Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has slapped down the Trump Administration's last ditch attempt to delay the novel climate change lawsuit brought by 21 young plaintiffs and Our Children's Trust.

Climate Change

Ninth Circuit Court Tells Trump Administration No In Climate Change Suit Appeal

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has slapped down the Trump Administration’s last ditch attempt to delay the novel climate change lawsuit brought by 21 young plaintiffs and Our Children’s Trust.

We have reported several times on the groundbreaking lawsuit filed by 21 children and young adults in conjunction with Our Children’s Trust in 2015. They are suing the federal government, claiming it has violated its obligations to them contained in the US constitution. A long established legal doctrine says the government holds certain parts of the country such rivers and shorelines in trust for its citizens.

The lawsuit builds on that public trust doctrine and attempts to extend it to the atmosphere. Because such a claim has never been recognized by US courts previously, the government — first under the Obama administration and now under the Trump administration — has vigorously opposed the notion that any such obligation exists in US law. But until now, the government’s attempts to have the suit dismissed have been rebuffed by the courts.

Last year, federal judge Ann Aiken denied a motion to dismiss filed by the government and set a trial date of February 8. But before that date arrived, the administration took the extraordinary step of asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Aiken’s refusal to dismiss the case.

This is a good time to give you a short course on legal proceedings. In the normal course of things, a case must be finally resolved before an appeals court will get involved. Otherwise, appellate courts would be meddling in the business of the lower courts constantly. This case had not even gone to trial, never mind reached the point of a final decision. Circuit courts of appeal are composed of a dozen or more judges. Normally, a three judge panel hears appeals from the trial courts.

In this case, that is exactly what happened. Three judges of the Ninth Circuit listened to the government’s appeal and ruled unanimously that it was premature. Since the trial hadn’t even been held yet, how could the case possibly have reached a final decision that could be reviewed on appeal? They refused to interfere with the trial court, which may now proceed to schedule a trial date.

The government’s primary complaint is that matters of “energy and environmental policy” should not be decided by the courts but by the elected branches of the government, namely Congress and the President. In the Constitution, the three branches of government are “co-equal,” meaning none is more important than another. Judges are extremely jealous of their prerogatives and tend to get testy when someone tries to tell them what they can and cannot do. The judges of the Ninth Circuit, in so many words, told the administration to piss off.

As reported by Think Progress, Julia Olson, co-counsel for the young plaintiffs, said in a statement after the ruling was handed down, “The Ninth Circuit just gave us the green light for trial. We will ask the District Court for a trial date in 2018 where we will put the federal government’s dangerous energy system and climate policies on trial for infringing the constitutional rights of young people.”

The administration has two arrows left in its quiver, however. It can ask the entire Ninth Circuit to reconsider the decision of the three judge panel. Or it can request the US Supreme Court to intervene. Both are extraordinary strategies with little likelihood of success. But with the current right wing cabal in control of the Supreme Court — which raced to block the Obama Clean Power Plan last year — anything is possible.

“The question of the last few years has not been ‘do we have a case’ but rather ‘how far will the federal government go to prevent justice’,” says Kiran Oommen, a 21-year-old plaintiff in the case. “We have seen that they are willing to go to many lengths to cover up their crimes and maintain the status quo, but not even the Trump administration can go far enough to escape the inevitable tide of social progress.”

Oommen may be ready for Medicare by the time this law suit is concluded. The discovery phase of the trial, which begins now since the Ninth Circuit has refused to intervene, could involve millions of documents, e-mails, memorandums, and transcripts of phone calls. No doubt, the defendants will try to run to the Ninth Circuit every time a ruling goes against them at the trial court level.

When all is said and done, the Supreme Court could snap its fingers and undo all the years of litigation by simply agreeing that this is a question for Congress and the executive branch, not the courts. In other words, there is a long way to go yet. But as the Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a 1000 miles begins with but a single step.”

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Autonomous Drones for Better Farming

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


You May Also Like


The number of new VLCCs to be delivered in 2024? Zero. The number to be delivered in 2025? One.

Clean Power

With more scrapping and more direct reduction using lower carbon technologies such as Midrex' DRI and HYBRIT every decade, and the likely creation of those...

Clean Power

Steel, like concrete, is such an integral part of our world that we rarely notice it. From wherever you are reading this, I guarantee...


Farmers don't buy spraying drones or hire drone spraying services because of the environmental benefits, of course. They don't need to justify the use...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.