On Friday, the United States Supreme Court ordered a temporary halt to the so-called ‘Climate Kids’ lawsuit.
Scheduled to move to trial October 29th, Juliana v. United States was last heard in District Court in Oregon. The plaintiffs claim the federal government’s actions have contributed to man-made climate change, violating youths’ constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.
Forbes.com reports the injunction was ordered by Chief Justice John Roberts.
‘In the latest step of a fascinating bit of constitutional law called Atmospheric Trust Litigation, the Chief Justice halted the District Court trial proceedings until lawyers for the young people provide a response to specific issues,’ Forbes writes.
The young activists and their attorneys have until Wednesday to respond.
Last week, Justice Department lawyers asked the Supreme Court to consider the case and dismiss it. Government attorneys claim the ‘Climate Kids’ are trying to use the judiciary to mandate environmental policy—a function they say is best left to Congress and the president.
Nineteen-year old plaintiff Vic Barrett, from White Plains, NY, slammed another Justice Department complaint: that the cost of trial and defense is imposing an improper and unnecessary financial upon the agency.
“We are six days away from a trial we have been preparing for three years,” Barrett said Tuesday. “The lengths my own government is going to get this case thrown out and avoid trial is absurd and offensive.
“This case is not about money. This is not about the ‘harms to the government’ or how much money the government has paid its experts or how many hours their lawyers have to work. This is about my future and the future of our youngest generations. This is about fundamental constitutional rights of children. We are simply asking for our right to be heard.”
The development is, at the very least, unusual. Just last week, a District Court judge discarded a Justice Department petition to see the suit dismissed.
A legal expert consulted by Vox.com says it’s strange for the Supreme Court to interfere in lower court proceedings. Ann Carlson, professor of environmental law at the University of California-Los Angeles, says Roberts’ order suggests something in Juliana piqued the justices’ interest.
“It’s certainly a signal that the court is uncomfortable with the underlying legal theory of the Juliana case,” Carlson said.
First filed in 2015, the ‘Climate Kids’ suit was initiated when former President Barack Obama was still in office. It’s continued into Donald Trump’s first term, with the current commander-in-chief recently being removed from the list of defendants due to legal concerns over his inclusion.
According to Vox, the resignation of Justice Anthony Kennedy makes the lawsuit’s future seem bleak: ‘first, because the courts tend to give wide latitude to the executive branch,’ and second because Kennedy’s successor, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, is notoriously skeptical of environmental regulations.
“This is just the beginning of what we’re likely to see from a Court that doesn’t have Justice Kennedy on it anymore,” Carlson said.