A federal appeals court on Wednesday refused to reconsider a ruling barring the government from seeking $280 billion in past profits from cigarette makers as part of its civil racketeering case against the industry.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dealt another setback to the government’s case by rejecting a request that the full court review a February ruling by a three-judge panel that concluded the government cannot pursue past industry profits.
In a tied, 3-3 vote, the appeals court judges left standing the Feb. 4 ruling that stripped the government of its strongest penalty in the racketeering case, which charges that tobacco companies lied for decades about the dangers of smoking.
The decision leaves reversed a previous ruling by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler, the judge presiding over the case that went to trial in September.
In a legal brief seeking a rehearing, the Justice Department said the appeals court had left Kessler “virtually powerless” to impose remedies and had contradicted past decisions from other appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.
After Tuesday’s denial, the department issued a statement by Associate Attorney General Robert McCallum saying it would “carefully review its options and make a determination in the near future as to what course of action it will pursue.”
The anti-smoking group Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids immediately urged the department to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and “continue to pursue the case aggressively.”