UO Students' Climate Change Lawsuit will move forward

First published in the Daily Emerald on July 31st, 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s request for a stay, or a halting of legal proceedings, in the Juliana v. United States climate change lawsuit on Monday. The lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include two University of Oregon students and 19 others, claims that climate change and carbon emissions violate the plaintiffs’ fifth amendment rights to life, liberty, property and due process. The court also upheld the trial date of Oct. 29.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is set to retire today, stated that the “breadth of respondents’ claims is striking, however, and the justiciability of those claims presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion.”

Julia Olson is the chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, the group helping to bring forth the lawsuit. “This decision should give young people courage and hope that their third branch of government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, has given them the green light to go to trial in this critical case about their unalienable rights,” Olson wrote in a press release.

Oral arguments for the lawsuit took place at Eugene’s Wayne L. Morse Courthouse on July 18 and a crowd of about 40 supporters gathered outside of the building to support the plaintiffs. During the arguments, attorneys representing the government said that the plaintiffs’ claims violated the separation of powers, or the distinct constitutional duties of the federal government’s legislative, judicial and executive branches, because the courts would be dictating national energy policy.

Olson, who represented the plaintiffs in court, said that the plaintiffs’ rights to life, liberty and property were compromised by the effects of climate change, such as flooding. Olson also offered a rebuttal to the government’s assertion that there was an issue with the separation of powers by bringing up previous cases that warranted the court’s intervention, such as voting, housing and prison.

The Emerald will continue to report on this story as the lawsuit proceeds.