Description: Action seeking declaration that federal government violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights by causing dangerous carbon dioxide concentrations.
United States v. U.S. District Court for District of Oregon
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/26/2017 Reply Download Reply filed in support of petition for writ of mandamus. 06/19/2017 Brief Download Brief opposing petition for writ of mandamus filed by plaintiffs in underlying suit. 06/09/2017 Petition Download Petition for writ of mandamus filed. United States Asked Ninth Circuit to Stay Proceedings in Climate Case in Oregon District Court. A day after the federal district court denied motions to certify for interlocutory appeal its denial of motions to dismiss a lawsuit seeking to hold the federal government liable for climate change, the federal defendants filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals requesting a stay of the proceedings in the district court. The federal government argued that denial of the motion to dismiss was based on clear error and that mandamus was warranted to confine the district court to the lawful exercise of its jurisdiction.
Juliana v. United States
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/28/2017 Order Download Order issued granting intervenors' motion to withdraw and setting trial date. Trade Groups Released and Trial Date Set in Young People’s Climate Lawsuit in Oregon Federal Court. A magistrate judge in the federal district court for the District of Oregon granted motions by three trade groups to withdraw from the lawsuit seeking to hold the United States liable for its actions and inaction leading to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The magistrate judge’s order also set the trial to begin on February 5, 2018. The magistrate granted the motions to withdraw without conditions, finding that the trade groups’ participation in the case had not been in bad faith or solely for the purpose of harassment or delay. The magistrate recounted the sequence of events leading up to the motions for withdrawal “to emphasize that the court has endeavored to ensure that all parties to this obviously novel and unprecedented lawsuit have a full and fair opportunity to address both the legal questions presented and the factual basis underlying those legal issues.” The magistrate said the trade group intervenors “no doubt have thoroughly studied the issue at the core of this case and are in a position to tender their own scientific evidence regarding climate change if they desire to challenge Plaintiffs’ evidence or the admissions of the United States”—but noted that the intervenors had chosen to withdraw rather than take the opportunity to “put the Plaintiffs to their proof at trial.” 06/22/2017 Reply Download Reply filed in support of motions to withdraw. 06/12/2017 Status Report Download Joint status report filed. 06/08/2017 Order Download Motions to certify interlocutory appeals denied. The district court denied the defendants’ motions to certify the denial of their motions to dismiss to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, agreeing with the magistrate judge’s conclusion that certification for interlocutory appeal was not warranted. 06/08/2017 Response Download Response filed by plaintiffs' to American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers' motion to withdraw. 06/08/2017 Response Download Response filed by plaintiffs' to American Petroleum Institute's motion to withdraw. 06/06/2017 Notice Download Notice filed by federal defendants regarding pending motions. 05/01/2017 Findings and Recommendations Download Magistrate judge recommended that defendants' and intervenors' motions for leave to appeal be denied; motion for stay pending consideration of the motion for leave to appeal denied. In Young People’s Climate Lawsuit Against U.S., Federal Magistrate Recommended Denial of Motions to Certify Case for Appeal. A magistrate judge in the federal district court for the District of Oregon recommended denial of motions by federal defendants and by intervenor oil and gas trade groups to certify the district court’s denial of motions to dismiss the lawsuit brought by young people alleging that the defendants violated rights protected by the Constitution by allowing greenhouse gas emissions to accumulate. The magistrate rejected the intervenors’ contention that the issue of whether the political question doctrine barred the plaintiffs’ claims should be certified. The magistrate judge said that the court would be capable of granting equitable relief that would not “micro manage” federal agencies or make policy judgments in the event the plaintiffs prevailed. The magistrate “emphatically rejected” any contention that the topic of “climate change” was “formed and determined by political values and is thus a non-justiciable political question” and said that climate change was “quintessentially a subject of scientific study and methodology, not solely political debate” and that courts were “particularly well-suited for the resolution of factual and expert scientific disputes.” The magistrate further indicated that the issues in the case “and the fundamental constitutional rights presented” would not be “well served by certifying a hypothetical question to the Court of Appeals bereft of any factual record or any record at all beyond the pleadings.” The magistrate judge indicated that the federal defendants’ significant admissions regarding the threats posed by human-induced climate change had, “if anything, … enhanced” the plaintiffs’ due process claim and that any appeal would be premature because the taking of evidence was necessary to “flesh out… critical issues.” The magistrate judge also was not persuaded that certification should be granted for the public trust claim, indicating that the federal defendants were relying on an overly expansive reading of Supreme Court precedent to narrow the scope of the federal public trust obligations. In recommending denial of certification on the issue of the plaintiffs’ standing, the magistrate said that the alleged harms to the plaintiffs from climate change should not be “minimalized by the fact that vast numbers of the populace are exposed to the same injuries.” The magistrate noted that numerous factual questions would be addressed at trial (e.g. “Is climate change occurring?” “If so, to what extent is it being caused by fossil fuel production?), and said the defendants and the intervenors “would put the cart before the horse” by certifying hypothetical questions before the relevant factual issues were addressed. The parties were given 14 days to file written objections to the magistrate judge’s recommendation, followed by 14 days to file a response to the objections. 