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U.S. District Court Allows Claims Brought By Children Against the Federal Government for Failure to Protect Against Climate Change to Proceed

The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon recently denied the federal government’s challenge to a case brought by youth plaintiffs alleging the federal government has not protected plaintiffs from climate change, therefore violating their substantive due process rights and the federal government’s public trust obligations. The government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The District Court denied defendants’ motion and allowed the case to proceed. [Juliana v. U.S., ___F.3d___, Case No. 6:15-cv-01517-TC, (D. Or. Nov. 10, 2016).]

This case illustrates that courts are willing to expand due process protection to new rights as subsets of the rights to life and liberty. The court emphasized that the judiciary has been cautious and overly deferential in the past regarding environmental law, and that even when a case centers on hotly contested political issues such as climate change, the judiciary must remain true to its role as a coequal branch of government. As the decision noted, the claims may be hard to prove, but the decision will allow them the opportunity to try. The court’s decision is accessible online at:

(Danielle Sakai, Jacqueline Yaeger)