Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Exxon Wins Latest Legal Round in Climate Fight With Mass. AG

In virtually unprecedented ruling, federal judge in Texas says Massachusetts AG Maura Healey must answer questions about her climate investigation to Exxon lawyers.

 Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she will appeal the latest ruling in Exxon's favor in a Texas federal court. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
A federal judge reaffirmed an order that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey must submit to questioning by lawyers for ExxonMobil over her investigation of the oil industry giant.

U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade on Monday rejected Healey's motion to cancel a deposition he had previously ordered, a virtually unprecedented decision that could expose the investigative tactics of a law enforcement agency to its target.

Kinkeade has ordered Healey to answer Exxon's questions in a Dallas courtroom deposition Dec. 13.  The mandate is part of a sweeping discovery order issued by the judge in October that also could open the door for Exxon to plow through Healey's internal records related to her investigation.

Healy filed a motion Tuesday asking Kinkeade to stay his order until she has time to file an appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Tom McGarity, a University of Texas law professor, said the deposition order is unprecedented based on a judge believing a state prosecutor has allowed political bias to drive a case.

"I've never heard of such a thing," he said.  "The court certainly has the power to order a deposition, but I have never heard of that happening in anything like this."

That bold order flowing from a Texas court has allowed Exxon wide latitude in defending itself against multiple investigations.  It also foreshadows a new legal standard that could have chilling consequences on attorneys general across the county, McGarity and other legal experts warn.

"That's a message to AGs that if they are considering bringing a case against industry, they could be open to questioning about their motive," McGarity said.  "That's a message the AGs will hear.  They may not be intimidated, but it is something that will be a factor in their decisions about what cases, what industry to pursue."

Read more at Exxon Wins Latest Legal Round in Climate Fight With Mass. AG

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