By Chris Horner
As Climate Litigation Watch noted earlier this week, a Friday document production from UCLA sheds further light on that public institution’s law school and its role in the Climate Litigation Industry.
In it we see UCLA Prof. Ann Carlson cite to “Involvement of sophisticated environmental tort lawyers” as one reason to expect the Climate Litigation Industry’s assault will succeed in this new era (fairly viewed as beginning with the 2012 call for “a single sympathetic attorney general” to begin pursuing opponents of the climate political agenda, to obtain records for use in plaintiffs’ litigation).
Here Prof. Carlson seems to be referencing plaintiffs’ lawyer Vic Sher of Sher Edling, the firm representing everyone who is anyone suing energy interests in search of massive, tobacco-style settlements in the name of catastrophic man-made global warming.
As Climate Litigation Watch also has detailed, that firm not only now runs the municipalities’ lawsuits but has a non-lawyer pitchman recruiting more municipal plaintiffs — one who is attentive to the problems that public transparency requirements can pose to those who would rather not receive the taxpayer scrutiny those laws are enacted to afford.
IRS tax filings show the firm has received many hundreds of thousands of dollars from climate-focused foundations while undertaking this effort, so a cynic might suggest that this isn’t merely pursuit of the massive contingency payout in the event of any settlement, laid out in a contract obtained by Government Accountability & Oversight).
Whatever treasure (if any) gets washed up in this man-made tsunami of litigation, UCLA’s document production suggests that Sher is among those with whom the professor is consulting in support of the cause. Specifically, several emails reveal that Sher is the source of some of Prof. Carlson’s materials in her public advocacy.
When it finally got around to processing the public records requests at issue — after being sued in the face of an obvious stonewall — UCLA asked Sher if he objected to certain records’ release, on Prof. Carlson’s belief that “pages 3 and 4 [of one of her presentations] come from a deck of your slides, as do the quotes on pages 5, 6, and 7”. UCLA did not provide the deck of Sher’s slides, but only those five pages (production PDF pages 241-246).
Sher replies, “Will you be attributing the documents to me, or simply releasing them as they are? If the latter, no problem.” Given there are no other records released addressing this, it is reasonable to assume that UCLA took that inquiry simply as “no problem”, releasing the records as well as this exchange in a discovery production about its handling of the requests.
Again, this assumes UCLA withheld no related correspondence. The answer to that will be public soon as should its production of records responsive to this request the school has withheld all this time. Around the same time, the school will need to produce its logs of records withheld, both in response to the discovery request delving into its handling of the requests and to the requests themselves. To withhold records, UCLA must demonstrate that the public’s interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public’s interest in disclosure.
That is, to withhold records relating to its role in the Climate Litigation Industry, UCLA must demonstrate to the court’s satisfaction that the public has an interest in keeping those records free from public scrutiny, and that that interest is greater than the public’s interest in transparency. This is the subject of future posts.
The record production:(PDF)