FORT WORTH (CN) – U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker agreed Wednesday to drop a subpoena asking ExxonMobil for its knowledge about climate change, which ExxonMobil denounced as an unconstitutional fishing expedition.
“After conferring on the matter, the parties mutually agreed that Attorney General [Claude] Walker will withdraw the subpoena and ExxonMobil will stipulate to the dismissal without prejudice of this action,” a 4-page joint stipulation of dismissal states. “Accordingly, ExxonMobil hereby stipulates to the dismissal of this action without prejudice to its right to assert the same or similar claims against some or all of the defendants and Attorney General Walker agrees to withdraw the subpoena.”
The oil giant sued Walker, the Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll law firm and attorney Linda Singer in Tarrant County Court in April, claiming the demand for four decades of documents was “little more than a weak pretext for an unlawful exercise of power.”
It sought declaratory judgment that the demand violates its rights under the state and federal constitutions.
ExxonMobil claimed it did not violate Virgin Island laws because it has no physical presence in the territory, and “owns no property, has no employees, and has conducted no business operations” in the Virgin Islands in the past five years.
The lawsuit was removed to Federal Court. It cited the “Green 20” group of attorneys general who announced one week after the subpoena issued that they will “com[e] up with creative ways to enforce laws being flouted by the fossil fuel industry.”
ExxonMobil filed a second lawsuit two weeks ago against Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Tracy Healey, fighting another subpoena for the same records.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is not among the Green 20. His office in May filed a plea to intervene and quash the subpoena in the Walker lawsuit, on ExxonMobil’s behalf. Joined by Alabama, Texas claimed that Walker’s use of New York-based Cohen Milstein to issue a subpoena for the records “violates the First Amendment and that the participation of Cohen Milstein, allegedly on a contingency fee basis, is an unconstitutional delegation of prosecutorial power.”
Paxton lauded the settlement, saying Americans “have the freedom to disagree, and we do not legally prosecute people just because their opinion is different from ours.”
He blasted the subpoena as an unconstitutional suppression of freedom of speech based on the content of the speech.
“We are glad that the abuse of power by Attorney General Walker, and those that he hired, has come to an end,” Paxton said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “Attorneys working for the government should be motivated by public interest, not financial gain.”
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said he is “pleased” that Walker “acknowledged that free speech must be protected.”
“We are all free to advocate our own opinions about climate change, but we don’t have the right to do so through subpoenas, litigation, and threats of prosecution against those with whom we disagree,” he said.
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