“Missing Link” Claim Dealt Another Blow: New Emails Show AG Kamala Harris Office Helped Plan La Jolla Climate Litigation Conference - Climate Litigation Watch

“Missing Link” Claim Dealt Another Blow: New Emails Show AG Kamala Harris Office Helped Plan La Jolla Climate Litigation Conference

“She was in the vanguard of the new progressive state AGs who use prosecutorial power against opponents. Watch for this in the Harris Administration in 2025, if not sooner.” — Wall Street Journal Editorial, “Getting to Know Kamala Harris”, August 13, 2020

Back in March 2018, Judge Valerie Caproni of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York declared a “missing link” between the “La Jolla” activists and plaintiffs’ lawyers calling for of attorneys general investigations to help their cause, their funders, and the AG investigations that miraculously then began popping up (a claim discussed at CLW here). 

This was curious even at the time, and ExxonMobil challenged it given a few things that were already known.

That list of things has become voluminous — additions including revelation that the “secret meeting at Harvard” to brief AG offices on how they could help the tort bar by launching investigations was also in fact for “prospective funders”, and was about “going after climate denialism—along with a bunch of state and local prosecutors nationwide”.

Just when CLW considered the “missing link” claim thoroughly disproved, along come more public records from back in the day but now involving the Office of former California State Attorney General Kamala Harris, showing that there was in fact AG involvement in La Jolla.

Janill Richards was by the time of La Jolla an 18-year veteran in a senior role, AG Kamala Harris’s Harris’s Coordinator for Global Warming Initiatives.

The La Jolla strategy session was convened to contemplate the general failure of legislative efforts to impose this “climate” agenda nationally. The summary of the tort-bar portion of the meeting stated, inter alia:

State attorneys general can also subpoena documents, raising the possibility that a single sympathetic state attorney general might have substantial success in bringing key internal documents to light.  In addition, lawyers at the workshop noted that even grand juries convened by a district attorney could result in significant document discovery.

Matt Pawa, the lead tort lawyer at the time and who presented at La Jolla, has suggested that this campaign to use the courts in this way was a response to advocates having failed to impose a policy agenda through the legislative process. 

As the Wall Street Journal editorial board recently noted, “progressives have long viewed the judiciary as a second legislature for policies they can’t pass in Congress. Think racial preferences and climate regulation”. That’s what this campaign represents (and to obtain a “sustainable funding stream” when democracy withholds that, as well).

La Jolla reflected a push to enlist state attorneys general to pursue state-court cases after, the year before, “the Supreme Court held unanimously in AEP v. Connecticut that …[t]he Clean Air Act displaces ‘any federal common-law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants,’ Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the Court.”

A new plan had to be hatched. And hatched it was, prompting the current litigation orgy which SCOTUS just last Friday again agreed to weigh in on.

Launching this was the reason for the La Jolla planning session, the report chronicling which also stated:

Equally important was the nearly unanimous agreement on the importance of legal actions, both in wresting potentially useful internal documents from the fossil fuel industry and, more broadly, in maintaining pressure on the industry that could eventually lead to its support for legislative and regulatory responses to global warming.

La Jolla report on enlisting law enforcement to aid climate litigation

One federal court has described this meeting as having “discussed, among other things … ‘strategies to win access to internal documents’ of fossil fuel companies.”

That campaign has led to attorney general investigations of private parties, and targeted more than 100 research and advocacy groups, scientists and other private parties and entities. Imagine Lois Lerner’s Internal Revenue Service crew. Then imagine twenty of them.

This scheme is the scandal. And now the public knows an AG had used her office to help organize this push. 

The following emails to a public employee reveal that Harris’s Supervising Deputy Attorney General Coordinator, Global Warming Initiatives, was deeply involved in organizing for the event as was expected to play a leading role. 

Indeed, emails among La Jolla’s green-group organizers (Union of Concerned Scientists) show the hosts asking Richards “to lead the discussion” of the tort litigation presentations calling for recruitment of AGs.

That was on May 24, 2012. Ms. Richards was then listed as a participant in the June 4, 2012 list of Workshop Participants.

Afterward, the report chronicling the event did not thank Ms. Richards. A note circulated to participants flatly stated, “Some participants may wish to have their participation in this workshop and/or some information that they present to be treated as confidential.”

Although the document was written for “other colleagues in the community — scholars, practitioners, and funders — who were not able to attend”, according to Union of Concerned Scientists’ Peter Frumhoff, participants and organizers knew it might nonetheless get out more broadly. As it did.

Frumhoff noted in an email, “We will not be posting this report on the web, or otherwise releasing it publicly, and ask that you share the report with key colleagues with these limited distribution goals in mind. These goals notwithstanding, there’s always the  prospect of broader than intended circulation and readership.” 

As such, that UCS did not include Ms. Richards’ participation in the published version might only reveal this concern suggested by UCS (and known by Harris’s Office), that obviously an AG’s involvement in this scheming would not look good.

And it does not. This revelation shows that Harris’s Office helped launch and apparently was the AG-advisor of this unseemly campaign of enlisting law enforcement to pursue political opponents, and obtain political ends sought by private parties, but denied by the democratic process.

The fact that AG Harris — who has exhibited some confusion about whether or not she actually joined the campaign — then decided that the enterprise was too much even for her — it was more the kind of thing one leaves to the Eric Schneidermans of the world, apparently —  is not exonerating. It is instead a “tell” about just how radical the litigation campaign is, that even someone willing to use Men With Guns over your plastic straw walked away from it.

This is yet another warning about weaponizing law enforcement, like we saw with the Obama DoJ and in the more radical state AG offices, in pursuit of parties deemed insufficiently enthusiastic about a particular agenda.