The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a second petition filed by the Trump administration to short-circuit Juliana v. United States, the landmark climate suit filed by 21 young people from across the country. The latest appeal, one of several last-ditch efforts by the administration in trying to avoid discovery and a trial, was a repeat of an earlier petition for a writ of mandamus, which the same court rejected in March.
“We denied the government’s first mandamus petition, concluding that it had not met the high bar for relief at that stage of the litigation. No new circumstances justify this second petition, and we again decline to grant mandamus relief,” the Court wrote in Friday’s decision, adding that the government can still challenge any specific discovery request, but absent a discovery order, mandamus relief is premature.
Mandamus petitions, which ask a higher court to overrule a lower court before a case’s conclusion, are rarely used and generally approved only if no other means of relief is available.
The Ninth Circuit said the government did not show it would be meaningfully burdened by engaging in discovery or trial.
Even before the Ninth Circuit ruled, Department of Justice attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court to halt discovery and postpone trial in the case.
A separate appeal seeking to postpone the case was heard earlier this week by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken, who is expected to rule on those motions soon.
The case was originally filed in August 2015 by 21 young plaintiffs from across the country. They 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. It is the first in which a U.S. court has recognized the constitutional right to a safe climate.
“We agree with the Ninth Circuit panel that the issues raised by the government in its second petition are better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation,” said Philip Gregory, of Gregory Law Group and co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs, who said he’s looking forward to the trial, which is scheduled for Oct. 29 in Eugene, Ore.
“Candidly, the worst nightmare for the Trump administration is for this case to go to trial, where it will have to confront the stories of these young plaintiffs and the climate science and the constitutional law of our nation,” said Gregory, who added that he agreed with the Ninth Circuit opinion that the government has made no showing that it would be meaningfully prejudiced by engaging in discovery or trial.
The young plaintiffs are asking the court to order the federal government to make and stick to a science-based plan to stabilize and protect the climate for future generations.
“With the Ninth Circuit again ruling in our favor, we are going strong,” said Avery McRae, a 12-year-old plaintiff from Eugene, Ore.
“The federal government is trying to block our path but we are persevering. We are optimistic and have the courage to keep standing up for our constitutional rights.”