HONOLULU, Hawaii – The state of Hawaii is set to allocate more than $3 million to hire mainland lawyers in defense against a climate change lawsuit filed by local children. The Attorney General’s office argues that the outside legal assistance is necessary, but a retired state Supreme Court justice disagrees, calling it a waste of money.
Last year, fourteen young individuals teamed up with local and national environmental lawyers to sue the state. In response, the state hired the services of Morgan Lewis and Bockius, a mainland law firm, and is seeking $3.25 million from the legislature to cover their fees.
The retired Associate Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilson, who is dedicated to environmental causes, believes that this expensive legal aid is unnecessary. Wilson expressed his concerns by stating, “Three million dollars is being requested from taxpayers to pay attorneys from Los Angeles for a case that, I must say, is pretty simple.”
Wilson further took his message to state lawmakers during a joint hearing on climate change. He suggested that the Attorney General’s office, which he considers to be the state’s largest law firm, should handle the case or hire local firms if required.
In response to the criticism, the Attorney General’s office emphasized the document-intensive nature of the case and the need for extensive support services and expertise in environmental litigation. They brought in co-counsel with relevant knowledge to provide the best possible defense in this high-profile case, which challenges the state’s commitment to the environment.
The statement from the Attorney General’s office highlighted that the lawsuit aims to prompt significant changes to the state’s transportation infrastructure through the appointment of a special master. Wilson countered this by clarifying that the young plaintiffs are not seeking monetary compensation but rather a plan from the state to protect them, specifically in terms of the Department of Transportation’s carbon footprint.
As the legal proceedings unfold, defense attorneys have begun conducting depositions of the young plaintiffs under oath. The plaintiffs’ lawyers allege that the questioning of the oldest plaintiff, 20-year-old Kalalapa Winter, was prolonged and aggressive, resulting in her becoming tearful. Wilson claimed that such tactics would not be employed by attorneys in Hawaii, emphasizing the need for greater respect.
The Attorney General’s office, however, assured that the depositions are being carried out in an age-appropriate and respectful manner. Unless a settlement is reached, the trial for this case is scheduled to take place in the Hawaii Environmental Court later this summer.
In summary, the state of Hawaii is facing a lawsuit on climate change, filed by young individuals with the assistance of local and national environmental lawyers. The state has enlisted the services of mainland law firm Morgan Lewis and Bockius, prompting criticism from retired Associate Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilson, who believes the associated costs are unnecessary. The lawsuit seeks to overhaul the state’s transportation infrastructure through the appointment of a special master. Meanwhile, the depositions of the plaintiffs are underway, with both sides presenting different perspectives on the manner in which they are being conducted. The case is expected to proceed to trial later this summer.