The Supreme Court today halted a federal climate change lawsuit brought by a group of young people, handing the Trump administration at least a temporary victory in its long-running bid to knock down the case.
A trial was slated to begin 10 days from now in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, where the case was filed three years ago.
In a brief order, Chief Justice John Roberts froze the discovery and trial processes. The order stayed proceedings pending responses from the parties, due Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Our Children's Trust, the legal group and advocacy organization behind the youth plaintiffs, said its staffers are working on a reply, which they will file Monday.
"We are confident once Chief Justice Roberts and the full Court receive the youth plaintiffs' response to defendants' mischaracterization of their case, the trial will proceed," Julia Olson, chief legal counsel for Our Children's Trust, said in a statement. "This case is about already recognized fundamental rights and children's rights of equal protection under the law."
Roberts' action came hours after Jeffrey Wood, a top political appointee at the Department of Justice, said there is no such right.
Speaking at a law conference in San Diego, Wood said the right to a safe climate that the plaintiffs demand "simply does not exist," adding that the government is still preparing for trial (E&E News PM, Oct. 19).
The plaintiffs, 21 children and young adults, sued the federal government in 2015, arguing that it had violated rights protected under the Constitution to live in and occupy a safe climate. They are asking for a court-ordered mandate for the government to phase down fossil fuels nationwide.
The government — first under the Obama administration and then under President Trump — has repeatedly tried to get the case thrown out of court.
Yesterday, DOJ filed its second plea to the Supreme Court to intercede and block the litigation. In his last act on the bench this summer, former Justice Anthony Kennedy declined to halt the case.