U.S. Government To Again Attempt To Halt Landmark Climate Change Lawsuit

With newly minted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh set to take his place on the bench, U.S. News reports that the attorneys representing the U.S. Government in the landmark Juliana v U.S. have once again filed a motion seeking a halt to the trial, asking for the U.S. Supreme Court to review the legality of the case.

In July, the U.S. Supreme Court as well as the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to issue a stay in the proceedings for the case, which is set to go to trial in federal district court in Oregon later this month. With Kavanaugh’s confirmation looming, government attorneys again filed a motion last week for the Supreme Court to review the case, hoping that the court’s newest member would facilitate a ruling against the plaintiffs. The new motion states “A brief stay to allow the Supreme Court to consider whether the lawsuit is the appropriate means to address climate change will not appreciably harm plaintiffs.”

Further encouraging the government’s motion is that the plaintiff’s sister case filed in state court against the state of Washington was dismissed by King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott in August. In that case, Scott ruled that the issue was the responsibility of the legislative and executive branches of the government, rather than the judiciary. Reuters reports that lawyers for the plaintiffs are seeking an appeal.

Brett Kavanaugh Sworn In By Kennedy
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy (retired) administers the Judicial Oath to Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh.

The case, filed in 2015 by a group of 21 young people associated with nonprofit groups Earth Guardians and Our Children’s Trust against the U.S. Government, contends that the federal government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, and has failed to protect essential natural resources in trust for future generations, according to the Our Children’s Trust web site.

Should the U.S. Supreme Court again refuse to review the case, attorneys for the U.S. government are expected to attempt to save face and again appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court, although that court has also already rejected a review of the case.

Phillip Gregory, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the federal case, said that he is “doubtful” that Kavanaugh’s appointment would affect the position of the U.S. Supreme Court on the case. Gregory argued that “given the fact that Justice Kennedy and the rest of the court, less than three months ago, determined the case should proceed forward to trial,” it was unlikely that decision would be reversed. Another of the group’s lawyers, Julia Olson, issued a press release that called the government’s request a “redundant motion” and “a show of fear.”

The case has become a historical landmark in U.S. litigation, as law schools across the nation have already entered it into their course of study for aspiring lawyers.