The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Members of Congress Support Juliana v. U.S. Youth Plaintiffs After Judge Rules Children’s Constitutional Climate Case Can Proceed to Trial

Members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have expressed their support for the fundamental rights of children to a safe climate and the young Americans in the landmark children’s constitutional climate case, Juliana v. United States. On June 1, 2023, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken, of the U.S. District Court in Oregon, granted the young plaintiffs’ motion to amend their complaint, putting their case back on track to trial after almost eight years of unprecedented efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to delay or dismiss their case.

Following the ruling, members of Congress demonstrated public support and this week they joined a Tweetstorm to continue to show their commitment to the youth, their rights to a safe, livable climate, and their right to go to trial. The Juliana case was one of the most significant targets of the Trump administration’s “shadow docket” - a tactic wherein cases are decided without full briefing or oral argument, and without any written opinion.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chairman of the Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee and Chairman of the Chemical Safety, Waste Management, Environmental Justice, and Regulatory Oversight Environment and Public Works Subcommittee, shared, “BIG NEWS: The #YouthVGov case will finally proceed to trial! This remarkable group of young people who are demanding their right to a healthy planet and future have my full support.” Read his June 3, 2023, tweet here and June 6, 2023, tweet here.

“Twenty-one youth have waited almost eight years to get a ruling on their lawsuit demanding their constitutional right to a safe climate be protected. And yesterday, we welcomed news that they are finally being granted their right to go to trial,” said Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), a Chief Deputy Whip and Ranking Member on the House Innovation, Data, and Commerce Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. “These young people have taken on incredible responsibility to protect our environment. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to support them as they continue their fight to protect the right of all to a safe and habitable climate. Our children and grandchildren should not have to fear for the future of their environment and our world as we know it.” Read her June 2, 2023, press statement here and tweet here.

“Today, I'm proudly standing with @youthvgov + Juliana plaintiffs as they fight to protect their constitutional right to a safe climate. Let's get climate justice out of the shadows & off the shadow docket,” stated Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), member of the Judiciary Committee and Deputy Whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Read her June 6, 2023, tweet here.

For additional statements of support, including from Senators Whitehouse and Wyden and Congressmembers Jayapal and Tlaib, visit the Juliana statements of support page.

“I’m excited that our case is finally moving forward and grateful that members of Congress continue to support children’s fundamental rights for youth, like me and my little sister,” said 15-year-old Levi Draheim, youngest plaintiff in the Juliana case. Learn more about Levi and the other 20 Juliana plaintiffs here.

Since the case was filed in 2015, more than 85 lawmakers have rallied behind the Juliana youth and their right to a safe climate. They joined U.S. Senate and House letters in November 2021 to President Biden expressing support for the fundamental rights of children to a safe climate. Members stood with the Juliana plaintiffs by cosponsoring the Children’s Fundamental Rights and Climate Recovery Resolution introduced during the 116th and 117th Congress (S.Con.Res.8 & H.Con.Res.31) expressing that the current climate crisis disproportionately affects the health, economic opportunity, and fundamental rights of children, and demands that the United States develop a national, comprehensive, science-based, and just climate recovery plan to meet necessary emissions reduction targets. They also signed on to two 2019 and 2020 amicus briefs filed in the Ninth Circuit.

“Attorney General Garland should treat this like the urgent constitutional case that it is by litigating the case on its merits and presenting their arguments in the light of day at trial, rather than once again seeking to push this case into the dark corners of the shadow docket,” said Julia Olson, lead counsel for the youth plaintiffs. “Members of Congress who continue to stand in solidarity with these 21 young Americans are sending a clear and urgent message to all of our nation’s leaders to protect our children’s fundamental rights to a safe climate.”

Plaintiffs intend to seek a prompt trial date so that they and their experts can finally present their evidence of their government’s active infringement of their constitutional rights.

Our Children's Trust is a nonprofit organization advocating for urgent emissions reductions on behalf of youth and future generations, who have the most to lose if emissions are not reduced. OCT is spearheading the international human rights and environmental TRUST Campaign to compel governments to safeguard the atmosphere as a "public trust" resource. We use law, film, and media to elevate their compelling voices. Our ultimate goal is for governments to adopt and implement enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans with annual emissions reductions to return to an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 350 ppm.