On Thursday, October 18, 2018, for the second time in three months, the Department of Justice asked the United States Supreme Court to circumvent the ordinary procedures of federal litigation and stop the constitutional case Juliana v. United States, involving the substantive due process and equal protection rights of children, from going to trial. Claiming harm from the costs of litigation, the federal government filed a second writ of mandamus petition and application for stay with the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Roberts issued a one-page order on Friday in which the Supreme Court granted the request to stay discovery and trial pending the court’s review of the administration’s petition submitted on Thursday. For more details of the administration’s previous attempts to avoid a trial, follow this link.
The Department of Justice describes the “impending harm” to the defendants as:
Absent relief from this Court, the government imminently will be forced to participate in a 50-day trial that would violate bedrock requirements for agency decisionmaking and judicial review imposed by the APA and the separation of powers.
Vic Barrett, 19-year-old plaintiff from White Plains, New York said:
We are 6 business days from a trial we have been preparing for for 3 years. The lengths my own government is going to to get this case thrown out and avoid trial is absurd and offensive. This case is not about money. This is not about the “harms to the government” or how much money the government has paid its experts or how many hours their lawyers have to work. This is about my future and the future of our youngest generations. This is about fundamental constitutional rights of children. We are simply asking for our right to be heard. Our Government exists to hear us and protect us. If we cannot go to our federal courts with real constitutional claims for relief and present our evidence at trial then the people of this country have been failed by our third branch of government. The final judgment will be reviewed by appellate courts, but this case needs to go to trial on October 29.
Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for youth plaintiffs added:
This Department of Justice is calling the District Court’s actions in holding a trial a “judicial ‘usurpation of power.’” On the contrary, it would be a complete abdication of responsibility by the third branch of government not to declare the constitutional rights of these young people and not to hear the evidence in this fundamental rights case.
The 21 young plaintiffs have been working for three years with a team of world-class experts to bring their claims to trial, overcoming three motions in the district court, two motions in the Ninth Circuit, and one in the Supreme Court, all seeking to dismiss their case. In the last 60 days, the parties have taken almost 50 depositions, have finalized their exhibit and witness lists, and filed their pre-trial briefs.
Several Rhode Island groups, Climate Action RI • 350 RI, Fossil Free RI, Nature’s Trust RI, and the Raging Grannies of Greater Westerly will hold a rally in support of the plaintiffs on the day the trial is scheduled to start. One of the speakers at the rally will be Alex Duryea, a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island and a board member of Nature’s Trust RI.
At a Global Climate Change Week event at URI yesterday, a talk by astronomer Francine Jackson entitled Climate Change—Why We All Need to Care, Alex said:
Our group filed a legal document at the RI Department of Environmental Management about a month ago. Unfortunately, DEM just recently denied our request, so now we are taking them to court, the Superior Court in Providence.
I am disappointed with the response of the DEM. I really hoped that they would have jumped at the opportunity to do more to protect everyone, especially the youth, from the impending consequences of business as usual. I still find it baffling that we have to fight to protect the environment and our health and well-being.
The response of the Raimondo administration should be seen in the light of the process that led to the approval earlier this week of FERC approval of National Grid’s liquefaction facility at Fields Point over community concerns. Indeed, as Steve Ahlquist writes:
It is impossible to understand the approval of a facility like this, over the objections of the local community, without understanding the way Governor Gina Raimondo and the State Senate’s Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee worked to stack the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to engineer a positive result for National Grid on the state level.
Full disclosure: Peter Nightingale is President of Nature’s Trust Rhode Island.