April 23, 2017 – Just as Earth Day got unprecedented viewership with marches all over the US and the world, where scientists marched in droves to protect our planet, demand money not be cut by Trump administration for EPA and science exploration and research, a group of children may be in the best position to made adults squirm as so many callously disregard the next generation’s right to “inherit” a habitable planet as all previous generations have done.
To bring awareness and to effect the change that is necessary to this downward trajectory of a habitable planet, “Our Children’s Trust” is speaking out at US Supreme Court-April 27. Adults inherited a habitable planet-why not them?
In a Landmark case-Juliana v. United States–brought by youth Plaintiff’s in Oregon who claim the policies of the US Government towards climate change will deprive them of their inherent right to inherit a “habitable” planet. They allege the callous disregard by the US Government with the assistance of the US energy industry has put profits over habitability by steadily allowing increases in Carbon emission, including the most recent rollbacks as seen by the Trump Administration–which if left unfettered, will lead to disaster for our planet.
According to the organization assisting the children, Our Children’s Trust, the case of Juliana v. United States was heard by Judge Coffin, of the US District Court of Oregon. In a statement put out by Our Children’s Trust, “Judge Coffin itemized twelve meaningful admissions that the U.S. government defendants, then acting under the Obama administration, made in their January 13, answer to the youth plaintiffs’ complaint.”
It appears the Judge then he asked an attorney from the Department of Justice for the position of the Trump administration on climate science.
According to Our Children’s Trust attorneys, were admissions Judge Coffin quoted from the government’s answer:
● “Federal Defendants admit that climate change is damaging human and natural systems, increasing the risk of loss of life, and requiring adaptation on larger and faster scales than current species have successfully achieved in the past, potentially increasing the risk of extinction or severe disruption for many species.”
● “Federal Defendants admit that global temperatures are projected to increase by 2.5 to more than 11° Fahrenheit by 2100, depending on future emissions and the responsiveness of the climate system, and that more warning is expected on land and at higher latitudes.” After reviewing the admissions, Judge Coffin asked: “I point all these out for aide of this question…has the government retreated from any of these admissions? Or are they still binding?”
In their report, it appears that Sean Duffy, an attorney with the Department of Justice, responded that the” Trump administration could still move to amend the government’s positions stated in the answer filed during the Obama1 administration.” According to the organization, “When asked specifically whether the Trump administration defendants will stick to the facts of climate change admitted by the prior administration, Duffy answered, “We don’t have direction from leadership so I can’t answer.””
Most importantly, according to Our Children’s Trust press release, Judge Coffin noted that the Trump administration “has not only rolled back regulations that impact greenhouse gas emissions, but also cut funding to the EPA’s budget.”
It appears that Judge Coffin was questioning whether the “Trump” administration was “going in a different direction.”
Notably, the Trump administration has filed motions, and the fossil fuel industry–who are also defendants, have sought to “derail the case from trial.” In fact, the Trump administration has filed motion for “interlocutory appeal.”
What is an Interlocutory Appeal?
An Interlocutory Appeal is a rarely used appellate procedure that creates a “pause” in the litigation. It is an appeal taken on a question of law during the suit, whereby an appellate court is asked to rule on the question of law by an appellate court before a trial proceeds. In theory, the purpose is to prevent irreparable harm from occurring during the pendency of a lawsuit. It stops the suit from proceeding pending a ruling of law on the issue of the Interlocutory Appeal. Courts are usually reluctant to grant an interlocutory order as a result of hearing the interlocutory appeal unless the circumstances require a timely result and the issues are serious. Interlocutory orders are final and not appealable on the issue of law ruled upon. This is the tactic the Trump administration is employing with the aid of their own justice department and their new Supreme Court appointee just confirmed who may at one point here this issue.
But it appears that Judge Coffin denied their request to delay the discovery process. In addition, the Judge also clarified the procedural process going forward, noting he would attempt to expedite his findings and recommendations for Judge Ann Aiken. Per federal district court rules, Judge Aiken, informed by Judge Coffin’s recommendation, will decide whether to grant the defendants’ requests for an interlocutory appeal of her November 10 decision.
It is important to note, that following the conference, Julia Olson, co-lead counsel for youth plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust stated:
“This case was filed over 18 months ago. The Defendants remain unclear about their own facts. I’ve never gone to trial against defendants who didn’t know where they stood on the facts. This might be a first.” Accordingly, Judge Coffin asked the fossil fuel defendants, who intervened in the case, when they will be answering youth plaintiffs’ requests for admissions so that plaintiffs will know what facts are contested.
“By the end of April, but, I’m not sure why we need to,” said Frank Volpe, a Sidley Austin attorney representing the fossil fuel industry defendants. According to court documents, Judge Coffin stated:
“I’ll answer your question,” “If I was trying this case, I’d be wondering what is your position on climate change? You say your role as intervenors is to provide expert testimony …[expert] on what?”
Defense attorney Volpe agreed to timely respond to youth plaintiffs’ request for admissions. On March 31, 2017, attorneys representing youth served legal requests for documents to the Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, and Department of State, three of the agency defendants in the Juliana case.
Accordingly, the court continues to encourage the parties to focus on the expert testimony regarding climate science and to move the case to trial by the end of the year. The next telephonic case management conference, with Judge Coffin and attorneys representing all the parties, is set for Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 10:00 am PST.
The March before the steps of the US Supreme Court to shed light on this matter will be taking place, Thursday, April 27, 2017 at 9am. For more, visit The Legal Edition on Facebook, and www.OurChildrensTrust.org