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Trump administration calls for a US appeals court to reverse climate change lawsuit involving UO student and professor



President Donald Trump has taken action on a lawsuit brought by 21 youth, including a University of Oregon student, suing the federal government over climate change.

On Tuesday, March 7, the Trump administration filed a proposal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse an Oregon district court judge’s November 2016 decision, which ruled for the case to move to a federal trial. The administration’s argument to the higher court is that the plaintiffs do not have legal standing to bring the case forward, nor a legal responsibility to preserve a climate system capable of sustaining human life.

UO environmental studies student Tia Hatton is one of the plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States. Julia Olson, an adjunct law professor at UO, is representing the plaintiffs as Chief Legal Counsel for the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust. The defendants in the case are the Trump administration and trade associations representing fossil fuel companies, the latter of which joined the case as intervenor-defendants.

On Jan. 24, the plaintiffs sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice demanding they preserve all records related to climate change, as well as any communication between the government and the fossil fuel industry so it could be used in a trial. On Tuesday, the Trump administration also called for the upcoming federal trial to be delayed until after the federal appeals court makes a decision. The federal government’s attorneys claimed, in a stay motion to the Department of Justice, that retrieving the requested documents would be a “burden” on the defendants.

“The anticipated discovery burdens in this case are forecast by the plaintiff’s extraordinarily broad January 24, 2017 litigation hold demand letter,” the attorneys wrote. “That letter demands preservation of, among other, categories of documents over the course of nearly seven decades.”

Olson questions the priorities of the federal government by requesting for the trial to be delayed. “The Trump administration argues that this is a big case and so the burdens of preserving government documents warrant an expedited review. They’re right. It is a big case,” Olson wrote in a press release. “We have a classic example of the government’s misplaced priorities: They prefer to minimize their procedural obligations of not destroying government documents over the urgency of not destroying our climate system for our youth plaintiffs and all future generations.”

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Andrew Field

Andrew Field

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