Baltimore’s multimillion-dollar climate change lawsuit against the oil industry will head to the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time on the preliminary issue of whether the case will be argued in federal circuit court or city.
In recently filed documents, about two dozen oil companies told Chief Justice John Roberts through a lawyer that they would urge the court to hear their appeal and declare that they had the common law right. to have their case heard in federal court because of the harm they allegedly caused Baltimore. grew out of their operations outside of Maryland.
The companies’ lead attorney announced his intention to appeal and outlined his case asking Roberts to give them more time to file their formal motion for Supreme Court review of a 4e Decision of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals. Roberts, the judge overseeing the 4e Circuit, granted the attorney’s requested 60-day extension to Oct. 14, which was based on the attorney’s busy appeals court schedule.
“This case presents significant and complex issues regarding the appropriate forum to litigate putative state law claims that seek to hold energy companies accountable for the effects of global climate change,” attorney Kannon K. Shanmugam wrote at Roberts. “The decisions of this (Supreme) Court establish that the federal common law necessarily and exclusively provides the adjudicative rule for certain narrow categories of claims which involve only federal interests, including where the interstate or international nature of the controversy renders inappropriate the control by state law.”
Shanmugam chairs the Supreme Court and Appeals Practice Group at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, where he is also the Managing Partner of the Washington office.
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Baltimore attorney James L. “Jim” Shea did not immediately comment on the corporations high court filing on Monday.
The case is filed with the Supreme Court as BP PLC. v. Baltimore Mayor and City CouncilNo. 22A84.
A panel of three judges from the 4e Circuit dismissed Shanmugam’s argument in April, saying Baltimore’s environmental damage claims are rooted in Maryland law and therefore belong in state court. The 15 full members 4e Circuit dismissed without comment the companies’ request for its review in May, prompting them to turn to the Supreme Court again.
The city’s lawsuit, filed in 2018 in Baltimore City Circuit Court, seeks millions of dollars in damages for the companies’ alleged violations of Maryland’s consumer protection law, as well as for product liability, public nuisance and trespass.
The companies, which are facing similar litigation in numerous other states, deny the allegations. They sought to have the Baltimore case heard in federal court, where civil attorneys said the companies believed they had a better chance of victory before trial than in state court.
U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander returned the case to Baltimore City Circuit Court in June 2019, saying the city’s state law claims did not involve federal jurisdiction.
The 4e Circuit agreed soon after, prompting the companies’ first appeal to the Supreme Court.
In May 2021, the High Court ruled that the 4e Circuit erroneously concluded that the federal courts lacked statutory jurisdiction over the case because the oil companies did not act at the direction of a federal officer. The judges, however, did not automatically grant federal jurisdiction over the Baltimore trial, opting to leave that trial decision to the 4th Circuit.
The 4e Circuit ruled again for Baltimore last spring.
“Given the judicial inquiry before us, we have no opinion on whether Baltimore will ultimately fail or succeed in proving its claims under Maryland law,” Judge Henry F. Floyd. “We cannot decide these questions. But we are confident that Maryland courts can competently adjudicate claims arising under their own laws that otherwise provide no federal jurisdiction.
The 4e Circuit issued its decision published in Baltimore Mayor and City Council c. BP PLC et al.no. 19-1644.
Companies being sued by Baltimore include BP America Inc., Chevron Corp., CITGO Petroleum Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Hess Corp., Marathon Petroleum Corp., Phillips 66 and Shell Oil Co.