Julia Olson, attorney for the youth climate case Juliana v. United States, argues for her case to go aheadAttorney Julia Olson, right, argues the youth climate case Juliana v. United States should not be delayed before trial. Photo credit: Robin Loznak

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By Karen Savage

U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken has approved another appeal by the Trump administration in Juliana v. United States, keeping the landmark youth-led climate suit paused while the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considers the government’s attempts to stop the case before trial.

While Aiken argued in her ruling on Wednesday that the case would be better situated for appeal after trial, not before, she acknowledged the Ninth Circuit’s suggestion that she reconsider her previous denial of an interlocutory appeal—a rare legal maneuver in which a higher court reviews a lower court’s decisions before a trial has concluded.

The Juliana trial had been scheduled had been scheduled to begin in Aiken’s courtroom on Oct. 29 before the latest volley of government appeals succeeded in delaying it.

Aiken said she did not make the decision lightly.

“This Court stands by its prior rulings on jurisdictional and merits issues, as well as its belief that this case would be better served by further factual development at trial,” Aiken wrote.

Philip Gregory, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said given the “extreme urgency of the climate crisis” he believes the Ninth Circuit will ultimately allow the trial to proceed.

“As Judge Aiken stated in her Order, given the sheer volume of evidence submitted by Plaintiffs, trial presents ‘the most efficient course for both the parties and the judiciary.’ We believe the Ninth Circuit will agree with Judge Aiken that ‘this case would be better served by … trial’,” Gregory said in a statement.

Julia Olson, who also represents the young plaintiffs, said the government has repeatedly made baseless claims, used repetitive appeals to delay discovery and trial and made unfounded claims of ‘irreparable harm’ to the government if a trial were to proceed.

“These claims are not supported by a shred of evidence,” Olson said. “In contrast, our youth have thousands of pages of evidence and the best experts on the planet ready to testify under oath that these plaintiffs’ lives, liberties, and property are threatened by these defendants, that their world is being endangered and destroyed as we speak.”

The case has survived numerous attempts by the government to dismiss it since it was originally originally filed in 2015. The 21 young plaintiffs, who 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.

Miko Vergun, a 17-year-old plaintiff from Beaverton, Ore., said the Trump administration is disregarding her future by pressing for further delays.  

“We all fight for things that affect our lives and that we believe in, but this is a fight to survive and we have no time to lose to more delays,” Vergun said.  

“Climate change affects where I was born in the Marshall Islands and where I now live in Oregon. It’s like wherever I go, I can’t escape it. I feel like the people leading this country are failing young people like me.”