Great News for Climate Justice, Juliana v. U.S.

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Our Children’s Trust attorneys met with with U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken and Department of Justice attorneys for the U.S. government at a status conference in Juliana v. U.S. Today, we are excited to share with you what we learned, what happens next, and why we are so encouraged by what we heard.

Oral Arguments Scheduled in U.S. District Court for June 25th
First things first: Judge Aiken set June 25th as the date for oral arguments on the youth’s Motion to Amend their Complaint. You’ll remember that Judge Aiken is the very same U.S. District Court judge who has previously ruled in favor of the Juliana 21 on multiple occasions. Judge Aiken’s 2016 ruling that the U.S. Constitution protects the fundamental right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is truly historic. Now, after incredible delay and obfuscation by the Trump administration and the appellate courts over the last 4 years, we are asking Judge Aiken to finally hear evidence of the U.S. government’s actions that violate the youths’ constitutional rights. It is on this request that we will present our arguments on June 25th.

Join Us Virtually in Court on June 25th!
Due to COVID-19, oral arguments on June 25th will be held remotely by telephone at 10:00 Pacific/1:00 Eastern. This means you’ll be able to join us virtually in court, listening to the arguments LIVE. Stay tuned and we’ll send details for how you can listen as June 25th approaches!

Youth plaintiffs Jacob, Aji, Xiuhtezcatl, Vic, Kelsey, and Levi in court, 2017 (Photo by Robin Loznak)
Judge Aiken Orders the Government to the Settlement Table with the Juliana Plaintiffs
In addition to setting the date for oral arguments, Judge Aiken also ordered the parties to convene for a settlement conference with U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin. Noting that complex issues like the climate crisis will take all three branches of government to resolve, Judge Aiken told both parties to take advantage of the opportunity to work with this highly experienced settlement judge, not as a “ministerial step,” but with an expectation that each party brings their decision-makers and best efforts forward to see if there can be a court-supported resolution of the case.

We have asked the government on multiple occasions to join us in settlement to craft a durable court-ordered resolution to this case that will yield a science-based solution to what Judge Aiken referred to as a “crisis.” We are gratified to have the court’s order in this direction.

Attorneys for the youth plaintiffs, Julia Olson, Phil Gregory, and Andrea Rodgers prepare for oral arguments, 2017 (Photo by Robin Loznak)
Why Settlement and Oral Arguments?
It is not uncommon in litigation for settlement discussions to take place while also preparing for trial. Court-supported mediation and settlement can be a path to a quicker resolution of the claims providing an opportunity for the parties to identify just and durable solutions to complex cases like Juliana, before utilizing the court’s time for a lengthy trial that could yield the very same solution the parties could have agreed to on their own. Per Judge Aiken’s direction, we will enter these discussions with good faith, optimism, and an unwavering commitment to protecting the rights of our clients and heeding the advice of the climate experts. And should these discussions not achieve a science-based U.S. solution to the crisis, we will continue steadfastly on our path towards a full airing of the facts of this case at trial.

President Biden’s Climate Legacy?
Judge Aiken’s order that the parties meet with Judge Coffin for settlement discussions provides the Biden Administration with an unprecedented opportunity to back up their commitment to protect the climate system for young people and future generations to come.

To date, despite claiming to be a “climate friendly” administration, the Biden administration has taken precisely the same position the Trump administration took in Juliana v U.S.: seeking to deny the youth access to the courts and thwart the youths’ ability to present evidence supporting their claims. They oppose the youths’ motion to amend their case so it can proceed to trial, and we expect them to argue in opposition to that motion on June 25th. From an administration that says it is on the side of our nation’s children, one has to wonder why the Biden administration is so adamant in trying to close the courthouse doors on these young Americans. We hope they reconsider President Biden’s future legacy on climate and the rights of our nation’s children and will work with the federal court, the youth, their attorneys, and their experts in good faith toward an all of government resolution of the case, as Judge Aiken suggested.

Youth plaintiff Alex and a friend shrouded by smoke during Oregon’s historic 2020 wildfires (Photo by Robin Loznak)
The Path to Climate Justice Is Clear
Only an order from the court, achieved through settlement or trial, can finally bring about the durable and science-based solution necessary to truly resolve the U.S. role in causing the climate crisis. A court-ordered solution cannot be ignored or rejected by future presidential administrations or political majorities, unlike many executive actions which are frequently overturned by successive administrations (consider as examples the doings and undoings between the Obama, then Trump, then Biden administrations). The science on the climate crisis – the evidence of harm caused and the prescription for stabilizing our planet’s climate system – is abundantly clear. We believe, with all of you standing with us, the Juliana 21 are on the best possible path to that durable court order, that will mandate a solution to the climate crisis.

Next Steps
Mark your calendars now to listen in on oral arguments next month:
WHAT: Telephonic Oral Arguments in Juliana v. United States
WHEN: June 25, 2021 at 1:00 EDT / 10:00am PDT (Scheduled for two hours)
HOW: The week before the hearing, we will send you the phone number so that you can listen in as Our Children’s Trust attorneys for the Juliana 21 argue for their right to trial.

We will keep you directly posted on the details on next month’s oral arguments, and let you know whether the administration agrees to negotiate at the settlement table. We ask that you please consider a donation to Our Children’s Trust today to help us prepare for these critical steps ahead. We are deeply grateful for your continued partnership on this critical journey to secure a safe climate for all children as we cannot do this work without your support. Thank you so much,

The Team at Our Children’s Trust