by Will Wray Jr., E&E Legal local counsel in RI, and president of the Rhode Island Lawyers’ Chapter of the Federalist Society
As Appearing in the Providence Journal
I have just filed a lawsuit against Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin on behalf of two non-profit organizations, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute and the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic. The lawsuit asks the court to order Kilmartin’s office to release documents that it withheld in violation of the state’s Access to Public Records Act.
The lawsuit stems from Kilmartin’s recent decision to join a small group of other state attorneys general who think law enforcement should take sides in scientific debates. In March 2016, the group announced its members’ collective “vow” to use their public offices “to defend climate change progress made under President Obama” and “push the next President for even more aggressive action.”
Following this announcement, legal experts and civil liberty advocates on both the left and right criticized the idea that prosecutors should enforce any alleged scientific consensus: such efforts threaten academic debate and stifle free speech.
Rhode Islanders should not be surprised that Attorney General Kilmartin is once again on the wrong side of a free speech conflict. Just this past legislative session, Kilmartin — the state’s chief law enforcement officer — authored two bills that failed because they impinged on free speech. His so-called “cyber-bullying bill” faced harsh criticism from free speech proponents and withered on the legislative vine. Another bill he authored earned the dubious honor of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s first ever veto. Governor Raimondo concluded that Kilmartin’s bill was “unconstitutional and won’t stand up to scrutiny in the courts.”