- I was part of an informative panel discussion of “Climate Change Litigation and Public Nuisance Lawsuits” organized by the Rule of Law Defense Fund [watch here] Podcast and transcript of an October update on state and municipal climate litigation with Boyden Gray [Federalist Society] And because it’s still relevant, my 2007 WSJ piece (paywalled) on how contingency fees for representing public-sector plaintiffs are an ethical travesty;
- New York securities case against ExxonMobil goes to trial [Daniel Fisher, Legal Newsline; earlier] At last minute, NY Attorney General Letitia James, successor to Eric Schneiderman, drops the two counts requiring proof of intent, which the state had earlier deployed to accuse Exxon of deliberate misrepresentation. Still in play is the state’s unique Martin Act, which allows finding fraud without proof of intent [Nicholas Kusnetz, Inside Climate News]
- Ninth Circuit panel hears “children’s” climate case, Juliana v. U.S. [Federalist Society podcast with James May, Damien Schiff, and Jonathan Adler; related commentary, James Coleman]
- Bernie Sanders doesn’t really need legal arguments for retroactive criminal prosecutions if he’s got Jacobin on his side, right?
- “Lawyers are unleashing a flurry of lawsuits to step up the fight against climate change” [Darlene Ricker, ABA Journal]
- Who’s backing Extinction Rebellion, the lawbreaking group that blocked intersections in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere this fall? “The answer, in part, is the scions of some of America’s most famous families, including the Kennedys and the Gettys.” [John Schwartz, New York Times]
Did you guess “Canada”? The Canadian federal elections agency “will consider any substantial public talk or advocacy about climate change during the weeks around the Oct. 21 general election as potentially a form of election advertising, and thus only legal if it complies with the Elections Act.” [J.J. McCullough, Washington Post]
Can the lawful sale of products be retrospectively declared a “public nuisance” and tagged with enormous damages, based on theories that the products caused harm after being used by third parties not in court? Before such theories succeeded in an Oklahoma courtroom against Johnson & Johnson over its promotion of opioid painkillers, they had been unsuccessfully deployed against the makers of guns used in crime, while another set of recent lawsuits attempts to deploy them in hopes of making the sellers of fossil fuels pay for the harms of climate change. Scott Keller, Houston Chronicle/Texans for Lawsuit Reform:
Public nuisance claims traditionally have been limited to conduct interfering with truly public rights. For example, courts for decades have recognized public nuisance claims brought by governments to remove impediments from their public highways or waterways. Even then, courts generally did not recognize such claims where a legislature or administrative agency had already regulated an industry. After all, if the political branches of government regulated an industry, then they were telling courts what did and did not qualify as an unlawful “nuisance.”
But a series of recent lawsuits wants courts to ignore these limits on public nuisance claims and obliterate entire industries. These lawsuits seek to massively expand what counts as a public right, and they want courts to destroy companies that are already complying with existing regulations.
Similarly: “’A loss on the public nuisance theory in the Oklahoma opioid public nuisance theory would have been a potentially devastating state court precedent for the climate change public nuisance cases now pending in state courts,’ said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard.” [Dino Grandoni, Washington Post]
Which raises a question: when trial lawyers were pitching Oklahoma politicos on the large sums to be gained by pursuing strained public nuisance theories against opioid makers, do you think they mentioned that the theories if embraced might work to shut down the locally popular oil and gas business?
Fossil fuel executives should be criminally prosecuted for the destruction they have knowingly caused. #GreenNewDeal
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 22, 2019
Vermont senator and presidential Bernie Sanders cites no criminal law that the executives violated, but he wouldn’t be the first champion of collectivism for whom the conviction was settled on first and the law found afterward. More: William Allison, Energy in Depth (in which I take issue with retroactive application of criminal law, and notions of “conspiracy” that do not make clear which underlying laws were involved).
