Pa. attorney general says top aim is drugs

January 14, 1998

Pa. attorney general says top aim is drugs


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania Attorney General Michael Fisher said Tuesday his priority is getting tough on drugs through efforts like the Franklin County Drug Task Force, and focusing on getting dealers off the streets and reducing the supply and availability of drugs.

Fisher spoke at the Holiday Inn on Wayne Avenue at a luncheon meeting of the Chambersburg Noontime Lions Club, with Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, and Franklin County commissioners there as special guests.

Drug law is one of four divisions covered by the office of the attorney general, the state's chief legal and law enforcement officer, along with the criminal and civil law divisions and public protection.


Franklin County's drug task force and other municipal drug task forces in the state are supported by the attorney general's office.

This year, Franklin County received $45,000 in state funding - the largest amount ever received by the county - to continue the fight against drugs, Fisher said.

"We think it's working well," he said.

Fisher also commended the state Supreme Court's ruling on Jan. 7 that random drug searches of public school lockers are legal.

"It's a way to keep drugs out of our schools," he said.

Lockers are school property and students shouldn't expect privacy when issued one, Fisher said.

The ruling is the first of its kind to go before the high court. It overturned a Superior Court decision that a search of an Erie County high school student's locker in April 1994 was unconstitutional.

In his brief speech, Fisher also brought the crowd up to date on Megan's Law, designed to protect children from sexual predators by sentencing offenders to more jail time and by notifying communities of offenders living in the area.

The law has been challenged in courts across the state for a number of reasons, Fisher said.

"Sometimes the law might not seem to be fair ... But communities should know who's living in their midst," he said.

The law was named for a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered by a neighbor with a history of sex offenses against children.

Three months after being elected to the post in 1996, Fisher said he filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state against the tobacco industry to change how it markets its products to young people.

The lawsuit is pending in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County with an expected trial in 1999.

If the case settles successfully, the state could get $11 billion, which would be added to the general fund. The money would be spent over 25 years for health care, Fisher said.

Part of Fisher's job as attorney general is to file lawsuits on behalf of the state and defend the state when it gets sued, which happens about 70 times a week, he told the group.

One-third of the lawsuits filed against the state every year come from prisoners, a trend Fisher said his office is trying to stop.

The state spends about $3 million a year in tax dollars defending itself against claims from prisoners who have free use of law books, counsel and other amenities, Fisher said.

Fisher, a native of Pittsburgh, served 22 years in the state's General Assembly before becoming the third attorney general.

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