Youth lawsuit against U.S. over climate change moves forward

EUGENE, Ore. - A federal judge held a management conference on a climate change lawsuit against the federal government filed by nearly two dozen children and a climate scientist Tuesday afternoon in Eugene, Ore.

The case, Juliana v. United States, was filed by 21 young plaintiffs, between the ages of 9 and 20, and climate scientist James Hansen. The suit argues that the federal government is violating their constitutional right to a life free of the dangers of climate change.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin held the conference at the federal courthouse in Eugene, Ore.

At the conference, Coffin said he expects the court to work with all parties throughout the pre-trial discovery process.

He also asked all parties to first focus on expert and scientific discovery for the case.

Lastly, he scheduled the next conference for March 8, 2017.

“The judge in there was very clear that he is going to allow us to bring the science into the courtroom," said Philip Gregory, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The defendants - the federal government - added at the end of the conference that they are considering appealing earlier rulings denying motions to dismiss.

“There is a process where they can ask the court’s permission to appeal the motion to dismiss denial now, but Judge Coffin and Judge Aiken would have to allow it," said Julia Olson, plaintiffs attorney and executive director of Our Children's Trust.

"Then they would have to go to the ninth circuit court of appeals and the ninth circuit court of appeals would also have to grant it," Olson said. "So they have two very big hurdles in front of them.”

Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization based in Eugene, Ore., that advocates on behalf of youth for a stable climate and healthy environment. The organization is leading the Juliana v. United States lawsuit. Our Children’s Trust relies heavily on pro-bono counsel and people who donate their time, including law students and scientific experts. They’re still anticipating a cost of $1.5 million to take this case through trial.

About 80 people filled the courtroom and many more supporters of the plaintiffs stood outside the courthouse with signs and banners reading: “Trial of the Millennium” and “We Stand with the Kids."

Carol Scherer, 71, supports the lawsuit filed by the young plaintiffs.

“I really care about the future for the children and the grandchildren." Scherer said. "It’s not about me at all. And there’s a huge number of us older people that are very active for the future generations."

Ellen Furstner, from Marcola, Ore., also attended the conference in support of the children's suit.

“I believe this is probably the most important trial of the century," Furstner said. "Maybe the most important trial ever in the world because these 21 young people are defending the planet for all of us, and for our future generations to be able to live on this planet."

“The science in the end is going to determine that we are entitled to win," said Gregory. "We’re entitled to win prompt remedy from the federal government to start changing its ways and to start thinking about how it’s going to affect these kids and future generations."

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