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Climate Change Lawsuit Juliana v. US Moves Ahead

Toni Larson  | Published on 11/3/2018
In a surprise decision late Friday, November 2nd, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the Dept of Justice request for a stay, and thus cleared the way for Juliana v. US, to go to trial. A major lawsuit filed by young people against the US government for failing to limit the effects of climate change, the case may now go to trial in a lower court. Details and lawyers' discussion are available here.

Juliana v. United States was brought by Our Children's Trust. The 21 youth plaintiffs are alleging that the government is violating their constitutional rights by promoting the development and use of fossil fuels, despite knowing for decades that fossil fuels are destroying the climate system. 


The case so far . . .
Back in March 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs' landmark case can move forward.  
In a unanimous ruling, Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas denied the Trump administration’s motion to dismiss the case under a rarely used procedure called a writ of mandamus, in which a case essentially leapfrogs over the usual legal venues. Judge Thomas wrote that a “writ of mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary remedy reserved for really extraordinary cases” and that the Trump administration’s motion failed to meet that standard. The issues raised by the case “are better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation,” the chief judge wrote, pointing out that the case hasn’t even reached the discovery stage yet. 


  During a public case management conference on April 12th, 2018, the U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin set October 29, 2018, as the trial date for Juliana v. United States. 
That trial was expected begin at the United States District Court in Oregon on Monday, October 29.


   But then in late October, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued a temporary stay of the case to consider a request from the Justice Department for a stay to halt the case. The Supreme Court’s temporary stay sent the plaintiffs scrambling to put together a brief in time to keep the case moving forward on schedule.


   On November 2nd, the court denied the government’s request for a stay, though Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch would have granted the application, according to the court order. The Supreme Court also suggested that a federal appeals court should consider appeals on other grounds before the case heads to trial in district court.