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Twenty-one children sued the United States and the Trump Administration, arguing that their constitutional rights have been violated over inaction in the face of climate change. The Executive Branch filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing the “burden discovery obligations” would threaten the separation of powers.

But the Ninth circuit Court of Appeals in California has tossed that motion, allowing the lawsuit to proceed in these “very early stages,” according to a decision reached today.

“The panel held that mandamus relief was inappropriate where the district court has not issued a single discovery order, nor had the plaintiffs field a single motion seeking to compel discovery,” the judges ruled. “The panel concluded that the issues that the defendants raised on mandamus were better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation.”

Juliana v. U.S. was originally filed in 2015, in the U.S. District Court in Oregon against the U.S.A., President Barack Obama, and a litany of named federal agencies. The plaintiffs are currently ages 10 to 21.

Oral arguments were heard in December. (One of the judges presiding at the hearing, Alex Kozinski, has since retired amid allegations of harassment; he was replaced randomly by Judge Michelle T. Friedland).

The children allege in their suit that the changing climate has been known for decades, but policies have not changed and their constitutional rights have thus been violated, according to the court documents.

“They allege that the defendants have known for decades that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels destabilize the climate,” according to the latest court decision. “They allege that climate change is injuring them and will continue to injure them.”

Also named in the suit are several industry organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the American Petroleum Institute. The fossil fuel groups intervened in the case in 2016 as they joined with the federal government to try and have the case dismissed. But last summer a U.S. Magistrate Judge issued an order releasing the industry defendants from the case.

 

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