Leading a 12-state coalition, Attorney General Ken Paxton today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in defense of the First Amendment. The brief, filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, supports ExxonMobil Corporation’s appeal of a lower court ruling that dismissed its lawsuit against the Massachusetts and New York attorneys general. ExxonMobil accused them of abusing their authority by punishing the company for its climate change views.

In 2016, a coalition of state attorneys general called the “AGs United for Clean Power” unveiled plans to suppress the free speech rights of those who disagree with them on climate change. The Massachusetts and New York attorneys general subsequently demanded that Exxon hand over documents concerning global warming or climate change for the last 40 years.

“This case is about the right of citizens to have a viewpoint on a topic of public debate without fear of government retaliation for expressing it,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York are abusing their law enforcement authority to suppress the free speech of a company they disagree with, violating ExxonMobil’s constitutional rights.”

In the friend-of-the-court brief, Attorney General Paxton and his counterparts support Exxon’s contentions that the Massachusetts and New York attorneys general exceeded their constitutional authority and violated the company’s First Amendment rights by attempting to shut down Exxon’s viewpoint on an issue of scientific debate.

“The freedom to express a viewpoint unpopular with the government is the very basis for the First Amendment,” Attorney General Paxton wrote in his friend-of-the-court brief. “In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated just last term that ‘governments have no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.’”

In addition to Texas, the other states who joined the amicus brief are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.  

View a copy of the amicus brief here.