04/24/2017 Motion Download Motion to clarify filed by federal defendants. 04/10/2017 Reply Download Reply filed in support of federal defendants' motion to certify order for interlocutory appeal. 04/10/2017 Reply Download Reply filed in support of intervenor-defendants' motion for certification of order for interlocutory appeal. 04/10/2017 Reply Download Reply filed in support of federal defendants' motion to stay. 04/07/2017 Not Available Download Status conference held. At a status conference on April 7, 2017, the court indicated that it would expedite its consideration of motions to certify its denial of motions to dismiss for interlocutory appeal and to stay proceedings pending the outcome of such an appeal. The court also indicated that the federal defendants should focus discovery efforts on identification and preparation of expert testimony. The court agreed to allow the federal defendants to stay production of documents until after the parties had a “meet and confer” that potentially would reduce the scope of production. In a subsequent clarification of that order, the court indicated that it had not intended to stay the deadlines for the federal government’s responses to the plaintiffs’ request for admissions, but said that it would allow the federal defendants additional time (until May 31, 2017) to respond. 04/03/2017 Response Download Response filed by plaintiffs in opposition to federal defendants' motion to certify order for interlocutory appeal. 04/03/2017 Response Download Response filed by plaintiffs in opposition to intervenor defedants' motion for certification of order for interlocutory appeal. 04/03/2017 Response Download Response filed by plaintiffs in opposition to federal defendants' motion to stay litigation. 04/03/2017 Response Download Objections and responses to plaintiffs' request for production of documents filed by intervenor-defendant American Petroleum Institute. 04/03/2017 Status Report Download Joint status report filed. 03/10/2017 Memorandum Download Memorandum filed by intervenor-defendants in support of motion for certification of interlocutory appeal. 03/10/2017 Motion Download Motion filed by intervenor-defendants for certification of order for interlocutory appeal. 03/07/2017 Memorandum Download Memorandum filed by federal defendants in support of motion to certify order for interlocutory appeal. 03/07/2017 Motion Download Motion filed by federal defendants to certify order for interlocutory appeal. Federal Government and Industry Groups Asked Oregon District Court for Immediate Appeal of Denial of Motions to Dismiss in Young People’s Climate Case. In the action brought by young people in Oregon alleging violations of their constitutional rights arising from the federal government’s actions and inaction leading to increased carbon dioxide emissions, the federal government and industry trade groups intervening on the federal government’s behalf filed motions to certify for appeal the federal district court’s order denying their motions to dismiss. The federal defendants’ motion sought review of five questions that the defendants said were controlling questions of law for which “there is substantial ground for difference of opinion and for which an immediate appeal may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.” The questions involved whether plaintiffs had adequately alleged “invasion of a legally protected and judicially-cognizable interest in maintaining ‘a climate system capable of sustaining human life,”” whether they had adequately pleaded the causation and redressability elements of standing, whether they had a “constitutionally-protected fundamental life, liberty, or property interest in a ‘climate system’ with a particular atmospheric level of CO2” that federal agencies had a duty to protect even if taking action would contravene existing statutes and regulations, and whether they had a cognizable public trust doctrine claim. The intervenor-defendants—National Association of Manufacturers, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and American Petroleum Institute—joined in requesting review of these questions and also sought review of the question of whether the political question doctrine barred the plaintiffs’ claims. The federal defendants and intervenor-defendants both sought expedited review of their motions and to stay litigation. 03/07/2017 Motion Download Motion to stay filed by federal defendants. 03/07/2017 Status Report Download Status report and proposed schedule filed. Plaintiffs Asked Court for Accelerated Schedule. On the day the federal defendants and intervenor-defendants filed their motions requesting that the court certify its denial of their motions to dismiss for interlocutory appeal, the plaintiffs filed a status report in which they indicated that the intervenor-defendants had not responded to the plaintiffs’ request for substantive responses to the complaint’s factual allegations. The plaintiffs also asked the court to issue an order requiring the federal defendants to provide climate change-related information from federal websites as it existed on January 19, 2017, to facilitate plaintiffs in conducting informal discovery. The plaintiffs said they had served document requests on the United States, the Executive Office of the President, and each of the intervenors in March, and argued that the intervenors should be subject to fact discovery. The plaintiffs also proposed dates for a scheduling order that would allow a trial to start on November 6, 2017, citing “the urgency of the climate crisis and in light of the well-publicized fact that the Federal Defendants are acting now to accelerate fossil fuel development.” 