Citizen Action Monitor

In the US courts, kids for climate justice win one, lose one

No 1074 Posted by fw, June 13, 2014

Oregon youth win reversal in critical climate recovery case Press Release by Our Children’s Trust, June 11, 2014

Eugene, OR — In a nationally significant decision in the case Chernaik v. Kitzhaber, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled a trial court must decide whether the atmosphere is a public trust resource that the state of Oregon, as a trustee, has a duty to protect. Two youth plaintiffs were initially told they could not bring the case by the Lane County Circuit Court. The trial court had ruled that climate change should be left only to the legislative and executive branches. Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned that decision.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our children,” said Julia Olson, Executive Director and Chief Legal Counsel of Our Children’s Trust. “Our political branches of government around the country have failed to meaningfully protect our fundamental rights to a healthy atmosphere. The Oregon Court of Appeals has affirmed the very purpose of our justice system to seek judicial review when other branches of our government violate our basic rights. The decision of the Oregon Court of Appeals affirms that youth deserve a judicial determination on whether the atmosphere is a natural resource that warrants governmental protection as a public trust resource. We are confident that the Oregon trial court will make the right determinations to protect our most precious natural resource on which all others rely: our atmosphere.”

Read the full press release here.


U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Denies Existence of Federal Public Trust Doctrine Press Release by Our Children’s Trust, June 5, 2014

Washington, D.C. — The three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed Judge Robert Wilkin’s order from May 31, 2012 to dismiss the climate change lawsuit brought by youth plaintiffs. The Court of Appeals panel determined there was no federal jurisdiction because the Public Trust Doctrine remains a matter of the state, not federal, law.

“On behalf of our youth plaintiffs, I am disappointed the Court of Appeals did not agree with us on the scope of the Public Trust Doctrine,” said Philip Gregory, with Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, counsel for the Youth-Appellants. “We are carefully evaluating both this decision and our options, as well as discussing next steps with our clients. We strongly believe that, like in the Civil Rights cases, our federal courts need to act to make government accountable for failing to protect the atmosphere from irreparable harm. The Public Trust Doctrine provides a strong legal basis for courts to do just that.”

Read the full press release here.


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