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9th Circuit Panel Hears Arguments in Youth Climate Lawsuit

Rachael McDonald

A 3-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by 21 youth against the federal government over climate change Tuesday in Portland. The government is trying to keep it from going to trial.

Justice Department Attorney Jeff Clark argued the climate lawsuit should be thrown out because it violates separation of powers. He said the basis of the case, that the youth plaintiffs have a constitutional right to a healthy climate, is not valid. Attorney Julia Olson said climate change endangers her clients’ rights to life and liberty. But Judge Andrew Hurwitz pushed back.

“I’m sympathetic to the problems you point out but you shouldn’t minimize, you shouldn’t say this is just an ordinary suit and all we have to do is follow A, B, and C and we get there." Hurwitz said, "You’re asking us to do a lot of new stuff, aren’t you?"

"We’re asking the court to apply bedrock constitutional law and principles to a wholly new set of facts.” Olsen replied.

Olsen asked the appeals court to allow the case to go to trial in federal court in Eugene. The court said it will give the matter careful deliberation.

After the hearing, youth plaintiffs and their attorneys held a rally in downtown Portland.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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