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CEI v. The Attorney General of New York

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CEI v. The Attorney General of New York

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In May 2016, CEI requested copies of all “common interest agreements” that were made with or that mentioned other state attorneys general or certain environmental activists from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The request was made under New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). The common interest agreements at issue were the organizing documents behind the AG Schneiderman’s multi-state campaign to shut down free speech about the climate science debate. More on this campaign can be found at cei.org/climatesubpoena.

AG Schneiderman’s office denied the request, claiming that the documents were exempt from disclosure. CEI challenged the denial in a lawsuit, CEI v. The Attorney General of New York, filed in New York State court on August 31, 2016. AG Schneiderman moved to dismiss the case. Among his claims was that the lawsuit was moot because a copy of the agreement, released by some other source, had become available on the Internet.

On November 22, 2016, the court ruled in favor of CEI, holding that CEI was entitled to an official copy of the agreement. It characterized AG Schneiderman’s claims as “nothing more than a parroting of statutory language, and thus a complete failure of its obligation ‘to fully explain’” its refusal to produce the document. The court also invited CEI to file for attorney fees under the New York FOIL.

When CEI submitted its attorney fee petition, the AG Schneiderman challenged it, and also took issue with the court’s FOIL ruling. On April 19, 2017, the court granted CEI’s fee petition in large part, and once again criticized AG Schneiderman’s failure to comply with New York’s FOIL.

AG Schneiderman appealed the court's fee award. Briefing in the appeal is complete. Oral argument will be heard on March 27, 2018.