A Mixed Bag For Climate Litigation Plaintiffs

Last week there were two court decisions on cases in which groups of citizens are seeking court orders requiring the government to act on climate change.  The biggest news was that the Supreme Court denied the stay requested by the United States in Juliana v. United StatesThis “Case of the Century” was supposed to go to trial on October 29.

If I were the plaintiffs, I wouldn’t count my chickens yet.  The stay was denied without prejudice and the Order at least suggests that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals might want to reconsider its denial of mandamus in the case.  Of course, plaintiffs almost certainly have multiple objectives and, while they would presumably like to win, just getting to trial and having the opportunity to put on their case would itself presumably be considered a major public relations victory.

On the state litigation front, a judge in Alaska has dismissed similar claims under State law.  As other courts have done, Judge Miller dismissed certain of the counts as raising non-justiciable political questions and others on prudential grounds, concluding that the Court should not entertain declaratory judgment counts, because:

declaratory relief would not advance Plaintiffs’ interests in obtaining a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions….

These cases remain very much uphill battles for plaintiffs.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see whether a public trial of the plaintiffs’ claims in the Juliana case will have any impact on the public perception of climate change science.

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