The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled today that local government units that sued oil companies have the right to proceed in their cases. CCL, with Gerson Smoger & Associates, filed amicus briefs in support of the plaintiff-governments in both cases on behalf of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

     In County of San Mateo v. Chevron Corp., the Ninth Circuit affirmed a decision of the federal District Court, remanding the case to state court. Chevron and its oil company co-defendants argued that they qualified as federal officers, so that the case was properly heard in federal court. They also argued that the case arose under federal law, even though the plaintiffs had pleaded state public nuisance claims. The Ninth Circuit agreed with the District Court that the oil companies did not qualify as federal officers. It also held that it had no jurisdiction to reach Chevron's other grounds for removal because the company only had a right to appeal the federal-officer ruling.

     In City of Oakland v. BP, the Ninth Circuit reversed a U.S. District Court decision that dismissed Oakland's case for failure to state a claim and found it had jurisdiction. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, finding the complaint proper and the jurisdictional ruling wrong. It remanded the case for consideration of other jurisdictional arguments BP and its co-defendants made that had not been reached by the lower court.