Feds Urge Court To Dismiss ‘Children’s’ Climate Lawsuit Backed By Deep-Pocketed Foundations
BY MICHAEL SANDOVAL DECEMBER 11, 2017
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Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation/Facebook
A test case for a national effort to bring so-called “children’s” lawsuits backed by deep-pocketed philanthropic foundations in more than a half dozen states reached federal court Monday.
Underwritten by several foundations, including the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and with most of the 21 young people who filed the lawsuit in attendance, the plaintiffs argued for the case to move forward to trial.
“Children are disproportionately experiencing the impacts of climate change, and will going forward,” said Julia Olson, Executive Director of Our Children’s Trust. Allowing the case to continue, Olson argued, would allow “these young people [to] present their historic and scientific evidence and make their case.”
Federal lawyers asked the court to halt the suit, calling all aspects of the case “unprecedented.”
“It is really extraordinary. Plaintiffs seek unprecedented standing to pursue unprecedented claims in pursuit of an unprecedented remedy,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eric Grant told the three-member panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The three-member panel includes two Clinton appointees and a Reagan appointee.
All three judges expressed skepticism of the lawsuit’s potential for success to varying degrees, though the Clinton-appointed judges—Judge Marsha Berzon and Chief Judge Sidney Thomas—appeared hesitant to grant the administration’s lawyers’ request to halt the lawsuit before reaching trial.
Dr. James Hansen, former director of the U.S. NASA Goddard Space Institute, also attended the proceeding. Hansen helped connect Olson with another child plaintiff previously, when Olson was looking to find children who would act as plaintiffs in a lawsuit against government agencies. Hansen, inspired by his own grandchildren, believed that a turn to the courts would provide relief.
“The judicial branch is much less influenced by special interests such as the fossil fuel industry,” Hansen told The Atlantic in 2012.
Olson’s inspiration for inviting children to bring lawsuits stems from her colleague Mary Christina Wood, law professor at the University of Oregon, who first introduced “Atmospheric Trust Litigation” as a brand of the public trust doctrine in law.