Juliana v. United States

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One of the plaintiffs, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.
One of the defendants, Donald Trump.

Juliana, et al. v. United States of America, et al., sometimes branded as #youthvgov by its plaintiffs and youth globally, is a lawsuit being brought by 21 youth plaintiffs including Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the members of Martinez's organization Earth Guardians, and on behalf of future generations (represented by James Hansen) against the United States and several of its executive branch positions including President Donald Trump and formerly president Barack Obama.[1] The youth receive pro-bono legal and community support from the non-profit organization Our Children's Trust, which has organized several lawsuits against governments globally on behalf of youth. The plaintiffs allege that, through the United States government's affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.

The fossil fuel industry initially intervened in the case as defendants, joining the U.S. government in trying to have the case dismissed. In April 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the United States District Court for the District of Oregon recommended denial of both motions to dismiss. U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken upheld Judge Coffin's recommendation, with the issuance of an historic November 10, 2016 opinion and order denying the motions.[2]

In June 2017, Judge Coffin issued an order releasing the fossil fuel industry defendants from the case and setting a trial date for February 5, 2018, before Judge Aiken at the U.S. District Court of Oregon in Eugene.[3]

In July 2017, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit requested attorneys for youth plaintiffs submit a response to the government's petition for a writ of mandamus and invited the District Court to respond as well.[4] The District Court responded via letter and the youth plaintiffs filed their answer.[5][6] Further, eight amicus briefs were filed with the Ninth Circuit in support of the youth plaintiffs.

On December 11, 2017, Justices Sidney Thomas, Alex Kozinski, and Marsha Berzon of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments regarding a writ of mandamus issued by the US government. Alex Kozinski stepped down from the 9th Circuit after retiring.[7] On December 21, 2017, Justice Michelle T. Friedland was drawn to replace Alex Kozinski.

On March 7, 2018, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the writ of mandamus in a decision by Sidney Thomas.[8][9]

Implications[edit]

The argument that the government has failed to protect the public trust through permitting pollutant activity for decades despite scientists' warning and through its current climate change inaction means that the government, as trustee of the public trust, is responsible for restoring the public trust's depletion (as a trustee would of a monetary fund).

For a government to threaten the "Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness" of its citizens limits the sovereignty and power of future governmental administrations to protect the "Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness" for its citizens.

In Judge Aiken's November 10, 2016, opinion and order, it is implied that new conceptual terms, or at least their legal concretization, must be developed for new problems such as climate change, which humanity has never had to face before.

Youth climate lawsuits globally, including Juliana v. USA, cite and make reference to the book Nature's Trust: Environmental Law for a New Ecological Age, written by climate litigator, author, and academic Mary Anne Wood. The text goes into detail on the public trust doctrine and its implications.[10]

Involved parties[edit]

Plaintiffs[edit]

The plaintiffs in the case are:

  • Kelsey Juliana
  • Xiuhtezcatl Martinez (through his guardian)
  • Alex Loznak (Columbia University '19)
  • Jacob Lebel
  • Zealand B. (through his guardian)
  • Avery M. (through her guardian)
  • Sahara V. (through her guardian)
  • Kiran Oommen
  • Tia Hatton
  • Isaac V. (through his guardian)
  • Miko V. (through her guardian)
  • Hazel V. (through her guardian)
  • Sophie Kivlehan
  • Jaime B. (through her guardian)
  • Journey Z. (through his guardian)
  • Victoria Barrett
  • Nathan Baring
  • Aji P. (through his guardian)
  • Levi D. (through his guardian)
  • Jayden F. (through her guardian)
  • Nick V.(through his guardian)
  • The organization Earth Guardians
  • Future generations

Defendants[edit]

References[edit]