The PLF Sentry
Commentary and news from Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.
Vol. 7, No. 3
February 15, 2007
PLF Urges Dismissal of "Global Warming" Lawsuit Against Automakers
In an opinion article published today (February 15) in the San Francisco Chronicle, Pacific Legal Foundation calls on California Attorney General Jerry Brown to drop a dubious "global warming" lawsuit filed by his predecessor against Ford, GM, and other auto manufacturers. The case amounts to frivolous litigation and an attempt to shift policy-making decisions from the Legislature, where they rightfully belong, to the judiciary, according to PLF Vice President Dave Stirling and PLF attorney Timothy Sandefur, the op-ed's co-authors.
"By branding automakers as a public nuisance, the State's 'global warming' litigation is a prime example of the kind of frivolous lawsuits that pervert tort law and undermines the credibility of the judicial system," explained Stirling, who served as chief deputy attorney general of California for eight years before joining PLF. "As the States top legal official, the attorney general should be opposing frivolous litigation, not engaging in it. Therefore, we are urging that Attorney General Brown immediately withdraw the lawsuit, recognizing that it lacks legal merit."
Filed in federal court last autumn by Brown's predecessor, former Attorney General Lockyer, the lawsuit claims the major automakers have violated public nuisance laws by producing high-emission vehicles and should pay damages for polluting.
"The Legislature, not the judiciary, is where regulatory policy making belongs," said Stirling. "Using public-nuisance lawsuits to make public policy amounts to an end-run around the legislative process and is destructive to the legal system. Under the limitless approach to nuisance law that the Lockyer lawsuit embraces, virtually any industrial activity could qualify as a public nuisance giving political activists and bureaucrats free rein to go after nearly any industry, without any input from elected officials."
In 1975, then-Governor Jerry Brown recognized the dangerous effects of lawsuit abuse on the medical industry by signing the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. "We're calling on Attorney General Brown to act in the same fashion as he did 35 years ago and immediately withdraw what is arguably the State's most frivolous lawsuit," said Stirling.
Read PLFs San Francisco Chronicle op-ed.
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Established in 1973, PLF is the oldest, largest, and in the words of the Washington Post, "perhaps most influential" public interest law foundation of its kind. PLF is a tax-exempt, charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and relies entirely upon private donations for its support..