The Supreme Court lifted the stay to allow the 21 plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States to head to trialThe Supreme Court delivered the news on Friday that the 21 plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States can proceed to trial. Photo credit: Robin Loznak

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By Karen Savage

The landmark youth-led climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, overcame what could be the final two hurdles before trial when both the Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused Trump administration appeals on Friday to halt the case.

The Supreme Court vacated a stay issued two weeks ago by Chief Justice John Roberts and ruled that the trial should proceed.  In a separate ruling, the Ninth Circuit denied the Trump administration’s third writ of mandamus petition to that court.

The trial had been scheduled to begin Oct. 29 in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., until the Supreme Court issued its delay. Now, Julia Olson, co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs, said they have asked the district court for an immediate status conference and hope to get the trial rescheduled in the next week.

“The youth of our nation won an important decision today from the Supreme Court that shows even the most powerful government in the world must follow the rules and process of litigation in our democracy,” Olson said.

Roberts granted a request two weeks ago by the Trump administration to stay discovery and trial pending review of its latest petition to the Supreme Court for writ of mandamus—a rarely used extraordinary appeal that asks a higher court to overrule a lower court before a trial has concluded.

After the plaintiffs filed their response, Roberts referred the matter to the full court, which issued Friday’s ruling. Only justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch would have granted the government’s request to stop the trial, far short of the majority needed.

In the ruling, the court vacated Roberts’ order, writing that the government’s petition does not have a “fair prospect of success.” The court also said “adequate relief may be available in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth District.”

The Ninth Circuit issued its ruling on Friday as well.

The Trump administration has repeatedly asked both the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stop the trial via writ of mandamus. The Ninth Circuit turned down three requests for mandamus and the Supreme Court has turned down one.  

The suit has survived numerous attempts by the government to dismiss the case since it was originally filed in 2015. The 21 young plaintiffs from around the country argue that the federal government is violating their Constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by promoting an energy system that exacerbates climate change. They are asking for a science-based program to reduce carbon emissions and protect the climate for future generations.

Kelsey Juliana, a 22-year-old plaintiff from Eugene, Ore., said while the Trump administration’s attempts to deny her and her co-plaintiffs their day in court have been exhausting, they are ready for a trial.

“Today we move forward. I want to trust that we are truly on track for trial without having further delays, but these defendants are treating this case, our democracy, and the security of mine and future generations like it’s a game,” Juliana said.

“I’m tired of playing this game.”