In 2015, a group of youth plaintiffs, including several Oregon youth, filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of Oregon asserting that through the U.S. government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change – promoting fossil fuel production and greenhouse gas emissions – it is violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. They also argue the government has breached the public trust doctrine, failing to protect and maintain our precious natural resources for public use.
In support of the youth plaintiffs, we represent the League of Women Voters of Oregon and the League of Women Voters of the U.S. as amici curiae, or friends of the court. In representing the national and Oregon chapter of the League of Women Voters, we are helping women stand up for youth whose futures are being threatened by the federal government.
What's at Stake
Juliana v. United States is a fight for our country, our planet, and our future. Kelsey Juliana, a 22 year old from Oregon who we are representing as co-plaintiff in the Oregon atmospheric trust case, is leading 21 youth plaintiffs from across the country in demanding climate action. Together, they are representing the voice of the next generation. The youth are fighting for everyone to have access to clean air, clean water, and a healthy climate.
If successful, these young leaders will force the United States to ambitiously pursue a clean energy future: reducing harmful pollution, preserving delicate ecosystems, and protecting vulnerable populations. This case has enormous potential to forge a more sustainable United States, and the current Administration is doing everything it can to fight it. The government attempted to silence the voices of youth and prevent science from entering the courtroom. However, we believe everyone’s voice – no matter how young – must be heard, so we are advocating for Kelsey and her fellow young climate activists.
Youth filed their constitutional climate lawsuit, called Juliana v. United States, against the U.S. government in 2015. The fossil fuel industry initially intervened as defendants, joining the government in trying to have the case dismissed. On November 10, 2016, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken issued an historic opinion denying the motion to dismiss and holding that youth may have their day in court and take their case to trial.
The federal government appealed Judge Aiken’s decision and sought a writ of mandamus from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is an extraordinary remedy that is rarely granted. We filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of League of Women Voters of Oregon and League of Women Voters of the U.S. asking that the court deny the writ and allow the case to proceed to trial.
The youth plaintiffs, ranging from age 10 to 22, argued their case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2017. On March 7, 2018, Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas, writing for a unanimous three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration’s “drastic and extraordinary” petition for writ of mandamus in the landmark climate lawsuit. The Circuit Court ruled that the Juliana case can proceed to trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. On July 31, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the 21 youth plaintiffs by denying the Trump administration’s application for stay, reaffirming the right for the youth to have their day in court.
The trial date is set for October 29, 2018. To learn more, click here.
Juliana v. United States is one of many related legal actions brought by young people in several states and countries. Each case is supported by Our Children’s Trust, an organization elevating the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of all present and future generations. As a friend of the court, we are supporting the League of Women Voters’ work advocating for sound environmental policy and engaging citizens to participate in the democratic process to ensure that the interests of all Americans are represented. The Leagues joined in the litigation to defend fundamental rights children who have are being adversely impacted by climate change.
Chris Winter and Courtney Johnson are proudly leading our work on this monumental case. Staff Attorney Courtney Johnson shared why this case is critical to our nation’s future.
“This administration has made clear that it will put the interests of Big Oil ahead of all others. These inspiring youth are standing up, on behalf of all of us, and demanding action to address climate change and secure health and prosperity for this and future generations. This case is so important because the courts can protect these kids’ rights where the political process has failed them.”
In Oregon, we are representing Kelsey Juliana and Ollie Chernaik, two brave youth from Eugene. The case awaits a decision from the Oregon Court of Appeals. We are honored to be working side-by-side with these brave youth to demand climate justice and a sustainable future for generations of Americans. Click here to learn more about this case and its implications for the health and future of Oregon.