9th Circuit puts kids’ climate case back on hold

Source: Benjamin Hulac, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A federal appeals court in San Francisco paused a landmark climate lawsuit in which the plaintiffs accuse the U.S. government of violating their right to live in a safe climate.

The temporary stay is the latest step in a legal mambo that has transpired between the plaintiffs and the government at the district, appeals and Supreme Court levels.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late yesterday granted a temporary stay, which the Trump administration requested, that will halt the proceedings of a lower court in Eugene, Ore., where the case was filed in 2015. The plaintiffs have 15 days to respond.

In a brief order, the 9th Circuit said it stayed the Eugene court proceedings, pending its consideration of the government’s petition for a writ of mandamus — an unusual judicial action that would have a higher court supersede the actions of a lower court before a case in that court ends.

Trial was supposed to begin Oct. 29 in the lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, but the government successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to halt the discovery and trial elements of the case.

While the high court lifted that hold last Friday, the plaintiffs, a group of 21 children and young adults, have yet to begin trial and are eager to do so.

Both the Obama and Trump administrations have sought to dismiss the case, and the government, under President Trump, has tried four times at the 9th Circuit and twice at the Supreme Court to halt the case.

The district court judge, Ann Aiken, met yesterday with the parties and would promptly set a trial date after the stay lifts, said Meg Ward, a spokeswoman for Our Children’s Trust, the legal group supporting the plaintiffs.

“Given the urgency of climate change, we hope the Ninth Circuit will recognize the importance to these young Americans of having a prompt trial date,” Phil Gregory, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We are pleased this stay is only temporary. We want to commence presenting the climate science in court as soon as possible.”

The plaintiffs argue that American presidents and their administrations since the 1960s have known about climate change and its dangers, yet, despite that knowledge, have done little to address it and even encouraged the growth of fossil fuel industries.

In suing the government, they demand a court ruling that their constitutionally held rights to safety have been violated and for a national plan to phase out fossil fuels countrywide.

Such a plan should be based on the latest available climate science and data, they say.