OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The chief justice of Oklahoma's Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the state's new attorney general more time to produce thousands of documents related to the relationship that new Environmental Protection Agency leader Scott Pruitt had with energy companies.
Chief Justice Douglas Combs granted Attorney General Mike Hunter's request for an emergency stay after attorneys for Hunter's office argued a lower court's Friday deadline was not enough time to produce all the documents.
"Not only was this a patently unreasonable directive, but the AG's office was not given the opportunity to respond to the petition," Hunter spokesman Lincoln Ferguson said in a statement. "Our office is appreciative and encouraged by the court's decision and welcomes the opportunity to present its case so that these records can be reviewed and provided in an orderly fashion."
More than 7,500 pages were released under court order last week after an Oklahoma judge ruled that Pruitt had been illegally withholding his correspondence, which is public record under state law, for the last two years. Oklahoma's Open Records Act requires state agencies to provide "prompt and reasonable access" to public records.
Pruitt's office was forced to release the emails after he was sued by the Center for Media and Democracy, a left-leaning advocacy group. Other emails are still being held back pending further review by the judge.
The fact that Hunter's office was able to prepare 7,500 documents for release over the weekend shows it is capable of complying with the request for more documents in a timely manner, said Bob Nelon, an attorney for the center.
"The fact remains that the attorney general's office in the course of a weekend was able to comply with an open records request that was 2 years old," Nelon told a Supreme Court referee during a hearing on Tuesday.
Documents and emails released so far show that while serving as Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt's office coordinated closely with fossil-fuel companies and special interest groups working to undermine federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions. The emails also show that Pruitt occasionally used private email to communicate with staff while serving as the state's attorney general, despite telling Congress that he had always used a state email account for government business.
"Legal maneuvering and delay tactics will not distract us from unearthing what Pruitt is hiding from the American people," said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. "We're confident we'll win the case and obtain the thousands of emails the Oklahoma AG's office is trying desperately to withhold."
Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy