On 24 October 2019, Maura Healey, the attorney general of Massachusetts, sued ExxonMobil for “deceptive advertising” and for “misleading Massachusetts investors about the risks to Exxon’s business posed by fossil fuel-driven climate change”. It was the culmination of an investigation Healey had launched in 2016 looking into how Exxon allegedly misled the public about climate, decades after its own scientists had briefed the company on the realities of the issue.
This week, the Massachusetts supreme court is hearing arguments related to that case – but not about Exxon’s actions decades earlier. Instead, the oil company wants the courts to decide whether Healey violated its first amendment rights by bringing the suit in the first place.
With all of its other legal options exhausted, Exxon’s efforts to stop this case hinge on the one last complaint: invoking Massachusetts’ anti-Slapp statute. Slapp stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, and statutes against such legal claims originated out of efforts to protect the press and civil society groups from corporations that wanted to silence critics. In recent years, however, it’s become increasingly common for corporations to invoke anti-Slapp laws instead to protect their first amendment rights. [Continue reading…]