President Trump has called global warming “a very expensive hoax.”
Now a federal appeals court has ruled the Trump administration is going to have to go beyond that by refusing to dismiss a lawsuit brought by 21 students and two environmental groups to force the federal government to fight climate change to ensure there is a safe world for these young people as they become adults.
The lawsuit, filed in Oregon in 2015, argues that the federal government knows about the consequences of climate change, so it has a constitutional duty to take action to protect the children’s future.
The suit was brought against Trump personally, as well as many of his Cabinet secretaries and various government agencies that are supposed to protect the environment and some private groups that represent polluting industries.
Attorneys for Trump, who has done all he can to shut down environmental efforts to address climate change since taking office, argued that the lawsuit is too speculative and broad and would require them to produce too many documents.
The lower court in Oregon rejected the government’s efforts to dismiss the suit or to restrict the process of discovery – forcing them to produce documents and information related to the case.
Instead of accepting the ruling, the government tried to go around the lower court and get the suit dismissed through an unsuaal move of obtaining a “writ of mandamus,” by which the appeals court could order the lower court to dismiss the case.
The feds argued it would be too burdensome and in the end, there is no case.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco does not agree and today refused to issue a “write of mandamus,” sending the case back to the lower court.
“The defendants’ argument is that it is a burden to defend against the plaintiffs’ claims,” wrote the appeals court in its ruling, “which they contend are too broad to be legally sustainable.”
“That may well be,” continued the court, “but, as noted, litigation burdens are part of our legal system, and the defendants still have the usual remedies before the district court.”
The appeals court said so far the plaintiffs have not even asked for any discovery of documents.
“Rather,” ruled the three-judge panel, “the parties have employed the usual meet-and-confer process of resolving discovery disputes.”
If in the future there are disputes that can’t be settled by the lower court, the government is still free to return to the appeals court and make their claims, so there is no need to shut down the case at this point.
The 9th circuit is not saying that the students are right or should win their case, but they are ruling that they have a right to be heard and for the normal legal process to play out.
Trump and his anti-environment climate change deniers may be able to kill EPA rules that protect people and the environment and pull out of global accords like the Paris agreement, but they cannot refuse to answer to these students who want to know why the world they will inherit is not being properly protected.