A group of 21 youth plaintiffs is vowing to see Donald Trump in court, after the three-member Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected his administration’s “drastic and extraordinary” effort to block their landmark climate rights lawsuit, Juliana v. United States.
“The Ninth Circuit just gave us the green light for trial,” said Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel at Our Children’s Trust. “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.”
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The administration had sought a writ of mandamus against the District Court after Judge Ann Aiken denied the government’s motion to dismiss Juliana in 2016. The case “seeks a constitutionally compliant national energy system and science-based climate recovery action by the federal government,” the organization notes. In rejecting the government’s latest objection, the appeal court stressed the “enduring value in the orderly administration of litigation by the trial courts, free of needless appellate interference.” The judges added that “if appellate review could be invoked whenever a district court denied a motion to dismiss, we would be quickly overwhelmed with such requests, and the resolution of cases would be unnecessarily delayed.”
“Today, the Ninth Circuit sided with progress,” said 18-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett of White Plains, NY. “I’m grateful that my fellow plaintiffs and I can have our voices heard, and that climate science can have its day in court. The Trump administration tried to avoid trial, but they can’t ignore us. Our future is our choice and I believe the courts will stand with our constitutional rights.”
“The question of the last few years has not been ‘do we have a case’, but rather ‘how far will the federal government go to prevent justice,’” added 21-year-old plaintiff Kiran Oommen of Seattle. “But not even the Trump administration can go far enough to escape the inevitable tide of social progress. The Ninth Circuit’s decision affirms that we are on the side of justice, and for justice we are moving forward. We’ll see you in court.”
“This is a huge victory for young people fighting to protect their future from climate chaos,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the U.S. Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “It should be the case that forces the government to reverse its stance on climate change and take the rapid, ambitious action we need.”
But first, “the government may seek to appeal the decision either to the full 9th Circuit Court or to the Supreme Court,” InsideClimate News notes. “A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.”
Once the case eventually goes to trial, “each side will have to produce documents and submit to depositions first. Olson said her team had narrowed the number of documents they are requesting and will not seek to depose the heads of any federal agencies or any White House officials, but they will ask the agencies to identify subject experts.”
Our Children’s Trust stresses that Juliana “is not about the government’s failure to act on climate. Instead, the 21 young plaintiffs assert that the U.S. government, through its affirmative actions in creating a national energy system that causes climate change, has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, and has failed to protect essential public trust resources.”
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