Court Unseals Records Providing More Insight into Massachusetts AG 'SAAGs' - Climate Litigation Watch

Court Unseals Records Providing More Insight into Massachusetts AG ‘SAAGs’

Court unseals OAG Brief, Energy Policy Advocates brief, and Court’s Order in open records case over ‘Bloomberg SAAGs’

The Suffolk County (MA) Superior Court has unsealed records previously withheld in the public records lawsuit Energy Policy Advocates v. Office of the Attorney General, et al. That matter sought to learn more about how MA OAG came to be used the way it did when agreeing to allow an outside activist donor to place privately hired attorneys in the Office to promote the donor’s agenda (for a quick refresher citing to this and another, related such suit, see here). The partnership between a Michael Bloomberg-financed group and progressive state attorneys general began in 2017; EPA filed suit not long thereafter, and late last year the court ruled in EPA’s favor.

The public has now been looking for answers for over six years, with OAG’s pattern of delays emerging as an issue in this, the first of at least three suits looking into MA OAG’s actions.

These unsealed and recently docketed records include OAG’s supplemental brief explaining why it thought it could keep secret the records it exchanged with its well-heeled financier to strike this arrangement, and other emails discussing logistics (the emails on which EPA prevailed in whole or in part, in their ordered-unreacted form, have still not yet been docketed). Also unsealed was Energy Policy Advocates’ brief (but with several redactions), and the Court’s Order.

One item stands out in the EPA brief addressing how the MA OAG complied with state law and policy in bringing in these “Special Assistant Attorneys General” (this is one of two sections containing a court-ordered redaction):

CLW readers may recall a recent development which also raised the question of what ethics approval the AG’s Office is required to obtain before engaging outside counsel, and whether it did. That was the AG awarding a generous “contingency fee” agreement to an outside law firm to pursue OAG’s “climate” suit against energy interests when those same lawyers, the public record has established, were already being paid by donors to file these suits. As CLW has covered in detail, lawyers have an obligation to obtain the client’s informed consent when another party is paying for the firm’s service to that client. Given the widespread awareness of the curious funding of these particular lawyers by the time of MA OAG’s recent contract award, an obvious question is where that consent is, and what representations OAG made to any ethics overseer about this arrangement. Did the lawyers present (or fail to present/hide from), the AG that they were getting outside payments, or did the AG sign off on its lawyers being paid once out of purported damages suffered by the taxpayer and once by activist donors? GAO is trying to learn more.

All of which makes ever more interesting the absence of any ethics opinions in 2017 or 2018, according to the above footnote (what that footnoted fact specifically pertains to is hidden by the redaction).

The more the public is allowed to learn about this Office’s machinations on the climate litigation front, the more new questions it raises.