You may have heard about efforts by the motor vehicle industry to invalidate state laws restricting greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. California crafted a rule, other states adopted it, and the industry filed suit.
It’s a legal argument that stretches back to 2005. And with three active cases — in California, Rhode Island, and Vermont — it’s not going away soon.
In a dramatic new twist, the industry asked the court in the Vermont case to hold most of the trial in secret.
The industry argues that information about fuel efficiency and car design is a trade secret and should not be publicly disclosed.
The Burlington Free Press protested, arguing that the public has a right to know what is happening in a case of such importance.
On Friday, the Judge largely rejected the industry’s call to convene in secret, writing, according to press accounts:
Any request to close a courtroom for a portion of a trial challenges one of the most vital principles upon which our judicial system is founded: the presumption of public access.
The judge will review individual pieces of evidence to determine if some should be kept from the public.
This may strike the right balance. A few pieces of information might be particularly sensitive and keeping them secret might not compromise public understanding. The rest should be publicly aired.
If car manufacturers want to invalidate a democratically adopted plan to address a small piece of the global warming puzzle, they should have to do so in the open.
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