Michael Bloomberg’s plan to use an environmental law clinic at NYU to place environmentalist lawyers in friendly state attorneys general offices has hit a roadblock in Virginia. On Wednesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) for records about his office’s claim that they could legally bring on board a special assistant attorney general paid for by an activist donor.
At the heart of the case is the State Impact Center at NYU, which was founded to “enable interested state attorneys general to expand their capacity to take on important clean energy, climate, and environmental matters.” It is funded by Bloomberg, whose money pays to recruit and hire attorneys to serve as special assistant attorney generals in certain states.
The goal of the program is specifically to support attorneys general who want to go after energy, climate, and environmental cases, but currently lack the staff. The trouble is, the arrangement may be illegal under Virginia state law, which in turn brings into question why Herring told the State Impact Center the opposite.
“Given the apparent prohibitions in the Virginia code against this arrangement, not to mention due process concerns, it is inconceivable the Commonwealth’s top legal office claimed authority to do this without considering whether it’s legal,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner, who submitted the requests for CEI. “We seek confirmation if this is the case and to find out how the OAG could claim to have ‘no records’ responsive to these requests.”