According to Bloomberg, Standard & Poor's told a Calilfornia judge that its credit ratings are opinions protected by a state law meant to block lawsuits filed by the powerful to intimidate the weak. S&P is facing scrutiny from the federal government over its rating of mortgage-backed securities before the financial meltdown.

Facing a $1 billion lawsuit by California Attorney General Kamala Harris over its assessments of mortgage-backed securities, the New York-based unit of McGraw Hill Financial Inc. says its ratings are similar to newspaper editorials and shielded by a 1992 California statute barring meritless lawsuits intended to bully targets. A hearing on S&P’s latest bid to dismiss the case is set for today in state court in San Francisco.

The California lawsuit is one of more than a dozen filed in February against S&P by the U.S. and a group of states over ratings on mortgage-backed securities during the housing boom.