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LOS ANGELES-In his nearly eight years as California’s attorney general, Bill Lockyer has riled defense attorneys with groundbreaking lawsuits and an aggressive stance on environmental causes. Now, the future of several of those suits depends on whom California voters elect on Nov. 7 as his replacement. The race pits Jerry Brown, a former California governor and mayor of Oakland, against a little-known Republican state senator, Chuck Poochigian. As the Democrat, Brown is most likely to retain the office’s environmental focus-but he’s no guarantee when it comes to Lockyer’s highest-profile cases. Those cases include a public nuisance suit against six of the world’s largest automakers over greenhouse gas emissions, a petition before the U.S. Supreme Court to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate emissions, a consumer suit seeking to warn about the cancer-causing agents in french fries, and a groundbreaking criminal action against Hewlett-Packard Co. executives, including its former chairwoman, Patricia Dunn. “Poochigian would be the easy call: He’s made it clear he puts a higher priority on criminal prosecutions than the environment. Jerry Brown is a wild card-nobody really knows what he’s planning,” said Jeffrey Margulies, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Houston’s Fulbright & Jaworski. “There seems to be a big question mark out there about what’s going to happen.” The most controversial suit, filed last month, alleges that six auto manufacturers made cars that emit the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, which is a public nuisance. California v. General Motors Corp., No. 06-05755 (N.D. Calif.). The suit, the first of its kind, seeks monetary damages to compensate the state for millions of dollars spent on costs associated with global warming. In a letter this month, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Brown and Poochigian to “drop this harmful, politically-motivated junk lawsuit,” which is based on the “flimsiest of legal theories.” The case is the only one about which both candidates would comment. In an e-mailed statement, Poochigian said the lawsuit was “quite troubling” and would “face enormous hurdles.” Brown said he had “questions of causation in the suit,” and “concerns of the automobile companies, particularly Ford, losing billions of dollars.” But he declined to comment more specifically. Sean Hecht, executive director of the Environmental Law Center at University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, called the suit a “wild card.” “Lockyer has received much more criticism than praise for bringing this lawsuit,” said Hecht, who was a California deputy attorney general from 2000 to 2003. “It would be a hot potato for the next person coming into the office.” Pretexting, with fries In a related action, Lockyer is at the forefront of a petition before the Supreme Court to force the EPA to regulate emissions that cause global warming. Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 05-1120. Attorneys general in nearly a dozen states have joined. Hecht said that after the Supreme Court makes a ruling, “I could see the attorney general acting more or less aggressively in response to it.” Another Lockyer case in question is a year-old suit demanding that nine manufacturers of potato chips and french fries warn consumers about the carcinogenic dangers of acrylamide in their products. California v. Frito-Lay Inc., No. BC338956 (Los Angeles Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). Mich�le Corash, a partner in Morrison & Foerster’s San Francisco office who represents several of the defendants, said that even an environmentalist like Brown might question whether the suit protects public health. Critics also have questioned Lockyer’s application of California penal codes in a suit against Hewlett-Packard’s Dunn, and four others. The suit accuses them of pretexting, or lying to obtain phone records. California v. Patricia Dunn, No. CC644296 (Santa Clara Co., Calif., Super. Ct.). Legal experts said a new attorney general would be unlikely to stop prosecuting such a high-profile case, but might differ from Lockyer on whether to make deals with defendants. “There hasn’t been any indication that they’re at the point of cutting generous plea bargains,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University Law School. “The higher visibility of the case, the less likely prosecutors will feel inclined to give generous plea bargains. But a successor will do that. As long as we they don’t toss out the case entirely, they get away with pruning the case down.”

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