Just How Lockyer and Brown Overreached

By September 18, 2007Global Warming

In using a state’s executive branch to sue six automotive companies for causing global warming, former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and the current AG, Jerry Brown, sought to use public nuisance laws against companies, for which — even if anthropogenic global warming is occurring — it is impossible to assess the amount of responsiblity. From U.S. District Court Judge Martin Jenkins’ ruling:

[The] cases cited by Plaintiff do not provide the Court with legal framework or applicable standards upon which to allocate fault or damages, if any, in this case. The Court is left without guidance in determining what is an unreasonable contribution to the sum of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, or in determining who should bear the costs associated with the global climate change that admittedly result from multiple sources around the globe. Plaintiff has failed to provide convincing legal authority to support its proposition that the legal framework for assessing global warming nuisance damages is well-established.

And …

In this case, Plaintiff’s global warning nuisance tort claim seeks to impose damages on a much larger and unprecedented scale by grounding the claim in pollution originating both within, and well beyond, the borders of the State of California. Unlike the equitable standards available in plaintiff’s cited cases, here the Court is left without a manageable method of discerning the entities that are creating and contributing to the alleged nuisance. In this case, there are multiple worldwide sources of atmospheric warming across myriad industries and multiple countries.

Lockyer and Brown are not stupid men. They understand these clear matters of cause and effect. They simply believe the law can be expanded almost infinitely for public policy purposes if the cause is just, and they, as men, are the arbiters of that justness. Truly it displays an arrogance, one that, unfortunately, is often rewarded by the courts.

P.S. Lots of good background links at The Jurist.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • jerry brown says:

    Would that you were correct and that all we had to worry about was political “overreaching.” The truth is that oil dependency and climate change threaten our entire way of life. California has taken the lead in dealing with this fundamental and serious challenge. I have asked the seven major auto companies to meet with me and discuss what can be done. They have refused. Instead, they persist in suing in several courts to block California’s emissions standards. Recently, a federal judge in Vermont threw out their case. Earlier, the United States Supreme Court rejected the auto companies’ claim that the EPA was not supposed to regulate greenhouse gasses. Then last week, a judge in San Francisco, threw out California’s damage case against the companies. In addition, California is facing the companies before the EPA on a waiver request–necessary to activate its emissions regulations–and in a federal court in Fresno. The companies are also suing Rhoad Island to invalidate its adoption of California’s standards. As is obvious, the auto companies are fighting on many fronts. I am confident that California’s position will be vindated and that ultimately the car companies will do the right thing and stop deepening what President Bush calls our “oil addiction.” By the way, read today’s Associated Press report on the disasterous effects of rising sea levels. Would you also call that overreaching?

  • Attorney General Jerry Brown was dealt a blow on Monday when his case against six of the nation’s automakers was dismissed from federal court. The lawsuit was a holdover from former Attorney General Bill Lockyer, and sought damages from American automakers for global warming caused, in part, by automobiles. Though during his campaign, Jerry Brown claimed that he doubted the suit had merit, after his inauguration he continued to pursue it, kick-starting his tenure focused primarily on pursuing environmental litigation.

    It is not the job of the attorney general to write policy and regulations relating to the environment. The judge in this case confirmed this and noted that the courtroom is not the proper domain for policymaking.

    Resolution to this cases has been long awaited. Attorney General Jerry Brown needs to stop pursuing these wide-ranging, politically-motivated environmental lawsuits and instead engage in substantive debate and dialogue with the appropriate policy and regulatory agencies in the state.

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