Plaintiffs in Landmark Youth Climate Case Want Their Day in Court

The 21 young people charge that continued federal support for oil, gas, and coal development violates their constitutional rights.

by | Mar 4, 2020

Lawyers for the 21 young plaintiffs in the landmark climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States have asked the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a full court review of the 2-1 decision to dismiss their case in January.

According to the petition, filed on Monday, the two judges who ruled against sending the case to trial “made significant errors of law” in finding that the youth did not have standing to sue the U.S. government over its continued support for oil, gas, and coal energy development. The petition also questioned the finding that changes in the government’s policies must come via lawmakers and voters, not the courts.

There is overwhelming scientific agreement that the heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions created by burning fossil fuels for energy are the main cause of climate change.

For the petition to be approved, a majority of the Ninth Circuit’s 29 judges would have to agree to hear the appeal, which would then be considered by a panel of 11 judges.

The Ninth Circuit has a decade-long track record of granting such “en banc” reviews in cases where the rights of children are in question, Julia Olson, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Given the gravity of the ongoing harm to these children, and the significant flaws in the majority’s decision made clear by the vigorous dissent, this case deserves the same careful review of the full Court,” Olson said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Emily J. Gertz is senior editor of Drilled News. A longtime environmental reporter and editor, her work has appeared in HuffPost, Reveal, Arctic Today, The Guardian, Popular Science, Scientific American, Sierra, and more.