23 January 2020

Ninth Circuit Dismisses Children’s Climate Case for Lack of Standing in Juliana, et al. v. United States

On January 17, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed a case brought by individual plaintiffs, including minor children, and an environmental group in the District of Oregon against the federal government, alleging climate-related injuries and violation of their constitutional rights due to the government’s failure to adequately regulate and control the use of fossil fuels. In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit recognized that climate change is indeed occurring and that the plaintiffs had sufficiently claimed a concrete and particularized injury. However, the court determined that the plaintiffs could not meet Article III standing redressability requirements because it was beyond the court’s power to issue an order requiring the federal government to phase out fossil fuel use and draw down excess carbon dioxide emissions as the plaintiffs sought.

Pending an en banc hearing or grant of certiorari, the ruling brings long-awaited closure to the plaintiffs’ case initially filed in 2015 and set for trial in 2018 before a series of interlocutory orders kicked it to the Supreme Court and then back to the Ninth Circuit.