In what legal experts say may be an "unprecedented" move, the United States Supreme Court handed the Trump administration a victory in Juliana et al. v United States et al., more commonly known as the Climate Kids’ lawsuit.
On Friday (October 19), Chief Justice John G. Roberts issued an order that halted the suit against the White House. The trial was scheduled to begin next Monday (October 29) in a U.S. District Court in Oregon, but the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to intervene. Now, pending a response from the climate kids’ attorneys, Justice Roberts has temporarily stopped the suit.
The lawsuit was brought by a group of 21 young people who are suing the federal government for denying their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by ignoring and exacerbating climate change—particularly through actions that allow and promote fossil fuel emissions. At the time of the filing, the plaintiffs were 9- to 20-years-old and they were assisted by former NASA climate scientist James Hansen, whose granddaughter is one of the plaintiffs.
They launched their litigation in 2015. They were originally suing former President Barack Obama and his cabinet. In February 2017, one month after he took office, President Donald Trump was added as a defendant.
“Our case is a direct constitutional challenge to a Trump administration at war with the reality of climate change and bent on pushing a deadly fossil fuel agenda at the expense of its citizens’ safety and human rights,” said one of the plantiffs, Jacob Lebel, now 21, when Trump’s name was added to the lawsuit.
Reports The Washington Post:
Both the Obama and Trump administrations have repeatedly asked lower courts to halt the lawsuit since it was filed in 2015, questioning the merits of the case, saying discovery requests were “burdensome" and arguing that the suit would usurp the authorities of Congress and federal agencies.
Time and again, lower courts have allowed the case to proceed. The government also went to the Supreme Court earlier this summer seeking a stay, but the court in an unsigned opinion also refused to stop the case, calling the request “premature.”
Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at Columbia University, told The Washington Post, “It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for the Supreme Court to enjoin a trial when the court of appeals is still considering the case. Ordinarily they’ll wait for the lower court to rule.”
On Monday (October 22), the climate kids’ attorneys filed a 103-page response with the Supreme Court, arguing that the administration had not met the legal requirement to be granted the stay of trial.
“This case clearly poses profoundly important constitutional questions, including questions about individual liberty and standing, the answers to which depend upon the full evaluation of evidence at trial,” the lawyers wrote. “These young plaintiffs, mere children and youth, are already suffering irreparable harm which worsens as each day passes with more carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere and oceans."