Five years ago, twenty-one teenagers sued the U.S. government, arguing that it violated their fundamental rights to life, liberty, and property by leading to the environment despite awareness of its dangerous consequences.
The children were asking the court to force the government to stop subsidizing fossil-fuel and adopt policies that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday threw the case out, known as Juliana vs. the United States.
“The court decided reluctantly that the issue of the plaintiffs must be put before the political branches or the public at large,” the 32-page opinion said.
Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz, one of the two judges behind that ruling, argued that while the plaintiffs “made a compelling case that action is needed,” it was beyond the authority of the court to “order, devise, oversee or enforce the remedial plan sought by the plaintiffs.” That is because doing so would entail “a series of complicated policy decisions entrusted to the judgment and discretion of the executive.
The decision reverses an Oregon district court judge Ann Aiken’s ruling which considered the case to have legal status. Both the Obama administration and Trump administration had tried to get the lawsuit dismissed several times.
Our Children’s Trust, the non-profit law organization representing the youth plaintiffs, said its fight was not over, though.
“We will be asking the entire Ninth Circuit to reconsider the decision that federal courts cannot do anything to do with an acknowledged constitutional violation,” said Andrea Rodgers, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in a statement.
Another judge, Josephine L. Staton, wrote the opinion which dissented. “It’s like an asteroid is barricading to Earth and the government has decided to shut down our only protections,” she wrote. “The government is firmly adamant that it has the utter and unreviewable power to destroy the country” to quash this suit.