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Air Quality

Published on October 19th, 2018 | by Steve Hanley

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Trump Administration Begs Supreme Court To Derail Climate Change Law Suit

October 19th, 2018 by  


In 2016, a group of young people filed suit against the United States government, arguing that it has a constitutional duty to protect the citizens of the nation from environmental harm. The case is known officially as Juliana, et al Vs. United States. It was promoted by an organization known as Our Children’s Trust. Climate scientist James Hansen, the person who introduced Congress to the “hockey stick” concept of exponential climate change 30 years ago, is closely aligned with the group. In fact, his granddaughter is one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Our Children's Trust climate change law suit

Big Oil Gets In, Then Opts Out

Big Oil raced to become involved, thinking the novel constitutional issues presented by the Juliana case would be brushed aside as frivolous by the courts, thereby eliminating one more avenue of attack against its pattern of raping and pillaging the Earth for profit. They were wrong. US Magistrate Thomas Coffin and District Court Judge Ann Aiken consistently ruled against the delaying tactics of the defendants. Once that happened, the oil companies begged the court to let them out of the suit they once couldn’t wait to be part of.

What the $1,000 an hour Gucci-shod barristers hired by the oil industry failed to anticipate was that after they got involved, the plaintiffs would be entitled to force the disclosure of millions of internal documents, the ones that show Big Oil has known all along about the harm their products do but concealed that knowledge from the public. Judge Aiken eventually granted their request. She also scheduled the trial to begin last February.

Working The Refs

But the federal government had a few tricks up its sleeve. It appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Aiken’s order. When it lost, it asked the US Supreme Court to get involved. In June, the Supremes decided against the government. Judge Aiken rescheduled the trial for October 29.

In a panic, the government has now gone back to the Supreme Court with an unprecedented request to stop the trial from going forward. The basis of the request? Preparing for trial would place an impossible burden on the government because the scope and breadth of the case is so enormous, the Justice Department can’t wrap its arms around it.

In sports parlance, this is known as “working the refs.” If you can’t win on the field, try to get the officials to cut you some slack. And the plan might just work. Have you ever wondered what all the drama over Brett Kavadrunk was all about? The red team certainly was determined to get the accused sexual predator on the high court. Now the reason for their haste has been revealed for all to see. They need Kavanaugh there to derail the Juliana law suit.

The Role Of The Federalist Society

A committed member of the Federalist Society, the Koch Brothers-supported organization that preaches the doctrine of originalism, the newest Supreme Court member can be relied upon to faithfully execute the will of his political masters. He has taken the seat of Anthony Kennedy, the only member of the conservative wing of the court who was not a Federalist Society acolyte. Now, all five of the conservatives are firmly in the Federalist Society camp.

Originalism maintains that the US Constitution means what is says and nothing more. The most extreme advocates — known as Tenthers — believe the Tenth Amendment makes virtually everything the federal government has done starting with Brown vs. Board of Education illegal. That would include Roe vs. Wade, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, the Clean Power Plan, and thousands of other actions Tenthers believe infringed on the power of the states.

Against that backdrop, the likelihood that the Supreme Court will agree that young people have a constitution right not to be poisoned by their government seems extremely remote. Judge Aiken — who said in one of her rulings, “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” — will almost certainly be slapped down by the high court, with Kavanaugh in complete agreement.

Reaction From Plaintiffs

Two of the young plaintiffs have issued statements about this latest tactic by the government. Vic Barrett, who is 19 years old and lives in White Plains, New York, said, “We are 6 business days from a trial we have been preparing for for 3 years. The lengths my own government is going to to get this case thrown out and avoid trial is absurd and offensive. This case is not about money. This is not about the “harms to the government” or how much money the government has paid its experts or how many hours their lawyers have to work.”

“This is about my future and the future of our youngest generations. This is about fundamental constitutional rights of children. We are simply asking for our right to be heard. Our Government exists to hear us and protect us. If we cannot go to our federal courts with real constitutional claims for relief and present our evidence at trial then the people of this country have been failed by our third branch of government. The final judgment will be reviewed by appellate courts, but this case needs to go to trial on October 29.”

Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for the youthful plaintiffs, said, “This Department of Justice is calling the District Court’s actions in holding a trial a “judicial ‘usurpation of power.’” On the contrary, it would be a complete abdication of responsibility by the third branch of government not to declare the constitutional rights of these young people and not to hear the evidence in this fundamental rights case.”

“If in the 1950s the Supreme Court had prevented the children in Brown v. Board of Education from going to trial because Plessy v. Ferguson was the law of the land, the courts would never have had the opportunity to say that separate but equal was unconstitutional. We don’t usurp judicial power in the United States of America. Our courts hear constitutional claims and they decide them not by speculating as to the facts, but seeing the evidence and hearing the expert testimony.”

How will the Supreme Court rule on the government’s latest extraordinary request? No one has an accurate crystal ball, but the odds are good that Brett Kavanaugh — the mole installed at the last minute by Republicans — will violate every principle of fairness and decency by voting to void the trial date, thereby shielding the government from any responsibility for providing a safe environment for US citizens and protecting Big Oil from being held responsible for their actions. You heard it here first.

And with that, all three branches of government will be firmly aligned against taking any action whatsoever to protect American citizens from a changing environment, leaving the voting booth the only avenue available to citizens to address climate change at the national level — little comfort to those who want to see their children live in a safe environment where they can grow to their full potential.


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About the Author

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island and anywhere else the Singularity may take him. His muse is Charles Kuralt -- "I see the road ahead is turning. I wonder what's around the bend?" You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.



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