The federal government has asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the landmark youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States that is scheduled for trial in October.
The Department of Justice filed an application Tuesday seeking to halt discovery and trial, including an administrative stay on proceedings. Both the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have repeatedly denied the government’s efforts to delay or dismiss the case, prompting the government to turn to the Supreme Court for relief.
This move is just the latest in the government’s continued attempts to thwart the lawsuit. Earlier this month, the defendants filed an emergency appeal with the Ninth Circuit seeking to halt discovery and trial pending the court’s ruling on a second writ of mandamus request—an extraordinary procedural tactic to reverse a lower court’s ruling. The Ninth Circuit had previously rejected the government’s original mandamus petition in March. On Monday, the circuit court denied the government’s emergency request for a stay. The appeals court has yet to rule on the second mandamus request.
The government had indicated it would turn to the Supreme Court if the Ninth Circuit refused to grant relief immediately.
The Department of Justice has also filed several new motions in district court. These include a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a motion for summary judgment and a motion for a protective order to prevent discovery. The district court recently upheld a magistrate judge’s decision denying the protective order, and will consider the other two motions at a hearing on Wednesday. That hearing will be in front of Judge Ann Aiken, who refused to grant the government’s initial motion to dismiss in November 2016.
In its latest filing, the government complains that the district court has greenlighted the case all the way to a trial, which is scheduled for October 29 and is expected to last 50 days. “Remarkably, the district court has allowed this improper suit to proceed for nearly three years over the repeated objections of the government and has now set aside 50 trial days this fall for the plaintiffs’ requested ‘Trial of the Century,’” the motion says
“Absent relief from the Ninth Circuit or this Court, the government will be forced to participate in a highly compacted period of discovery and trial preparation followed by a 50-day trial, all of which will itself violate bedrock limitations on agency decisionmaking and the judicial process imposed by the APA and the separation of powers,” the government wrote.
It argues the lawsuit “is an attempt to redirect federal environmental and energy policies through the courts rather than through the political process.” It also claims that, “In contrast to the obvious harms to the government, respondents can make no credible claim of imminent, irreparable harm.”
Aiken, however, has disagreed that the government is facing an unusual burden. In denying the government’s request for a stay of discovery last month, she wrote, “the Government does not clearly explain what ‘irreparable harm’ it will suffer in the absence of a stay pending resolution of the Government’s objections, nor does the Court find irreparable harm likely under the circumstances.”