PCCJR Update — March 25, 2019

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg Attempts to Impact Policy in Attorney General’s Offices

Was Pennsylvania’s Attorney General preparing to pursue climate change litigation when he applied for Bloomberg Philanthropies funded private attorneys to work in his office? Or was he contemplating another kind of environmental litigation or enforcement?

These are some of the questions raised by the recent revelation that Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, applied for “Law Fellows” from the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law. According to The Washington Times, the Bloomberg Foundation finances attorneys through the NYU State Energy and Environmental Impact Center to place in attorney general’s offices across the country. The Application Requirements from the program’s web page state that:

“NYU Law Fellow is open to all state attorneys general who demonstrate a need and commitment to advancing clean energy, climate, and environmental matters of regional or national importance. Initial funding supports a limited number of NYU Law Fellows who will serve as SAAGs (or the equivalent appropriate title) in state attorneys general offices for a two-year term.”

According to the transcript (beginning on page 19) of the Attorney General’s testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, Mr. Shapiro confirmed that he did apply to receive attorneys through the program. However, he withdrew from the program after reviewing the terms of the contract.

The Attorney General did not specify the purposes for which he intended to hire these privately funded attorneys.

While the Attorney General has decided not to pursue hiring privately funded law fellows for the current budget year, the opportunity to do so exists in the years ahead should the terms of the contract change. Perhaps Pennsylvania should consider budgetary language similar to that recently passed in Virginia which states:  “all legal services of the Office of the Attorney General shall be performed exclusively by (i) an employee of the Office, (ii) an employee of another Virginia governmental entity as may be provided by law, or (iii) an employee of a federal government entity,” except as otherwise specified by law.” (See Washington Times)

PCCJR has a number of questions about how the Attorney General intended to use the Bloomberg funded fellows. We have requested information and will provide updates on what we find. It is clear that the Attorney General should not allow billionaire environmental activist Michael Bloomberg to embed attorneys in a law enforcement office charged with upholding the law on behalf of all Pennsylvanians.

Time Running Out to Apply for Supreme Court Committees

If you share the PCCJR’s view that courts should treat all parties fairly and interpret statutes as intended by the legislature, please consider applying for one of the open positions on the Civil Procedural Rules Committee or the Appellate Procedural Rules Committee. 

The deadline to apply is March 31, 2019.

Nothing demonstrates the importance of the court’s committees better than the current efforts to reverse the medical malpractice venue rule. The current venue rule was enacted to prevent venue shopping and played a key role in alleviating the medical malpractice crisis of the early 2000s. The Civil Procedural Rules Committee is reviewing a proposed change that would mark a return to broader venue rules and venue shopping in medical malpractice cases. While the Supreme Court establishes procedural rules, the committees advise the court and play an influential role in shaping the court’s decisions on the adoption of proposed rule changes.

For application information, click here . Applications are due March 31, 2019.

 

 

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