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Another setback for climate change lawsuit brought by young activists

The 21 plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2015 at the Eugene Federal Courthouse.
Our Children's Trust
The 21 plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2015 at the Eugene Federal Courthouse.

This week, a three-judge panel of the 9th circuit court of appeals ruled that a climate lawsuit brought by 21 young people cannot go forward.

It’s the latest setback in Juliana vs United States, which was first filed almost 9 years ago in 2015 in Eugene Federal Court.

The case argues that the federal government’s support of the fossil fuel industry has furthered climate change and that climate change violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.

The appeals court had ordered the case be dismissed in 2020. But, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to address its concerns. Philip Gregory, an attorney representing the youth plaintiffs said they were assured they could proceed by Eugene District Judge Ann Aiken.

“But this three judge panel of the 9th circuit, all appointed by the immediate past president, so all Trump appointees, decided we could not proceed,” he said. “We were hopeful that the current administration would recognize the importance to America’s youth of having Juliana go to trial.”

Gregory said they’re not giving up.

“We're considering our actions with our 21 young plaintiffs and we hope the Biden administration does not allow the case to stop here but comes to the settlement table and attempts to resolve Juliana,” he said

Gregory said they could also take the case to the full 9th circuit court of appeals.

In a news release from Our Children's Trust, the Eugene non-profit that brought the lawsuit, one of the plaintiffs, Avery McCrae said:

“Every time we get a decision as devastating as this one, I lose more and more hope that my country is as democratic as it says it is. I have been pleading for my government to hear our case since I was ten years old, and I am now nearly 19. A functioning democracy would not make a child beg for their rights to be protected in the courts, just to be ignored nearly a decade later. I am fed up with the continuous attempts to squash this case and silence our voices.”

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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