Attempt to block youths' climate change lawsuit rejected
A three-judge panel rejected Wednesday the Trump administration's attempt to block a federal lawsuit brought by 21 young people, including 11 from Oregon, who claim that government inaction on climate change violates their constitutional rights.
Judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled against a White House petition for writ of mandamus that would have dismissed the lawsuit because the young people failed to state a valid claim. Appeals court Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, rejected the administration's "drastic and extraordinary" petition, meaning the case, Juliana v. United States, can go to trial.
"We are mindful that some of the plaintiffs' claims as currently pleaded are quite broad, and some of the remedies the plaintiffs seek may not be available as redress," Judge Thomas wrote in his opinion. "However, the district court needs to consider those issues further in the first instance."
"The Ninth Circuit just gave us the green light for trial," said Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children's Trust and co-counsel for youth plaintiffs. "We will ask the district court for a trial date in 2018 where we will put the federal government's dangerous energy system and climate policies on trial for infringing the constitutional rights of young people
Judges Thomas, Marsha Berzon and Michelle Friedland heard arguments on the case in mid-December.
Juliana v. United States was filed in 2015 in Oregon's federal court in Eugene. Plaintiffs in the case include young people Miko and Issac Vergun of Beaverton, Avery McRae of Eugene, Zealand Bell of Eugene, Hazel van Ummersen of Eugene, Sahara Valentine of Eugene, Kiran Oommen of Eugene, Kelsey Juliana of Eugene, Tia Hatton of Bend, Alex Loznak of Oakland and Jacob Lebel of Roseburg.
The lawsuit claims that the president and various Executive Branch officials and agencies have contributed to climate change in violation of the plaintiffs' constitutional rights. The 21 young people claim that defendants have known for decades that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels destabilize the climate but failed to take adequate action.
In 2016, defendants asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. Federal Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene denied the motion.
"My greatest hope in addressing climate change lays in a successful trial, where the only acceptable outcome is a court-ordered science-based climate recovery plan," Hatton said.
"To our supporters: be ready for the new trial date and plan on being with us at the court house here, in Eugene, where our voices will be heard," said Valentine.
Co-counsel on the lawsuit includes the nonprofit Our Children's Trust, a global human rights and environmental justice campaign, and Earth Guardians of Colorado.