New Records Suit Filed Against Massachusetts AG Over Refusal to Release Records re Coordination with Tort Bar, Academics in Investigating Opponents
BOSTON, MA – Last week, Timothy Cornell of Cornell Dolan, P.C., filed suit against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey under the Commonwealth’s public records law on behalf of the nonprofit transparency group Energy Policy Advocates (EPA). This suit seeks to compel the AG to reveal details about the use of law enforcement to advance private interests, its own coordination with other outside parties, and an organized effort by certain attorneys general to keep records about all of this from the public.
This is the second time in less than a year that Healey’s Office has forced EPA to file suit to obtain public records relating to its work with the climate industry. In 2019, OAG insisted it couldn’t release its correspondence with a private tort lawyer named Matt Pawa, who pitched AGs to pursue the same energy companies Pawa also was pursuing, “without compromising our investigation or litigation strategies”. The was risible, and after the public interest law firm, Government Accountability & Oversight, P.C, filed suit, OAG turned all of the emails over rather than defend the claims. These emails are directly related to this latest suit.
This new action involves four requests including one that OAG refused even to acknowledge, and another that it charged EPA nearly $1,000 to process, only to cash the check but not produce any records. Both requests relate to OAG’s relationships with outside activist parties, including an academic who wrote her center’s largest private funder from a meeting in Cambridge attended by five attorneys from AG Healey’s Office, explaining that they were gathered to discuss “going after climate denialism [sic]—along with a bunch of state and local prosecutors nationwide”.
EPA also seeks correspondence with an outside activist attorney named Brad Campbell. Emails released in previous litigation with AG Healey’s Office revealed that Campbell worked with tort lawyer Pawa to develop his pitch to AGs to pursue energy companies also being pursed by Pawa. The AGs’ litigation campaign has led to attorney general investigations of private parties, and targeted more than 100 research and advocacy groups, scientists and others.
EPA has learned that AG Healey has entered into contracts relevant to this suit, alternately styled as “confidentiality” and “common interest” agreements, requiring her Office to provide notice to and obtain the consent of outside parties prior to releasing certain public information, thereby contracting away the public’s access to public information as embodied in the open records law.
“The Commonwealth continues to shield its public policy choices behind the Public Records Act’s litigation exemption,” Cornell said after filing the latest lawsuit. “This makes for bad government and worse policy.”
Government Accountability & Oversight is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to transparency in public officials’ dealings on matters of energy, environment and law enforcement