopes to move one step closer to ending the opioid crisis, repairing the damage it has caused Cherokee society, and eliminating the threat it poses to the future of the Cherokee Nation.


BY THE NUMBERS

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Based on data from the Drug Enforcement Administration, in 2015 an estimated 845 million milligrams—nearly a ton—of opioids were distributed in the 14 counties that comprise the Cherokee Nation.

 
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That amounts to approximately 703 milligrams per Cherokee Nation citizen within the 14 counties—among the highest per capita amounts anywhere in the United States.

 

Extrapolating from a study of opioid use by the Mayo Clinic, an estimated 6,300 milligrams of prescription opioids per adult opioid user were sold in the Cherokee Nation in 2015.

 

Case Materials


The Legal Team

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About Attorney General Hembree:

Todd Hembree is a Native Cherokee citizen from southern Adair County within the Cherokee Nation. General Hembree attended Stilwell High School, received a Bachelor of Arts from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and received his juris doctorate from the University of Notre Dame School of Law in 1991. 

Throughout his career, his practice has emphasized Indian Law. General Hembree has provided consulting services to numerous Native American Tribes throughout the United States. The areas of consultation have included Tribal Council development, election laws, and constitutional development and reform. In April of 1999 General Hembree was selected as a delegate to the Cherokee Nation Constitution Convention and later served as a member of the Constitution Commission. 

For 12 years General Hembree served as the attorney for the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council. His duties included legal representation, development of Tribal Council Rules of Procedure, and legislative drafting. In January 2012 he was appointed Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation. 

General Hembree is a member of the Cherokee Nation Bar Association, the Oklahoma Bar Association, the United States District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, and Western Districts of Oklahoma, and the Western District of Arkansas. He also is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. General Hembree is married to Jenine Lawlor Hembree, and they have three children, Jessica, Amy, and Ryan.