02/17/2017 Not Available Download Request served by plaintiffs for production of documents by intervenor-defendant American Petroleum Institute. 02/09/2017 Not Available Download Substitution of parties filed. Plaintiffs substituted Donald Trump in place of Barack Obama as a named plaintiff. 01/27/2017 Order Download Order issued denying plaintiffs' motion to compel Tillerson deposition. Oregon Federal Court Said That Secretary of State-Designate Tillerson Was Not Required to Appear for Deposition in Young People’s Climate Lawsuit. In the lawsuit brought by young people asserting that the federal government’s actions and inaction led to increased carbon dioxide emissions and violated their constitutional rights, the federal district court for the District of Oregon denied the plaintiffs’ motion to compel the intervenor-defendant trade groups to make Rex Tillerson available for a deposition. Tillerson, now Secretary of State, is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corporation (Exxon); at the time the plaintiffs served a notice of deposition for Tillerson, he was also a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of defendant-intervenor American Petroleum Institute (API). Tillerson left Exxon and the API board after President Trump nominated him as Secretary of State. The court said the intervenor-defendants—API, National Association of Manufacturers, and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers—were not obligated to produce Tillerson for a deposition because he was no longer affiliated with them. 01/26/2017 Response Download Response filed by federal defendants to the parties' positions on discovery dispute. 01/25/2017 Brief Download Brief filed by intervenor defendants regarding notice of deposition. 01/25/2017 Memorandum Download Initial memorandum filed by plaintiffs to attempt informal resolution of discovery dispute regarding deposition of Rex Tillerson. 01/13/2017 Answer Download Answer filed by federal defendants. The federal defendants filed their answer a week before President Obama left office. The answer included admissions regarding factual allegations of climate change’s impacts, but the federal defendants denied that they had caused climate change or specific climate change impacts such as increased temperatures, drought conditions, warmer water temperatures, rising sea levels, and ocean acidification. 12/15/2016 Answer Download Answer filed by intervenor-defendants. The intervenor-defendants filed their answer a month earlier than the federal defendants. The intervenors’ answer denied most of the complaint’s factual allegations, including those related to climate change impacts, on the ground that the intervenors lacked sufficient information to admit or deny them. 11/10/2016 Opinion and Order Download Opinion and order issued denying motions to dismiss. Oregon Federal Court Said Young People Could Pursue Constitutional Claims to Compel Federal Climate Action. In an action seeking to compel federal action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the federal district court for the District of Oregon denied motions to dismiss public trust and due process claims against the United States and federal officials and agencies. The plaintiffs—young people who alleged that excessive carbon emissions were threatening their future, a non-profit group, and “Future Generations” represented by a climate scientist—alleged that the defendants had known for decades of the dangers of carbon dioxide pollution and had nonetheless take actions that increased emissions. The court held that the action did not raise a nonjusticiable political question because it asked the court to determine whether defendants had violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, a question “squarely within the purview of the judiciary.” The court also concluded that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged standing to sue. In determining that the plaintiffs had adequately alleged a due process claim, the court said that the plaintiffs had asserted a fundamental right “to a climate system capable of sustaining human life” and that the plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the defendants’ role in creating the climate crisis, the defendants’ knowledge of the consequences of their actions, and the defendants’ deliberate indifference in failing to act to prevent the harm were sufficient to state a “danger-creation” due process claim. In finding that the plaintiffs had adequately stated a public trust claim, the court said that it was not necessary to determine whether the atmosphere was a public trust asset because the plaintiffs had also alleged the claim in connection with the territorial sea, to which the Supreme Court had said “[t]ime and again” that the public trust doctrine applies. The court also rejected the arguments that the public trust doctrine does not apply to the federal government and that federal environmental statutes displaced public trust claims. The court also was not persuaded that plaintiffs lacked a cause of action to enforce public trust obligations, concluding that the public trust claims were substantive due process claims and that the Fifth Amendment provided a right of action. 09/12/2016 Amicus Brief Download Amicus brief filed on behalf of plaintiffs by League of Women Voters of the United States and League of Women Voters of Oregon. 