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Judge Wants More Info|on Politics & Climate

DALLAS (CN) — A Texas federal judge wants Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to show she had no political bias when she subpoenaed ExxonMobil for four decades of records of its knowledge about climate change before he rules on ExxonMobil's lawsuit against her.

Irving-based ExxonMobil sued Healey, a Democrat, in June. Healey issued civil investigative demands in March after appearing with other attorneys general and spoke of an investigation of whether ExxonMobil broke the law by misrepresenting its knowledge of climate change in marketing materials and investor communications.

ExxonMobil called the allegations are "a weak pretext for an unlawful exercise of government power to further political objectives," and said the applicable statute in the investigation has a statute of limitations of four years.

On Thursday, in response to Healey's motion to dismiss and ExxonMobil's motion for an injunction, U.S. District Judge Ed Kinkeade wrote that Healey's comments before issuing the demands are "concerning" and "may constitute bad faith," by using subpoenas that would preclude U.S. Supreme Court precedent that federal courts abstain from interfering with state judicial proceedings.

"Attorney General Healey's comments and actions before she issued the CID require the Court to request further information so that it can make a more thoughtful determination about whether this lawsuit should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction," Kinkeade wrote in the 6-page order.

"Accordingly, the court orders that jurisdictional discovery by both parties be permitted to aid the court in deciding whether this law suit should be dismissed on jurisdictional grounds."

In June, ExxonMobil defeated a similar subpoena from U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Earl Walker.

Walker agreed to drop his subpoena for climate change records after the company sued him, the Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll law firm, and attorney Linda Singer in Tarrant County Court in April.

ExxonMobil said it broke no 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.

In September, Texas and 10 other states filed an amicus brief on ExxonMobil's behalf in its federal lawsuit against Healey.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called Massachusetts' subpoena an "unconstitutional use of investigative powers," stemming from a "coalition of liberal" attorneys general who said in March that they would "go after one side of the policy debate" on climate change.

Paxton, a Republican, said state attorneys general have sovereign authority to investigate violations of law through subpoenas, but that "this power does not include the right to engage in unrestrained, investigative excursions to promulgate a social ideology, or chill the expression of points of view, in international policy debates."

ExxonMobil filed a similar lawsuit demanding an end to Healey's investigation in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts in June.

Healey's spokeswoman Cyndi Roy Gonzalez responded: "The First Amendment does not protect false and misleading statements in the marketplace."

Gonzalez added in June: "For many months, Exxon Mobil has engaged in an unprecedented effort to limit the ability of state attorneys general to investigate fraud and unfair business practices and to protect Massachusetts consumers, investors and the public. Our investigation is based, not on speculation, but on inconsistencies about climate change in Exxon documents which have been made public."

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