California municipalities argue Texas lacks jurisdiction in climate change case before Supreme Court
Because of a lack of contacts within the state, Texas courts lack jurisdiction over the California municipalities bringing climate change lawsuits against oil companies, according to a merit brief filed yesterday.
ExxonMobil’s legal fight to pull back the curtain on the authors of climate change litigation is currently in the hands of the Texas Supreme Court.
Exxon’s petition of review asserts California municipalities and Matthew Pawa, a Massachusetts lawyer, are attempting to chill speech and commandeer public policy, subjecting them to personal jurisdiction in Texas courts.
Conversely, the California municipalities argue in their merit brief that Exxon’s “threatened First Amendment claim” is “meritless.”
“Exxon vaguely asserts that the California lawsuits were filed with the intent of discouraging it from engaging in constitutionally protected speech regarding certain unidentified public policies,” the brief states. “But Exxon never explains what speech it believes will be chilled, in Texas or elsewhere.”
Exxon claims Matt Pawa, a Hagens Berman attorney who is pursuing many of the cases on a contingency fee, recruits state attorneys general and applies the “Big Tobacco playbook” to sue in order “to suppress the speech of Texas-based energy companies.”
Exxon’s brief argues that the group of “well-funded climate change activists” waging lawfare “threaten the production of substantial resources within Texas and seek to obstruct state policy on the exploration, production, and marketing of oil and gas.”
Pawa also filed a merit brief yesterday, which states: “If Texas is to avoid becoming a haven for the worst kind of forum shopping, jurisdiction in cases like this one should be rejected.”
Exxon’s case has drawn support from many notable individuals and groups, including Gov. Greg Abbott, who filed a brief back in May arguing that no Texan voted for the California officials orchestrating climate change lawfare.
The case stems from a petition Exxon filed in Tarrant County District Court in response to the climate change litigation, seeking pre-suit discovery for a potential lawsuit against the California municipalities and officials and Pawa.
Exxon’s case against the California municipalities ended up in the Second Court of Appeals after a Texas judge found the cities and counties were hypocritical in suing Exxon.
The municipalities had claimed doom to their infrastructures will be caused by rising sea levels, but when issuing bond offers to potential investors, they had neglected to mention this alleged, near-certain destruction.
Exxon maintains the California climate change suits were crafted using a “playbook” to alter Big Oil’s viewpoint on climate change and pressure the oil industry through litigation to change to renewable energy.
The oil giant argued its suit against them belongs in Texas because they have purposeful contacts within the state.
However, on June 18, 2020, the Second Court found that was not enough to keep the litigation here, despite feeling an impulse to protect the energy sector.
Exxon is represented in part by attorneys Ralph Duggins (Cantey Hanger) and Nina Cortell (Haynes and Boone).
Pawa is represented in part by Fort Worth attorney Steven Hayes.
The California parties are represented in part by the law firm of Altshuler Berzon.
Supreme Court case No. 20-0558