Citizen Plaintiffs Lose a Climate Suit — Let Me Count the Ways

Yesterday, Judge Paul Diamond dismissed climate litigation brought by the Clean Air Council and two minor plaintiffs.  Like the Juliana case in Oregon, the plaintiffs argued that the government had violated the their rights by failing to take robust action against climate change.  Here are some of the failures that Judge Diamond identified in the complaint.

First, he found the plaintiffs did not have standing.  Why not?

  • No injury in fact
  • No traceability
  • No redressability

Judge Diamond also ruled that prudential concerns regarding separation of powers compelled a conclusion that plaintiffs did not have standing:

Article III standing exists “to prevent the judicial process from being used to usurp the powers of the political branches.” These considerations preclude me from acting as a “virtually continuing monitor[] of the wisdom and soundness of Executive action.”

Next, Judge Diamond ruled, in the alternative, that plaintiffs failed to state a claim.  Why not?

  • No due process right to a life-sustaining climate
  • No “state-created danger”
  • No substantive due process violation
  • No federal public trust

I’ll note that, having found plaintiffs did not have standing, it was actually improper for him to reach the question of whether the complaint stated a claim, because, in the absence of standing, the Court had no further jurisdiction.

That Judge Diamond went out of his way to drive four additional stakes into plaintiffs’ complaint reminds me of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  That the plaintiffs are likely to claim that this defeat is only a flesh wound – and they might be right in the long run – only strengthens the analogy.

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