Inside the climate records of the Trump, Biden legal teams

Source: By Jennifer Hijazi, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, November 5, 2020

As President Trump vows to dispute a win by former Vice President Joe Biden, each candidate is lawyering up in preparation for potentially messy courtroom brawls over ballots in states like Nevada and Pennsylvania with tight contests for crucial electoral votes.

The legal teams both campaigns have selected to resolve possible disputes over drive-thru voting and mail-in ballots come from firms with large oil and gas practices.

At least one firm on call to fight for Trump’s reelection has represented the energy industry in a high-profile climate battle.

The trend reflects the oil and gas industry’s hold on legal resources in the United States. A report last month from Law Students for Climate Accountability found that the nation’s leading law firms have five times more work on their plates for the fossil fuel industry than for renewable energy firms (Climatewire, Oct. 1).

King & Spalding LLP, one of the law shops the Trump campaign has hired, is immersed in litigation launched by the California cities of San Francisco and Oakland to get big energy firms to pay for sea-level rise, wildfires and other impacts from rising global temperatures linked to decades of fossil fuel use.

Biden’s camp has enlisted a team of Perkins Coie LLP lawyers, led by partner Marc Elias, to oversee litigation over state vote tallies. The firm has a wide-ranging oil and gas practice that works with industry clients on contracts, permitting and other matters.

King & Spalding and Perkins Coie earned some of the lowest scores of firms included in the Law Students for Climate Accountability report. The group gave a D grade to BakerHostetler LLP, the firm hired by Republican elector candidates in Minnesota that fought deadline extensions for ballot counting.

The presence of a strong oil and gas practice at a law shop isn’t always indicative of how the rest of the firm will conduct business.

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, for example, has committed portions of its practice to climate change advocacy — even while it retains its energy industry clients.

Campaign donations by attorneys in large law firms during this election cycle also illustrate the diversity of interests within a single firm.

A Reuters analysis of Federal Election Commission records showed that individual lawyers at big firms heavily favored Biden through campaign contributions.

Attorneys from Jones Day — which has received millions of dollars from the White House in legal fees — contributed $90,000 to Biden’s campaign committee.

Lawyers from Latham & Watkins LLP and Paul Weiss, which are both heavily involved in climate litigation on behalf of fossil fuel companies, donated nearly $500,000 to Biden, according to Reuters.