04/08/2016 Order Download Magistrate judge issued findings and recommendation. Federal Magistrate Said Constitutional Claims on Climate Change Should Survive Motion to Dismiss. A magistrate judge in the federal district court for the District of Oregon recommended denial of motions to dismiss a suit brought against the United States by a group of young people who alleged that excessive carbon emissions are threatening their future. The magistrate judge emphasized that, on a motion to dismiss, he was accepting all the complaint's allegations as true. With respect to standing, the magistrate judge found that the plaintiffs had established that action or inaction contributing to climate change had injured the plaintiffs in “a concrete and personal way” and that plaintiffs “differentiate[d] the impacts by alleging greater harm to youth and future generations.” With respect to redressability, the magistrate judge said that it could not say, “without the record being developed, that it is speculation to posit that a court order to undertake regulation of greenhouse gas emissions to protect the public health will not effectively redress the alleged resulting harm.” The magistrate also recommended that the court decline to dismiss on political question grounds, and that the court should not dismiss for failure to state a substantive due process claim. The magistrate also recommended against dismissal of “any notions” that the Due Process Clause provides a substantive right under the public trust doctrine. This recommendation now goes to a district court judge, who after briefing will decide whether to adopt, modify, or reject it. 01/14/2016 Order Download Industry groups allowed to intervene on behalf of respondents. Oregon Federal Court Allowed Industry Groups to Intervene in Young People’s Climate Lawsuit. The federal district court for the District of Oregon allowed the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), and the American Petroleum Institute (API) to intervene as of right in a climate change lawsuit brought by a number of individual plaintiffs aged 19 or younger, an environmental organization, and a plaintiff identified as “Future Generations.” The plaintiffs alleged that the federal government’s actions—and failures to take action—deprived the plaintiffs of constitutionally protected rights by allowing dangerous levels of carbon dioxide to accumulate in the atmosphere. The court found that NAM, AFPM, and API had a “significantly protectable interest” because the relief sought by the plaintiffs would “change the very nature” of their business. The court also said that there was “no question” that the proposed intervenors’ interests would be impaired by any court-mandated regulation to eliminate emissions and that the intervenors’ presence was “necessary to fully and fairly put those issues before the court.” The court was not persuaded by the plaintiffs’ contention that the government was “essentially pro-fossil fuel industry” and would adequately represent the interests of NAM, AFPM, and API. 11/17/2015 Motion to Dismiss Download Motion to dismiss filed. Federal Government Asked Oregon Federal Court to Dismiss Young People’s Action to Compel Reductions in Carbon Emissions. The United States moved to dismiss an action brought 21 individuals, all aged 19 or younger, to compel federal government defendants to take action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions so that atmospheric CO2 concentrations will be no greater than 350 parts per million by 2100. In addition to the individual plaintiffs, the complaint also named “Future Generations” as a plaintiff. The U.S. contended that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they had not alleged a particularized harm that was traceable to defendants’ actions. The U.S. also said the alleged injuries were not redressable and that the plaintiffs’ claims raised separation of powers issues. The U.S. also argued that Future Generations had alleged no injury in fact. In addition, the U.S. said the plaintiffs had not stated a constitutional claim and that federal courts lacked jurisdiction over public trust doctrine lawsuits because such claims arise under state law. 11/12/2015 Motion to Intervene Download National Association of Manufacturers, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and American Petroleum Institute moved to intervene. 09/10/2015 Complaint Download Amended complaint filed. 08/12/2015 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Youth Plaintiffs Asserted Constitutional Claims Against Federal Government for Failure to Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions. Twenty-one individual plaintiffs, all age 19 or younger, filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the District of Oregon against the United States, the president, and various federal officials and agencies. The individuals were joined by the non-profit organization Earth Guardian and a plaintiff identified as “Future Generations,” which is represented by Dr. James Hansen, a climate scientist and former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who also submitted a declaration in support of the complaint. The plaintiffs asked the court to compel the defendants to take action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions so that atmospheric CO2 concentrations will be no greater than 350 parts per million by 2100. The plaintiffs alleged that the “nation’s climate system” was critical to their rights to life, liberty, and property, and that the defendants had violated their substantive due process rights by allowing fossil fuel production, consumption, and combustion at “dangerous levels.” The plaintiffs also asserted an equal protection claim based on the government’s denial to them of fundamental rights afforded to prior and present generations. They also asserted violations of rights secured by the Ninth Amendment, which the plaintiffs said protects “the right to be sustained by our country’s vital natural systems, including our climate system.” The plaintiffs also alleged that defendants failed to fulfill their obligations under the public trust doctrine. 08/12/2015 Complaint Download Exhibit A to complaint filed.