Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, rejected the Trump administration’s “drastic and extraordinary” petition for a court order to drop the landmark climate lawsuit brought by 21 youth supported by Our Children’s Trust.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon lifted the stay it had imposed late last year on the trial of Juliana v. United States, originally scheduled for February 5 of this year. The court ruled that the Trump administration had not satisfied the requirements for the extraordinary petition it had filed. The case will now go to trial.
In their case the 21 young plaintiffs assert that the U.S. government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, and has failed in its duty to protect air, land and water—see Article 1, Section 17 of the Rhode Island Constitution—for present and future generations.
Julia Olson , executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for youth plaintiffs said:
The Ninth Circuit just gave us the green light for trial. 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.
The Court concluded:
There is enduring value in the orderly administration of litigation by the trial courts, free of needless appellate interference. … 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.
Victoria Barrett , 18-year-old plaintiff from White Plains, New York, said:
Today, the Ninth Circuit sided with progress. 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.
Kiran Oommen , 21-year-old plaintiff from Seattle, Washington, said:
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.’ We have seen that they are willing to go to many lengths to cover up their crimes and maintain the status quo, 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.
Sahara Valentine , 13-year-old plaintiff from Eugene, Oregon, 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.
Philip L. Gregory of Gregory Law Group, co-lead counsel for the youth plaintiffs commented:
The Ninth Circuit clearly recognized the importance of a complete record at trial particularly as to the climate science. We will promptly ask the District Court for a trial date in 2018 so that the urgency of the climate crisis can be addressed through appropriate remedies.
The case is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children’s Trust, and all seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.
The three-judge panel consisted of Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, Circuit Judges Marsha Berzon, and Michelle Friedland. The latter replaced Alex Kozinski who abruptly retired after sexual harassment allegations last December, one week after oral argument was held on the federal administration’s petition.
Full disclosure: Peter Nightingale is President of Nature’s Trust Rhode Island.