JULIANA v. UNITED STATES
Youth Climate Lawsuit
“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.”
- U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken
Youth filed their constitutional climate lawsuit, called Juliana v. U.S., against the U.S. government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2015. Earth Guardians is also an organizational plaintiff in the case.
Their complaint asserts that, through the government's affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.
The fossil fuel industry initially intervened in the case as defendants, joining the U.S. government in trying to have the case dismissed. In April 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin recommended denial of both of motions to dismiss. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken upheld Judge Coffin's recommendation, with the issuance of an historic November 10, 2016 opinion and order denying the motions. When the defendants sought an interlocutory appeal of that order, Judge Aiken denied their motions in June 2017.
In June 2017, Judge Coffin issued an order releasing the fossil fuel industry defendants from the case, and setting a trial date for February 5, 2018 before Judge Aiken at the U.S. District Court of Oregon in Eugene.
In July 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requested attorneys for youth plaintiffs submit a response to the government's petition for "writ of mandamus" and invited the District Court to respond as well. The District Court responded via letter and the youth plaintiffs filed their answer. Further, eight amicus briefs were filed with the Ninth Circuit in support of the youth plaintiffs.
Pursuant to its order, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, made up of Chief Justice Sidney Thomas, and Circuit Justices Alex Kozinski and Marsha Barzon heard oral arguments on December 11, 2017. Watch a video recording of the oral arguments below. Youth plaintiffs, now age 10 to 21, and their attorneys look forward to the panel decision. Eric Grant, representing the Trump administration and the U.S. government, argued that the case be dismissed. Justice Kozinski subsequently resigned and was replaced on the panel by Circuit Justice Michelle Friedland.
Due to the Trump administration’s drastic tactics before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to silence the voices of youth and keep science out of the courtroom, the trial will not begin on February 5th, as originally scheduled.
On March 7, 2018 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration’s “drastic and extraordinary” petition for writ of mandamus. During a public case management conference on April 12, 2018, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin set October 29, 2018 as the trial date for Juliana v. United States.
On July 18, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken heard oral argument in the constitutional climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States. Judge Aiken considered the Trump administration’s latest procedural tactics to avoid trial: a motion for judgment on the pleadings (“MJP”) and a motion for summary judgment (“MSJ”). Supporters for the youth plaintiffs packed the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse courtroom in Eugene and three overflow rooms.
On July 20, 2018, in a per curiam opinion, Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas, and Circuit Judges Marsha Berzon and Michelle Friedland of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration’s second petition for writ of mandamus.
On July 30, 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the 21 youth plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States, the constitutional climate lawsuit filed against the federal government. The Court denied the Trump administration’s application for stay, preserving the U.S. District Court’s trial start date of October 29, 2018. The Court also denied the government’s “premature” request to review the case before the district court hears all of the facts that support the youth’s claims at trial.
In October, 2018, the Trump administration filed another motion with the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon to stay discovery and a third writ of mandamus petition with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken ruled on the Trump administration’s motion for judgment on the pleadings (“MJP”) and motion for summary judgment (“MSJ”), which were filed earlier this year. Judge Aiken denied the motions brought by the Trump administration, but granted the motions in part by limiting the scope of the plaintiffs’ claims and dismissing the President from the case. On October 18, 2018, the Trump administration filed a second writ of mandamus petition and application for stay with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to circumvent the ordinary procedures of federal litigation and stop the constitutional case Juliana v. United States. On October 19, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a temporary, administrative stay while it considers the federal government’s petition and asked plaintiffs to respond to it. On October 22, 2018, attorneys for youth plaintiffs filed their response, requesting that the Court allow their trial to proceed on October 29 and pointing to numerous mischaracterizations of the lawsuit by the Trump administration in its recent filing with the Court.
On October 29, thousands rallied at courthouses around the country to support our right to be heard at trial.
On November 2, 2018 the United States Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s application for stay. On November 5, the Department of Justice filed a motion for stay with the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and hours later filed an application for stay and another petition for a writ of mandamus with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On November 8, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted, in part, the Trump administration’s motion for a temporary stay of District Court proceedings. The Court only placed a stay on trial, so trial preparations continue. During a status conference between U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken and the parties in Juliana v. United States, Judge Aiken indicated she would promptly issue a trial date once the Ninth Circuit lifts the temporary stay it placed on trial.
On November 21, 2018 U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken issued an order certifying Juliana v. United States for interlocutory appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. On December 5, 2018 attorneys for the 21 young plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration with the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. The motion asks Judge Aiken to reconsider her November 21 decision to place a stay on pretrial proceedings. On December 11, plaintiffs filed their answer in opposition to the fifth petition of the Trump administration to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and on December 20 filed an emergency motion with the Ninth Circuit Court asking it to lift the stay imposed by its order of November 8, 2018 and allow the case to proceed to trial. On December 26, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted defendants’ petition for permission to bring an interlocutory appeal.
On February 8, 2019 the Juliana plaintiffs sought a court order preventing the federal government from issuing leases and mining permits for extracting coal on federal public lands, leases for offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction activities, and federal approvals for new fossil fuel infrastructure. To obtain the order, plaintiffs filed what’s called a motion for a preliminary injunction with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals while the government’s early appeal of the youths’ case is being heard.
On February 19, 2019 Zero Hour, a youth-led climate group, launched the website www.joinjuliana.org and announced its nationwide campaign to help thousands of young people add their names to the Young People’s amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the young Juliana plaintiffs.
On March 1, 2019 powerful voices of support for the Juliana v. United States youth plaintiffs and their landmark constitutional climate lawsuit filed amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In all, 15 amicus briefs, filed on behalf of a diverse set of supportive communities, including members of U.S. Congress, legal scholars, religious and women’s groups, businesses, historians, medical doctors, international lawyers, environmentalists, and more than 32,000 youth under the age of 25, displayed legal support for Juliana v. United States to proceed to trial.
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*Click here for timeline of the Alec L. v. McCarthy lawsuit we filed in 2011.