Supreme Court Rules That These Young Climate Activists Can Sue Trump

“The state of the planet is unraveling all around us because of our addiction to fossil fuels,” declared 16-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez on the steps of the Supreme Court last year.

In the face of Trump’s determination to destroy the environment, there’s a glimmer of hope. Martinez is one of 21 young people who are suing Trump over climate change in a case known as Juliana v. the United States.

Last week the Supreme Court rejected the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to stop this lawsuit and gave these inspiring young activists the go-ahead. 

Our Children’s Trust, the non-profit that worked with the young people to file the lawsuit, stated:

These 21 young plaintiffs between the ages of 11 and 22 assert that the U.S. government, through its affirmative actions in creating a national energy system that causes climate change, is depriving them of their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, and has failed to protect essential public trust resources. The case is one of many related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children’s Trust, and all seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.

The trial is scheduled to begin in the U.S. District Court on October 29, 2018 in Eugene, Oregon.

The case dates back to 2015, when Julia Olson, an attorney from Eugene, brought together this group of young climate activists and additional attorneys to file the suit. At that time, the lawsuit targeted President Obama’s administration; a Care2 petition asking Obama to use his executive power to resolve the suit and protect the rights of children garnered over 62,000 signatures.

The suit survived attempts by both industry and government to dismiss it. And these young people have stayed strong.

Trump has famously called climate change a hoax, so when he inherited the lawsuit, he naturally attempted to stop it. The Trump administration asked the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit to review a 2016 decision allowing the case to move forward, arguing that preparing for trial would be too onerous. The Supreme Court refused this request and instead issued this statement on July 30:

The application for stay presented to Justice Kennedy and by him referred to the Court is denied. The Government’s request for relief is premature and is denied without prejudice.

The Voices of the Plaintiffs

You can watch two of these incredible environmental advocates – Victoria Barrett, from New York, and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, from Boulder, Colorado — as they explain the reason for their lawsuit here:

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak to Martinez in 2016. You can read my interview with this amazing, intelligent young man here. In addition to being a leading voice in the youth-led environmental movement, he is also a creative force as a hip-hop artist and a poet.

“I chose to join the case because it sounded like something I could actually do,” said 17-year-old Nick Venner, from Lakewood, Colorado. “I think we have a really good chance of winning. It’s hard for legal experts to deny the rights of young people. We are the future. They will be long gone before the long-term effects (of climate change) ever hit them.”

“We live on a barrier island,” said 11-year-old Levi Draheim, from Florida’s Space Coast. “If the sea rises our (home) could just be underwater. And a couple of our reefs…they’re almost gone. I can’t even go to the beach. It gives me nightmares.”

Just like the student survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, these young people are taking the lead, stepping forward boldly in the face of the fossil fuel addicts in Washington.

And they have reason to be hopeful. Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School explains:

After several years with little success, environmental plaintiffs have now won climate change cases in several countries based on constitutional, human rights and international law grounds, as opposed to the more traditional statutory grounds – the Netherlands, Pakistan, Austria and South Africa. The Oregon case now joins that list, and its symbolic importance has added weight now that Washington is run by climate deniers.

 Let’s give a huge shout-out to these inspirational young people!

Photo Credit: Vlad Tchompalov/Unsplash

94 comments

Chad A
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Thank you.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 months ago

Patty L.,
Why do you think our life depends upon it?

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Shelley w
Shelley w4 months ago

So this group of young people started their lawsuit against Obama's government and now it is against the government under Trump. Big deal.
Their time would be better spent volunteering to plant trees, eating vegan and walking or taking public transit rather than travelling by car or plane. Not likely!

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Janis K
Janis K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Toni W
Toni W4 months ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W4 months ago

TYFS

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Patty Langford
Patty Langford4 months ago

*** VOTE DEMOCRAT NOVEMBER 6TH MIDTERM ELECTIONS ***
*** VOTE AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS UPON YOUR DEMOCRATIC VOTE! ***

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Crystal G
Crystal G4 months ago

I guess if this gives them something to do and out of their parents' houses for a few hours. If the earth is left to eating and sleeping well, drinking water and exercising, she will die anyway. I guess we will blame the government for the dinosaurs too.

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silja salonen
silja s4 months ago

there is hope. hope is with the youth. hope is in resistance. Brilliant!!

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Leo C
Leo Custer4 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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