- “TriMet faulted Laing for failing to heed warning signs … and earbuds playing loud music. Laing’s attorneys argued it couldn’t be determined what volume the music was playing at at the time of impact.” [Aimee Green, Oregonian; $15 million jury verdict for woman who dashed in front of train reduced to $682,800]
- “When Are Athletes Liable for Injuries They Cause?” [Eugene Volokh on Nixon v. Clay, Utah Supreme Court]
- Former Alabama Sen. Luther Strange has written a law review article on local government abuse of public nuisance law in industrywide litigation [Stephen McConnell, Drug and Device Law] “California’s disturbing lead paint ruling is going interstate. Magistrate cites it in opioid MDL to support tribal nuisance claims under Montana law” [Daniel D. Fisher on Blackfeet Tribe v. Amerisource] Federal judge should have said no to Rhode Island climate change/public nuisance suit [Michael Krauss, Forbes]
- “Will New York law change veterinary malpractice?” [Christopher J. Allen, Veterinary News]
- Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on class action counterclaim removal in Home Depot U.S.A. v. Jackson leaves Congress to fix what Judge Paul Niemeyer called a loophole in the Class Action Fairness Act [Diane Flannery, Trent Taylor & Drew Gann, McGuireWoods, Federalist Society teleforum with Ted Frank]
- In Missouri, logjam for liability reform breaks at last as Gov. Mike Parson signs four pieces of legislation into law [Daily Star Journal (Warrensburg, Mo.); Beck on forum-shopping measure]
- “The Supreme Court Should End Pipeline Companies ‘Build First, Pay Later’ Use Of Eminent Domain” [Andrew Wimer, Institute for Justice/Forbes, Robert Thomas, Inverse Condemnation on cert petition in Like v. Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line] Plus: Federalist Society teleforum on pipeline eminent domain battles with Robert J. McNamara of IJ and Peter Tolsdorf of NAM;
- New nuclear format: “Enough communities in Utah and elsewhere have agreed to purchase nuclear power from a small modular reactor planned at the Idaho National Laboratory, triggering a next phase in its development.” [Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News, Idaho National Lab/Energy Department, Adrian Cho/Science Mag]
- “National manufacturers group warns Florida a ‘climate litigation’ target” [John Haughey, Center Square]
- “Transportation Department Proposes New Criminal Thresholds For Anti-Pipeline Protests” [Western Wire, earlier here, here, here, etc.]
- The better to pressure you, my dear: groups demand that California insurers disclose fossil fuel insureds [Insurance Journal]
- “New Orleans coastal lawsuit will kill jobs, critics say” [Bethany Blankley, Center Square Louisiana, earlier]
A New York utility says the politically arranged blockage of a pipeline project may mean an end to new gas hookups for residential and commercial customers [Bernadette Hogan and Ben Feuerherd, New York Post]
A demand for “no new fossil fuel infrastructure” seems to be rapidly emerging from the green wing of world politics (Seattle, IEA, Vermont, Maryland, New York, earlier), making clear that its objection is not to a particular pipeline or fracking project or oilfield development or export terminal but to any and all of them, period.
I wonder whether the demand, if taken seriously, would also entail disallowing new gasoline stations.
More/related: strangling the New York power grid [Robert Bryce, Crain’s New York Business]
- “Whaling jobs were well-paying and glamorous by Soviet standards.” The story behind “arguably one of the greatest environmental crimes of the 20th century.” [Charles Homans, Pacific Standard]
- Laying groundwork for high-stakes lawsuits against agriculture and livestock industries over CO2 emissions [Daniel Walters, SSRN via Twitter]
- Laws banning plastic straws sometimes forget interests of disabled [Palo Alto Daily Post]
- Oregon ban on gold placer stream mining, California law giving state first refusal right in federal land sales are two places high court might want to clarify boundary of federal and state land authority [Jonathan Wood, Federalist Society]
- “The Troubled History of Cancer Risk Assessment: The Linear-No-Threshold paradigm, which asserts there are no safe exposure levels, is the product of flawed and corrupted science.” [Edward J. Calabrese, Cato Regulation magazine]
- Why the vultures of Spain tend to avoid crossing over into Portugal [Bruno Martin thread on Twitter]
- France and Sweden rapidly decarbonized their electric grid while continuing economic growth by going nuclear. Why don’t we? [Joshua Goldstein, Staffan Qvist and Steven Pinker, New York Times]
- Washington state appeals court rules “valve turner” activist entitled to present “necessity defense” arguing that “he had no choice but to break into a pipeline facility to save the planet from global warming” [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine]
- Are Canadian climate suits losing steam? [Todd Shepherd, Free Beacon; Stewart Muir, Toronto Sun]
- On fuel blend mandates: “The only good reason for making corn into ethanol is for whiskey.” [Glen Whitman via David R. Henderson, EconLib]
- “Percolating in Washington State: Export-Terminal Permit-Denial Suit Implicates Federalism and Foreign Commerce” [Donald Kochan and Glenn Lammi, Federalist Society, related podcast]
- “Inflicting mass economic harm today in the hope of averting an unknown amount of environmental harm tomorrow is a leap of faith. … It’s not that the cities [filing climate suits] are necessarily wrong; it’s that they can’t know what they claim to know.” [Corbin Barthold, WLF]