Fact check: False!
CLW is grateful for the persistent watchdog role that Energy Policy Advocates has played obtaining public records to shed light on the climate litigation industry. Now we see an “unlisted” YouTube video recently obtained by EPA from a New Jersey municipality being recruited by the Rockefeller Family Fund vehicle called the “Center for Climate Integrity” — which public records suggest RFF stood up after being outed as the force behind the climate litigation industry — which contains a breathtaking claim apparently being made along the way to the courthouse.
First, from a CCI attorney at at 1:00, comes a mundane if blunt admission. “It’s important that these cases stay in state court”.
CLW readers will spot the importance of that affirmation right away, and will remember Energy Policy Advocates’ amicus briefing on the importance of this admission.
Also, Geoffrey Supran’s star turn should be of interest to the targets of the litigation campaign in which he is clearly and openly (among friends and potential-plaintiff recruits) an advocate. No doubt more on that later.
But note the stunner. In a presentation to activists and potential governmental plaintiffs, at 1:01, the same lawyer says “The lawyers only get paid if and when there is a successful settlement of judgement at the end.”
And what a remarkable claim to make just as yet another 990 shows the firm receiving yet more millions ($3 million for 2021), having switched pass-throughs from Resources Legacy Fund to New Venture Fund.
That latter line quite plainly is not “you pay nothing unless…” It states something that is flatly contradicted by public records, even if it is the clear implication of the various agreements Energy Policy Advocates has unearthed by which governmental plaintiffs engage the law firm Sher Edling in “contingency fee” arrangements.
With the revelations, posted here at GovOversight.org and EPAdvocates, that the firm was being paid millions of dollars, now annually, by activist foundations to conduct this litigation, the mystery has always been: what did the politicians who promised tens of millions of dollars out of purported taxpayer damages to a law firm already being paid to file the suits know, and when did they know it?
That is, was, e.g., Minnesota AG Keith Ellison a dupe, or was he in on the apparent double-dip at the taxpayer’s expense?
In an effort to answer that question, EP Advocates has diligently sought any confirmation, one way or the other, on whether anyone among the plaintiffs discussed this private financing of purported “contingency fee” agreements. It has come up empty-handed in all but one jurisdiction — Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Curiously, Maryland happens to be one of the few plaintiff jurisdictions which does not require a client’s informed consent if someone else is paying their lawyers. Most of the rest, including New Jersey, adhere to the ABA’s model rule.
Does CCI know the truth? If so…just, wow. Whether or not CCI knows, if the law firm made such a representation to these clients, that seemingly would indicate big, big problems for the firm. If the firm is letting the clients’ politician-recruits in on this, despite the general absence of written discussion of the unique situation, then the pols would appear to be the ones with serious problems on their hands.
Now, a new question is what role CCI plays for the law firm, as it makes these claims, expressly seeking governmental entities — including those which have retained Sher Edling — to file these suits, and serving as the recruits’ PR- and staff-support function.
Emails obtained from GAO v Regents (UCLA Law School) clearly show a close relationship with overlapping parties and advocacy. CCI has hosted events promoting the firm and/or its suits, e.g., at the Universities of Colorado, Hawaii and Minnesota, Monmouth (NJ University) and in Oregon (arranged on the AG’s GMail account…). And suggested that plaintiffs it was recruiting consider the firm.
GAO is left to wonder: is CCI making such an untrue claim, about how this law firm is paid, as the firm’s agent?