By Dana Drugmand
The Supreme Court denied the federal government’s request to halt discovery and the trial in the youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States. The court’s rejection on Monday of the defendants’ application for a stay means the case will likely proceed to trial as scheduled in U.S. District Court on October 29.
“This decision should give young people courage and hope that their third branch of government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, has given them the green light to go to trial in this critical case about their unalienable rights,” said Julia Olson, executive director of Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for the young plaintiffs. “We look forward to presenting the scientific evidence of the harms and dangers these children face as a result of the actions their government has taken to cause the climate crisis.”
The Supreme Court’s decision is the latest to turn down government attempts to stop the proceedings. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a second appeal for an extraordinary writ of mandamus on July 20. The U.S. District Court in Oregon is expected to rule promptly on defendants’ motion for summary judgment and motion for judgment on the pleadings, which are versions of a motion to dismiss. The district court has already rejected an earlier motion to dismiss.
The Supreme Court’s order called the government’s request for relief “premature,” in accordance with recent decisions from other courts. The government had tried to argue that preparing for trial and participating in discovery would be too burdensome.
However, the order, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, also strikes a cautionary note for the plaintiffs, referring to the breadth of their claims as “striking,” and warning that the case will not be easily resolved. “The justiciability of those claims presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion,” Kennedy wrote. “The District Court should take these concerns into account in assessing the burdens of discovery and trial, as well as the desirability of a prompt ruling on the Government’s pending dispositive motions.”
According to Philip Gregory, co-counsel for young plaintiffs, the next step is discovery. The government is required to produce expert witness reports by mid-August.
“It will be interesting to see what position the Trump administration takes in regards to climate change and the harm it’s causing the young plaintiffs,” Gregory said.
We’re ready for trial,” he added. “We’ll be there on Oct. 29. We’re seeking to put the climate science on trial.”
“The constitutional rights of my fellow plaintiffs and I are at stake in this case, and I am glad that the Supreme Court of the United States agrees that those rights should be evaluated at trial,” said 19-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett. “This lawsuit becomes more urgent every day as climate change increasingly harms us. I have reaffirmed confidence now that all levels of the federal judiciary have ruled in our favor that there should be no more delay in getting to our trial.”