Appeals Court Temporarily Halts Youth-Led Climate Lawsuit Against Trump Administration

By Ayana Byrd Jul 27, 2017

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily halted a climate-related lawsuit filed by 21 children and young adults against the administration of President Donald Trump. The court’s decision was in response to a writ of mandamus, a petition brought by the administration asking for a review of an Oregon district court’s decision to allow the case to move forward. Legal experts consider a petition like this to be rare and only used in extreme cases.

In the case, Juliana et al. v United States et al, the 21 youth plaintiffs argue that the federal government is denying their constitutional right to life, liberty and property by ignoring climate change and failing to properly work towards reversing it. The suit had originally been filed in 2015 against the Obama Administration. The Trump Administration inherited it. 

The petition filed in June asked that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals “end this clearly improper attempt to have the judiciary decide important questions of energy and environmental policy to the exclusion of the elected branches of government.” The court’s decision is not a direct response to the petition; instead, it is a hold on proceedings until the court can properly review the petition, according to Think Progress.

According to Climate Change News, a 2004 Supreme Court ruling described mandamus as a “drastic and extraordinary remedy” to be used in “only exceptional circumstances.” 

Ten of the 21 plaintiffs, who range in age from 9 to 20, are Black or Indigenous youth. One is Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, 16, an Indigenous climate activist who was on Grists’s 2017 list of 50 notable “fixers.” Along with the Trump Administration, other defendants include fossil fuel industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute.

A court date of February 5, 2018 had been set for the lawsuit. It is now on hold, pending a final decision from the Ninth Circuit Court on the petition.