Federal court temporarily pauses youth climate lawsuit

The decision comes after the Trump administration filed an extraordinarily rare petition for review.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily halted a climate lawsuit against the Trump administration following the administration’s petition for a rare review of the district court’s decision to allow the case to move forward.

The lawsuit, brought by a group of 21 children and young adults, seeks to prompt immediate action on climate change at the federal level by arguing that the government has infringed on the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to a livable climate.

Initially brought against the Obama administration in August of 2015, the plaintiffs named President Donald Trump as primary defendant following his inauguration. The Trump administration has subsequently fought plaintiffs every step of the way, going so far as to petition for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review and overturn an Oregon judge’s decision allowing the case to move forward.

The petition, known as a writ of mandamus, was filed in mid-June, and argued that the Ninth Circuit should use its supervisory powers to “end this clearly improper attempt to have the judiciary decide important questions of energy and environmental policy to the exclusion of the elected branches of government.”


Tuesday’s decision does not directly address the Trump administration’s petition; it merely pauses proceedings in the case until further notice while the Ninth Circuit considers the request for review.

At the time the Trump administration filed the petition, Erwin Chemerinsky, constitutional law expert and dean of Berkeley Law, told ThinkProgress via email that the petition was “truly extraordinary,” adding that such reviews are “rarely granted.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs expressed disappointment with the court’s decision to pause the case, but were hopeful that the court would eventually deny the administration’s petition for review.

“It’s disappointing to have any potential delay when we’re in a danger zone on climate, but there will be no delay on our end,” Julia Olson, co-lead counsel for plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit supporting the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “We will continue to prepare for trial. We remain confident that we will be heading to trial and that the temporary stay will be lifted.”

In late June, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Coffin set a trial date for February 5, 2018. The trial will take place in Eugene, Oregon. The Ninth Circuit’s stay applies to all district court proceedings related to the case, and will remain in effect until further order from the court.


Correction: A previous version of this article stated that U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken had set the trial date for the case. U.S. District Court Thomas Coffin set the date, and Judge Aiken will oversee the trial. ThinkProgress regrets the error.