S.F. Judge Remands Oakland and San Francisco Climate-Deception Cases

Vacates Prior Dismissal of Four Defendants on Personal Jurisdiction Grounds

Oct. 24, 2022 – After five years of procedural wrangling at all three levels of the federal court system, Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California today remanded to state court two “climate-deception” cases, which were filed in 2017 by the City of Oakland and City and County of San Francisco. Judge Alsup also vacated his 2019 order dismissing four of the five oil-and-gas-company defendants on personal jurisdiction grounds, to enable the parties to litigate in state court on a “clean slate.”

Altshuler Berzon LLP, along with co-counsel from Sher Edling and the Oakland and San Francisco City Attorneys’ offices, are counsel for the public entity plaintiffs, suing on behalf of the People of the State of California.

The underlying lawsuits pleaded a single cause of action for public nuisance against five of the country’s largest energy companies, alleging that the defendants had undertaken a half-century long campaign to promote disinformation and discredit scientific evidence about the impacts of fossil fuel combustion on global warming. In 2019, Judge Alsup denied the People’s motions to remand the cases to state court, dismissed the four non-California-based defendants on personal jurisdiction grounds, and dismissed the People’s remaining claims for failure to state a claim under “federal common law.” The Ninth Circuit reversed and the Supreme Court denied certiorari. On remand, and in light of appellate decisions by the Ninth Circuit and other circuits in several related cases, Judge Alsup agreed with the People that these cases belong in state court, where they were initially filed, and that in the absence of federal subject matter jurisdiction, it is best for the state courts, not the federal court, to decide the personal jurisdiction issues in the first instance.

The remand order has been stayed pending the defendants’ threatened further appeal to the Ninth Circuit and those same defendants’ recently filed certiorari petitions in other related climate-deception cases that the federal appellate courts also remanded.