Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro shared his vision for deploying the law to serve the public interest during a visit to the law school on Feb. 28. (Video of appearance)
Shapiro, who was sworn in as attorney general in January 2017, described the path he followed from serving as a legislative aid and congressional chief of staff on Capitol Hill to representing the 153rd District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to completing a term on the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners before to winning his current office in 2016, a year when few Democrats on the ballot in Pennsylvania prevailed.
He alluded briefly to the fruits of his productive first years in office, including the release of a grand jury report that exposed decades of sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses.
Aside from the birth of his children, he said, this was the most purposeful thing he has done in his life.
Shapiro also cited the lawsuit he filed Feb. 7 against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for limiting patient access to affordable care in violation of Pennsylvania’s charities laws.
The UPMC suit illustrates a principle that Shapiro said guides his public service mission, whether it means shutting down a drug operation that undermines a neighborhood or holding powerful corporations and institutions accountable for their misdeeds.
Shapiro said his “top priority” is combatting opiate and fentanyl addiction.
Fielding questions from students, Shapiro said he does not support plans to open safe injection sites for drug users in Philadelphia, contending that opening pathways to treatment is a more effective response to addiction.
Shapiro said he will file a lawsuit to block changes that the Trump administration has proposed under Title X to defund family planning providers that offer abortions.
“We have sued the Trump administration 22 times and never lost,” Shapiro said.
He noted, however, that Pennsylvania did not join 16 other states that have sued to block Trump’s national emergency declaration.
“You sue when you have legal standing and you have a claim to make,” he said, adding that he will take immediate legal action, should Pennsylvania face the loss of even $1 dollar in federal funding as a result of the declaration.
Contending Trump is advancing his agenda “outside the bounds of law,” Shapiro said that true conservatives on the Supreme Court may thwart him and that progressives who focus on the rule of law may prevail.
“We should have a lot of wins,” he said.
Commending the law school for its engagement in the community through clinics and co-op placements, Shapiro said students are fortunate that benefactor Tom Kline renovated and donated the Institute for Trial Advocacy facility.
“That’s an extraordinary gift he’s given to you and others,” Shapiro said.