by Alicia Freese
Seven Days: Vermont’s Independent Voice

A lawsuit filed by a free-market nonprofit in Washington, D.C., is raising questions about how Vermont’s Office of the Attorney General responds to public records requests.

Last summer, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute asked for information from multiple attorneys general about a potential multi-state investigation into ExxonMobil for spreading misinformation about climate change. The states had signed a pledge not to disclose documents without permission from the group of attorneys general, and the institute wanted records of any requests to share information.

Some states complied with the institute’s request, but Vermont denied it, and the institute sued.

In Washington Superior Court on March 28, chief assistant attorney general Bill Griffin argued that his office acts as the State of Vermont’s legal counsel, and the state’s rules of professional conduct require lawyers to keep communications confidential unless it’s in their client’s interest to release them. The state’s public records act contains an exemption for professionals who are bound by these rules of conduct.

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