News Judgment, Guilty Trial Lawyers and Emissions

By September 19, 2007Briefly Legal, Global Warming

When a federal judge in Vermont rules against the automotive companies in a lawsuit brought by a dozen or so states, agreeing that state regulations to crack down on automotive emissions were legally sound, the Washington Post gave the story big play on the front page of the Business Section. (“Carmakers Defeated On Emissions Rules”— Page D1, September 13).

But when a federal judge in California, in a case at least as legally significant, rules that the state cannot sue automotive manufacturers to force them to cut emissions blamed for global warming, it’s a three-paragraph blurb on Page D2 yesterday. (“Global-Warming Suit Rejected” — September 18; print version not online, Reuters here).

A judge demonstrates legal restraint, rebukes California’s attorney general, and says it’s not possible to accurately attribute manmade climate change to a particular industry. Pretty significant, but given shortshrift by the Post.

Still, not too much grousing on this end. The judge was on West Coast time, the ruling later in the day, and perhaps it was too much to rework the pages to achieve a better news balance. That said, following the Vermont decision, the Post editorialized in the Sunday paper on the topic. We can no doubt expect the same sort of review on the California ruling, too, right?

Besides, the Post front-paged the guilty plea of trial lawyer William Lerach as a case of class-action mania brought to accounts. So there’s some justice in the world, if not always in story placement.

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