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Court Criticizes Schneiderman's Evasion of Open Records Law

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A new court ruling criticizes New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s illegal stonewalling of public records requests. At issue in the case is the key document related to a coalition orchestrated by Schneiderman last year that was aimed at shutting down the climate science debate.

The State of New York Supreme Court handed down a ruling on April 19, which awarded the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) attorney fees in its successful legal challenge to obtain an official copy of Schneiderman’s “Common Interest Agreement,” the document behind his multi-state, anti-free speech campaign. Even after the agreement became available on the Internet, Schneiderman’s office refused to release an official copy of it.

 “Mr. Schneiderman launched his campaign for the alleged purpose of fully informing the public. But when it came to complying with New York’s own Freedom of Information Law, he turned tail and tried to keep the public in the dark,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. “We are gratified that the court firmly rejected his evasive tactics.”

In the ruling last week, the court characterized Schneiderman as having “stonewalled” and as having “completely failed” to explain his “conclusory” reasoning for withholding the document. It noted that the fee award was “particularly appropriate” to promote the purpose of the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The Common Interest Agreement was directly at odds with that purpose, because it called on the attorneys general involved to keep all documents secret to the extent possible.

The court initially ruled against Schneiderman on Nov. 21, 2016, ordering him to disclose the Common Interest Agreement and permitting CEI to apply for attorney fees. But when CEI filed for fees in January, Schneiderman objected to the fee request and attempted to re-litigate the court’s order to release the document.

CEI sought the agreement after having successfully fought off a wide-ranging subpoena from U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, a member of Schneiderman’s anti-speech coalition.

For more information see CEI v. The Attorney General of New York.