Appeals Court Throws Out Climate Lawsuit Filed by Young Activists

Long-Running Case Against US Government Rejected

A federal appeals court has dismissed a long-running lawsuit brought by young climate activists in Oregon. The lawsuit argued that the U.S. government’s role in climate change violated the activists’ constitutional rights.

This decision comes after a back-and-forth legal battle that spanned multiple administrations.

Previous Dismissal and Revival

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had previously dismissed the case in 2020. The court’s reasoning then was that climate policy should be determined by politicians, not judges. However, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken of Oregon allowed the activists to revise their lawsuit and subsequently ruled in 2023 that the case could proceed to trial.

Ruling in Favor of the Biden Administration

Following a request from the Biden administration, a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit Court reversed Judge Aiken’s decision and ordered the dismissal of the case. The activists’ lawyers are considering appealing this latest ruling to a larger panel of judges within the same court.

Juliana v. United States: A High-Profile Case

The lawsuit, known as Juliana v. United States after lead plaintiff Kelsey Juliana, has garnered significant attention since its filing in 2015. The 21 original plaintiffs, aged 8 to 18 at the time, argued that the government’s promotion of fossil fuels, despite established scientific warnings about climate change, violated their constitutional right to a habitable climate.

Repeated Challenges and a Brief Hope for Trial

The lawsuit faced continuous challenges from the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations. All three administrations argued that the lawsuit attempted to bypass the political process and use the courts to dictate federal environmental and energy policies. A trial scheduled for 2018 was even halted by Chief Justice John Roberts just days before it was set to begin.