The Sacklers’ release from liability stretches back to the “beginning of time”

“[T]he Sacklers are paying $4.275 billion and they very much plan — expect — to be done forever with this chapter,” Marshall Huebner declared and warned during the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy hearing on May 26th.

By “this chapter,” Marshall Huebner — and the Sacklers — mean the opioid epidemic. By “done forever,” Marshall Huebner — and the Sacklers — mean that they expect and plan to be off the hook from any civil liability.

There’s been a lot of great coverage of the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy lately. So you may have heard or read about the “releases,” the mechanism by…


We landed in San Francisco in the middle of the night. It was 1985 and the entire state was a dark, blank slate. I was French. I was eleven years old. I was ready to reinvent myself.

My first impressions were flatlands, streetlights, highways — and Denny’s. In my father’s defense, it was the only open restaurant at two o’clock in the morning, and having spent a few weeks on his own, living in a dark suite in a Bay Area motel, he just wanted to sit down for a meal with his family. The interior was faded but we…


It was a light and carefree afternoon — for the gnats. They circled my toddler’s head, drawn by the scent of strawberries and nap sweat. A few weeks ago, her face had turned to sandpaper in reaction to an ill-chosen sunscreen, so you can understand my hesitation with the bug spray. I held the bottle in my hand and lost myself in a mental flow chart of events and possibilities.

The six-year-old, meanwhile, referring to herself as “the little ripper,” cannonballed into the deep end of the inflatable pool in blatant disregard of the warnings printed on the plastic: “NO…


Searching for Answers About Invasive Maternal Anxiety

Content warning: contains descriptions of catastrophic anxiety scenarios.

Until recently, I never would have revealed the catastrophic scenarios in my mind. Ever since I became a mother, I’ve felt anxious when the kids walked near the edge of anything; giving them baths provoked fears of drowning; toddlers wandering in the kitchen prompted burn scenes; seeing a baby asleep on a monitor screen triggered a need to check their breathing. I just lived with it — oh, and badgered everyone constantly to BE CAREFUL STEP AWAY HOLD MY HAND DON’T TOUCH THAT.

During a family vacation in early 2019, a spectacular…


But I’m learning to get more vulnerable on the page

Photo: Grace Cary / Getty Images

My first diaries, from the late 1980s and early 1990s, were bound in marbled paper, with paper lined just wide enough to fit an ever-changing juvenile scrawl. My very first one was pink; the second, green. After all these years (approximately three decades), the binding is weak and the diaries are held together by little more than old tape. They didn’t come with a padlock, but I developed a foolproof method to secure my precious secrets: After writing the entries, I tore out the pages, tore them up, and threw them away. So when I say the diaries are bound…


A survivor of the Charlie Hebdo attack is ready to tell her story. Here’s why we should listen.

Run until you can’t run, they say. Hide until you can’t hide. Fight until you can’t fight.

But what if they’ve just got you?

Six years ago, two terrorists assassinated twelve people in the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Eleven others were injured. And one young woman — Corinne “Coco” Rey — feared that she had become, in her own words, “a monster.”

Coco, as she is known professionally, was a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo. There was little information…


Photo by Lucy M on Unsplash

On the day Patrick Radden Keefe’s latest book, Empire of Pain, was published, my parents took our puppy for an ill-fated walk.

I’d set aside the entire day to read the book, which details the secret history of the Sackler dynasty, with the plan to write about it. For more than a year now, I have been a proud member of Nan Goldin’s Sackler PAIN group and have worked to translate the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy proceedings into plain English for the company’s victims and creditors. …


In more ways than one, the Derek Chauvin trial offers a preview of post-pandemic justice.

Photo by Billy on Unsplash

Juries always have been seated in public, but before the pandemic, few of us made it a habit to serve as an audience for criminal trials. But with trials reorganized around screens and members of the public able to log on from anywhere in the world, the Derek Chauvin trial gives juror privacy a new twist.

In some respects, the privacy protections in place for the jury — such as social distancing within the courtroom, anonymity until after the trial and sequestration during deliberations — are not jarring. Juries previously have been subject to extreme restrictions in high-profile trials. …


I’m finally eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. From a mortality standpoint, I’m relieved. Gone (almost) are the worries of motherless children, of ventilators and FaceTime good-byes. I’ll be even more relieved when my children are eligible and vaccinated, but I keep reminding myself of the old airplane adage: “put on your own oxygen mask first.” Never mind that I hate airplanes.

The world has two speeds now: vaccinated and not vaccinated. My friends in vaccinated places are reporting increased speeds of living. They’re not responding to text messages, or when they do, it’s to report they’re “crazy busy,” and “back…


Judge Drain, as imagined by me, during Wednesday’s hearing

On Wednesday morning, I listened in on another hearing in the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case. I tweeted occasional soundbites and drew cartoons, as I had begun doing a few months ago to make the bankruptcy proceeding more accessible to a lay audience. The hearings have taken on a familiar pattern — rarely are there any surprises.

Judge Robert Drain was considering arguments on a recurring issue: whether to extend the freeze on lawsuits against members of the Sackler family. The lawsuits have been on hold since the beginning of the bankruptcy proceeding, to the dismay of scholars and state attorneys…

Charlotte Bismuth

Author of “Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher,” former Manhattan ADA , Columbia Law School grad, occasional legal cartoonist.

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