Judges Bring An End (For Now) to Oregon's "Climate Kids" Lawsuit

21 kids and their Oregon-based lawyer had filed suit against the Trump administration.

By Julia Silverman January 17, 2020

Next stop, Congress?

That’s where a panel of judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is directing the group of 21 kids—and their Oregon-based lawyer—who had filed suit against the U.S. government and the Trump administration, alleging that their actions were exacerbating climate change and causing irreparable harm to the next generation.

The case, Juliana v. United States (named for lead plaintiff and University of Oregon Student Kelsey Juliana) has been making its way through the court system for half a decade. It drew national attention for its outspoken young plaintiffs and their blunt argument: that the grown-ups in charge won’t be around to suffer the worst of the consequences of their environmental decisions. The kids will inherit the earth, the lawsuit stated, and they would suffer, unless immediate, science-based action was taken to address climate change, including an immediate divestment from fossil fuels and a commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.

 In their ruling, issued early Friday morning, the three-court panel of judges did not disagree with the very real effects of government policy on climate change and the subsequent health and welfare of the younger generation.

Rather, and not without some regret, the justices concluded that the case was beyond the jurisdiction of the court, saying “the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large.”

Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit public interest law firm behind the court case, didn’t offer immediate comment. But from its origins in Oregon, the group has gone international: in October, they filed suit on the same grounds against the Canadian government and her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England. 

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