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SACRAMENTO � While insisting that his office’s landmark global warming lawsuit against carmakers is “solid,” rookie Attorney General Jerry Brown on Thursday invited the defendants to settle. “The automobile companies have to be involved if we want to get to the answer � not just litigation,” Brown told a press gathering in San Francisco. “This is just a piece. … The ultimate objective here is to get a resolution, to get a result, and to prevent the catastrophic consequences of this global warming problem.” Outgoing AG Bill Lockyer filed the highly publicized nuisance suit in September, leaving Brown to decide in his first days in office whether to pursue the politically charged case that accuses car companies of generating significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Business groups and some editorial pages scoffed at the suit, accusing Lockyer � then a candidate for state treasurer � of grandstanding. Even Brown, then running for attorney general, expressed some doubts about the suit’s merits. But on Thursday, Brown filed his opposition to the automakers’ motion to dismiss. “They’re causing damage. … That’s real,” he said. “The point of the lawsuit is, ‘Let’s get at it. Let’s not wait several years.’” At the same time, Brown released a letter he sent to the attorney representing the automaker-defendants, asking for meetings with each of the companies’ CEOs to “discuss resolution of our pending litigation.” “As I review the litigation and learn more about the disputes, I am struck by the need for California and the automakers to work together to address the profound environmental challenges posed by global warming,” Brown wrote. Brown said an attorney for Chrysler had already called him to discuss talks. Reading from a prepared statement, the carmakers’ attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr. of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Los Angeles, said his clients appreciated the “conciliatory” tone of Brown’s invitation. “As we have argued in our motion to dismiss, the global warming debate implicates political and policy issues that need to be addressed at the national and international levels and simply can’t be resolved through this kind of nuisance lawsuit,” Boutrous said. While observers said Brown’s public call to negotiate is unusual, his push to settle is not. “Ninety to 95 percent of environmental cases, and civil cases generally, settle,” said Clifford Rechtschaffen, professor at Golden Gate University School of Law. “If you think about it, between the possibilities of doing nothing and seeking complete compensation for the state’s costs due to global warming in court, there’s a wide menu of possible steps the parties could take.” Environmental groups overwhelmingly endorsed Brown in the attorney general’s race over the much more conservative Chuck Poochigian. But there was some wariness that the former mayor of Oakland � no fan of environmental restrictions that hampered downtown redevelopment � might not allow the department’s environmental section the unprecedented freedom and power it enjoyed under Lockyer. With his actions Thursday, Brown may have signaled to in-house lawyers and outside critics that he’s listening to both sides, said Sean Hecht, executive director of UCLA’s Environmental Law Center. “There were a lot of people who went on record as saying this lawsuit was a terrible idea,” Hecht said. “I think maybe [Brown] has assessed the situation and is saying that this lawsuit has merit, and yet there are still members of the public and the media who think we’re crazy for doing this. We need to make the point that we’re not trying to destroy the auto industry.” “I certainly don’t see [the letter to automakers] as a sign that he’s weakening his public or even his private support for the lawsuit,” Hecht said. Kenneth Alex, the supervising deputy attorney general who’s leading the global warming lawsuit, said Thursday he’s “thrilled” with Brown’s actions. “This was the first chance for him to say ‘I’m in this suit as a lawyer and as a lawyer to win, but having said that, let me reiterate that we’re interested in finding a constructive solution to this problem,’” Alex said. The automakers have shown little interest in negotiating a settlement prior to Thursday’s call from Chrysler’s attorney, Alex said. A hearing in the suit is scheduled for March 6 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

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