A recent (for lack of a better word) “production” from the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson added another veil of secrecy cast by AGs over their assistance to and escalation of the climate litigation industry. And, in Washington State’s case, its apparently long-running plans.
It also tells the public there’s a little more ankle to be shown about that infamous March 2016 press March 29, 2016 briefing of state attorneys general, Al Gore, an activist and the ever present tort bar.
It was there that progressive attorneys general announced the collaboration on “probes” into ExxonMobil’s alleged crimes of misleading investors and the public about the risks of climate change. Which probes swept up think tanks and 100 other groups and individuals before the AGs retreated in shame.
Through subsequent open records requests, the public learned of a pre-meeting immediately preceding the AGs’/Gore’s notorious “climate agenda, by whatever means necessary”presser (oddly, the activist and plaintiffs’ lawyer who led that briefing stayed in the anteroom).
CLW readers will recall the campaign to hide details of the pre-briefing. Plaintiffs’ lawyer Matt Pawa, contacted by the Wall Street Journal after the press conference, emailed NY OAG attorney Lem Srolovic for advice on how to respond. Srolovic’s “ask” was “to not confirm that you attended or otherwise discuss the event.” Vermont’s Deputy AG Scot Klein cheered this on.
Not one but two courts have taken notice of this behavior; one of them, a U.S. District Court, commented that these efforts “suggest that the attorneys general are trying to hide something from the public”.
Also, however, the AGs insist their record of being wooed by plaintiffs’ lawyers who need a hand are privileged as “law enforcement” materials. Massachusetts is in court defending its stance that revealing anything related to plaintiffs’ lawyer Matt Pawa’s involvement, including items as innocuous as to:, from:, and subject: lines of all emails, would bring their probes against ExxonMobil crashing down.
That’s quite a confession, that, a subject line or identity of correspondents during a key period when tort lawyers were recruiting AGs to go after certain parties could sink this.
Now, Washington’s OAG has gone so far as to redact communications about the pre-meeting that included political-aide non-attorneys as subject to attorney client privilege.
Its claims of privilege are on their face — and depending on the particular email, fairly brazen — efforts to brave out the release of politically sensitive correspondence:
- One governor’s aide copied by OAG took it upon himself to loop in other political aides, and whimsically describes his redacted thoughts in terms that undermine a claim they were prepared in anticipation of litigation.
- In fact, they clearly were prepared, collected, or assembled in anticipation of a pre-press conference meeting with investor Al Gore, a plaintiffs’ lawyer pleading for AGs to subpoena parties he wanted to sue, to help his campaign out, and another activist. As already noted, was a meeting about which courts have commented rather pointedly, that AGs actively sought to obscure from the media and public.
- Neither the press conference nor any aspect of it involved the governor. It did however draw sustained national attention, not a little open records attention and litigation (largely successful), and is of great public interest.
CLW thinks this is one to watch.
The heavily redacted emails are below.