Youth climate case may again find itself in the Ninth Circuit Court of AppealsThe youth climate case Juliana v. United States is again being appealed by the federal government to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Photo credit: Robin Loznak

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By Karen Savage

The Trump administration is again trying a last-ditch effort to short-circuit the landmark kids climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, that has been ordered to trial this October. Attorneys for the Department of Justice filed a second writ of mandamus request last week, a long-shot motion to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and say they will appeal to the Supreme Court if the request is not granted.

The government also filed an emergency motion to halt discovery pending the outcome of this request, demanded a ruling by next Monday or they will have “little choice but to seek further relief from the Supreme Court.”

The motions are the latest in a long string of attempts by the federal government to stop the suit.

Juliana v. United States was originally filed in August 2015 by 21 young plaintiffs from across the country who allege that by encouraging and promoting fossil fuel development, the federal government is contributing to climate change, is violating the public trust doctrine and is denying their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property.

The case, currently scheduled for trial on Oct. 29 in Eugene, Ore.,  is the first in which a U.S. court has recognized the constitutional right to a safe climate.

An earlier petition for writ of mandamus—generally approved only if no other means of relief is available—was denied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in March.

The government contends that the appeals court said it could continue to “raise and litigate any legal objections they have,” including filing for further mandamus relief and motions to challenge discovery. They also say the court indicated plaintiffs should narrow the focus of the case.

In the latest petition, government attorneys allege the district court has not narrowed the young plaintiffs’ discovery requests. They also contend they’ve followed the court’s earlier ruling by filing additional motions to limit discovery, postpone trial or dismiss the case.

The U.S. District Court has approved none of those requests, and the government said that proves their only avenue to relief is filing second mandamus petition.

The government said discovery requests—including the requirement that it name expert witnesses by July 12 and provide their reports by August 13—are overly burdensome and more time is needed to prepare for the trial.

“With full-blown discovery against eight Executive agencies looming and a 50-day trial quickly approaching, the court has refused to stay discovery while it considers the government’s multiple pending motions and has made it clear that the October 29 trial date will not budge without intervention from a higher court. The time for intervention is now,” said the Justice Department.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Coffin said attempts by the defendants to halt the discovery were “simply a recasting of their position.” Coffin said he was “not at all persuaded” by the government’s arguments and in a May ruling, said the case should proceed through discovery and trial before further review is warranted