I co-authored a piece last December published in the North Carolina Bar Journal about the “Trial of the Century,” a bigtime atmospheric trust lawsuit. Since that article came out, the trial seemed to overcome each monkey wrench the government threw at it– various hail mary’s were batted down by federal judges and one by the Supreme Court in July, until the Trump administration threw one last hail mary last Thursday (October 18th), this one again to the Supreme Court, mere days before the trial was set to begin. Now, there’s news just out that the newly configured US Supreme Court has quashed a landmark case brought by 21 youth plaintiffs asking the government to protect their constitutional right to a livable climate. Always in the back of my mind has been the question of whether or not the institution could hold up to the idea of justice for all in something as basic as the right to a livable planet and for placing liability on those who’ve damaged that basic human right. We shall see.
Even though this is disappointing news to say the least, and I suppose not entirely out of character nowadays, it may not be over just yet. As far as I can tell, the court set Wednesday, October 24th as final reckoning day, with its “stay of discovery and trial” pending a “response.” It’s not clear to me what that means and what the court wants from the youth since the order offers no hint. The order took me exactly 10.9 seconds to read. Best bet is Our Children’s Trust website to follow the drama.
Update as of Monday, October 22nd:
Response from Our Children’s Trust, with key points listed below (and I’m quoting them directly from the organization’s release). The Trump administration’s application for this stay, according to the youth plaintiffs, contained mischaracterizations, including the following:
-This is not an environmental case, it’s a civil rights case.
-This is not a case that hinges on a newly recognized unenumerated fundamental right, as the DOJ misstates.
-The length of trial and its cost are not enough to show irreparable harm for purposes of a stay and are not a legitimate basis to stop a trial on the constitutional rights of children.
-Contrary to the assertions of the Trump administration, this trial will not intrude on the ability of the executive branch to carry out its functions. There will be no confidential information disclosed in discovery or at the trial.
As I wrote above, follow the developments in this case directly from the plaintiff organization’s website at Our Children’s Trust.