Judge orders AG's office to pay legal fees in public records case

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) A Vermont judge has ruled that the Vermont attorney general's office must pay nearly $66,000 in legal fees after it violated the state's public records law.

The ruling Monday in Washington County Superior Court involves the AG's response to record requests made by the Washington-based Energy and Environment Legal Institute. It was seeking information about whether former Attorney General Bill Sorrell and a number of other state AG's were involved in a coordinated multistate investigation into ExxonMobil and climate change. The groups had claimed Sorrell conducted public business from his private email account.

In the ruling, Judge Mary Miles Teachout called the group's $325/hour attorney fees "reasonable." Vermont attorney and GOP operative Brady Toensing represented the group in court.

The AG's office lost an appeal last fall before the Vermont Supreme Court that sought to exempt those private emails from a public records request. The decision was part of a long-running battle over access to public records that was also brought by VTDigger and other media organizations.