A landmark lawsuit in which kids sued the US government over its contribution to climate change has been dismissed after a 5-year fight
Robin Loznak/Pool Photo/AP
- In 2015, 21 young people sued the US government, alleging it was violating their constitutional rights by contributing to climate change despite knowledge of its dangerous consequences.
- The Obama and Trump administrations both attempted to get the case thrown out.
- On Friday, the US Appeals Court dismissed the lawsuit.
- "The panel reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs' case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate," two judges wrote in the decision.
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Five years ago, 21 young people sued the US government, alleging that by contributing to climate despite knowledge of its dangerous consequences, it was violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.
The kids were asking the court to compel the government to end fossil-fuel subsidies and adopt policies that would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
But on Friday, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the case, known as Juliana vs. the United States.
"The panel reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs' case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large," the 32-page opinion said.
Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz, one of the two judges behind that decision, wrote that although the plaintiffs "made a compelling case that action is needed," it was beyond the court's power to "order, design, supervise, or implement the plaintiffs' requested remedial plan."
That's because doing so would require "a host of complex policy decisions entrusted to the wisdom and discretion of the executive and legislative branches," he said.
The decision reverses a ruling by Oregon district court judge Ann Aiken, who found that the case had legal standing. Both the Obama and Trump administrations had tried multiple times to get the lawsuit dismissed.
Our Children's Trust, the non-profit law organization representing the youth plaintiffs, said its fight was not over, though.
"We will be asking the full Ninth Circuit to review the determination that federal courts can do nothing to address an admitted constitutional violation," Andrea Rodgers, the plaintiffs' co-counsel, said in a statement.
Andrea Willingham/Our Chidren's Trust
Ninth Circuit judge Josephine L. Staton wrote the dissenting opinion.
"It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses," she wrote. "Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the nation."
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