Just days after the right-wing Supreme Court sparked backlash for granting the Trump administration's request for a stay of the landmark climate lawsuit brought by 21 American kids and young adults, attorneys for the youth plaintiffs on Monday filed their response to the Justice Department's stay application—which they argue is full of errors and "mischaracterizations"—and urged the high court to reject the White House's effort to permanently halt the suit.
"We are ready to start trial right now," Philip Gregory, of Gregory Law Group and co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs, said in a statement. "This case asks important constitutional questions, including issues about individual liberty. Even the Trump administration admits both the climate science and the irreparable harm these youth plaintiffs are facing due to climate change. These children and their evidence should be heard in a court of law."
In their rebuttal of the Trump administration's filing—exactly a week before trial was scheduled to begin next Monday, Oct. 29—lawyers for the youth plaintiffs highlighted (pdf) a number of mischaracterizations in the Justice Department's application, including:
- This is not an environmental case, it's a civil rights case.
- This is not a case that hinges on a newly recognized unenumerated fundamental right, as the DOJ misstates.
- The length of trial and its cost are not enough to show irreparable harm for purposes of a stay and are not a legitimate basis to stop a trial on the constitutional rights of children.
- Contrary to the assertions of the Trump administration, this trial will not intrude on the ability of the executive branch to carry out its functions. There will be no confidential information disclosed in discovery or at the trial.
Initially filed in 2015, the youth-led lawsuit argues that the government's actions contributing to the human-caused climate crisis have "violated the youngest generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources."
Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of Our Children's Trust and co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs argued on Monday that the Supreme Court "has never before stopped a trial for the reasons argued by" the Trump administration.
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"The Supreme Court and our constitutional democracy will be better served if the Supreme Court reviews this case after a final judgment, as it does in every other matter where review is granted," Olson added.
Levi Draheim—an 11-year-old plaintiff from Satellite Beach, Florida—said in a statement that he was "excited" to leave home for trial "because the air is so toxic from the red tide, which is being made worse by climate change."
"I feel like I need to get out of here for my health," Draheim concluded. "We need to go to trial so that I can protect my home."