In combined cases featuring California cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Mateo and several California counties and public officials against Exxon Mobil Corporation, Texas’ Fort Worth Court of Appeal denied Exxon Mobil’s request for pre-suit discovery to evaluate potential claims for constitutional violations, abuse of process, and civil conspiracy.
No personal jurisdiction
Exxon Mobil alleged that California state court climate-change lawsuits are designed to suppress Exxon’s Texas-based speech and associational activities. The cities, counties, officials and their trial counsel filed special appearances challenging Texas’s personal jurisdiction over them. The special appearances were denied by the trial court. The appellate court determined that the potential defendants lacked the requisite minimum contacts with Texas to be subject to personal jurisdiction and reversed the trial court’s order allowing Exxon Mobil to conduct Rule 202 depositions.
In the first 47 of its 49 page opinion the court analyzes the law of special appearances, but first, as background, summarizes the climate litigation goals and strategies of Massachusetts lawyer Matthew Pawa and the gaggle of climate alarmists you’ve heard from before: billionaire Tom Steyer, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the “Green 20” Attorneys General, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. That discussion is worth a read.
The Court’s “Final Thoughts”
In the last several paragraphs, by Justice Elizabeth Kerr, the Court took an unusual detour from the conventional judicial opinion and offered “Some Final Thoughts”
The court criticized “Lawfare” as “an ugly tool by which to seek environmental policy changes the California Parties desire, enlisting the judiciary to do the work that the other two branches of government cannot or will not do to persuade their constituents that anthropogenic climate change (a) has been conclusively proved and (b) must be remedied by crippling the energy industry.”
The court acknowledged that “Being a conservative panel on a conservative intermediate court in a relatively conservative part of Texas is both blessing and curse: blessing because we strive always to remember our oath to follow settled legal principles set out by higher courts and not encroach on the domains of other government branches; curse, because in this situation, at this time in history, we would very much like to follow our impulse instead.
Their impulse is to ”safeguard an industry that is vital to Texas’s economic well-being, particularly as we are penning this opinion weeks into 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic-driven shutdown of not only Texas but America as a whole.”
Congratulations to the justices for honesty and dedication to the rule of law.
A musical interlude (and an under-rated artist)