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Juliana plaintiffs

There are 21 youth plaintiffs in the constitutional climate case Juliana v. United States. (Photo: Our Children's Trust)

Petition Demands Biden DOJ 'End Opposition to Youth Climate Justice'

"These young Americans have the right to be heard by their nation's courts and their claims should proceed like any other constitutional case."

Jessica Corbett

In a clear show of support for the youth who have been fighting for a landmark U.S. constitutional climate case since 2015, the People vs. Fossil Fuels coalition this week launched a petition urging the Biden administration to "end its opposition to Juliana v. United States proceeding to trial."

"We need to advocate powerfully for the rights of our living, breathing children to be recognized in our courts."

The effort comes after settlement talks between the plaintiffs' attorneys and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) ended in November without resolution—and specifically calls out both President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland.

"Despite President Biden's promises to listen to youth and address the climate crisis, his Department of Justice is still actively opposing the Juliana case, denying their rights and seeking to prevent the young plaintiffs from presenting evidence to a judge in open court of how their own government is causing them harm," the petition states.

"It is time for Attorney General Garland to end Department of Justice opposition to the children's climate case," the petition declares, asserting that "these young Americans have the right to be heard by their nation's courts and their claims should proceed like any other constitutional case."

In a brief video about the initiative, 20-year-old Juliana plaintiff Isaac echoed that message. He encouraged viewers to sign the petition and "tell the Department of Justice that the youth need to be heard."

On behalf of the coalition behind the new effort, Dallas Goldtooth said in a statement that "People vs. Fossil Fuels is proud to stand with the Juliana youth plaintiffs."

"It's past time President Biden and the Department of Justice stand with the hundreds of organizations and millions of people who have linked arms with the Juliana plaintiffs in their struggle for justice," he added. "Our communities and climate depend on it."

In addition to welcoming the support and similarly stressing the urgency of the current moment, the head of Our Children's Trust—which represents the plaintiffs—called out not only Biden's administration but also those of former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama, who was in office when the case was first filed.

"In this moment, we need to advocate powerfully for the rights of our living, breathing children to be recognized in our courts," said Julia Olson, the group's executive director and chief legal counsel. "It is not a time to turn our backs on the courts. Rather it's a time when we must meet the urgency of the moment and demand that our children's claims be heard by the court in the full light of day."

"Instead, for the past seven years, these 21 youth plaintiffs have experienced historically aggressive delay tactics from the Department of Justice under three different presidential administrations," she continued, "including repeated but unsuccessful efforts to relegate the case to the dark corners of the shadow docket."

Olson noted that "under President Trump, the DOJ filed six petitions for writ of mandamus, more than the DOJ has filed in any other case we know of in history, and all with the intention of causing unprecedented delay."

"It has always been an effort to keep these young people, and their evidence, from being heard by their own courts," she charged. "And so far, the DOJ under President Biden has demonstrated that they will continue to rely on these undemocratic tactics, seeking to prevent these young plaintiffs' evidence from being heard by a judge. Win or lose, they deserve a trial."

The Juliana plaintiffs—whose story is the focus of an award-winning documentary that premiered on Netflix in April—are awaiting a court decision that could put their case on a path to trial.

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