The suit, filed in 2015 by 21 plaintiffs now ages 11 to 22, argues that the failure of government leaders to battle climate change violates their constitutional right to life, liberty, property and to a “stable climate system” that will sustain human life.
The Trump administration moved for an emergency ruling to block a hearing of the case that had been scheduled to begin Monday in an Oregon federal court.
The lawsuit calls on the federal government to devise a plan to phase out fossil fuels and carbon emissions, and to stabilize the Earth’s climate.
The Trump administration argued that the suit was “misguided” and a “radical invasion of the separation of powers” because environmental decisions should be left up to political policy.
The Supreme Court refused Friday to halt the case. But it said that the government could present arguments against the case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the future.
The top court’s ruling acknowledged that the suit involves a number of “unprecedented legal theories” — including a “due process right to certain climate conditions” and an “equal protection right to live in the same climate as enjoyed by prior generations.”
Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch said they would have blocked the suit.
Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel of the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, one of the organizations supporting the suit, hailed the ruling.
“The youth of our nation won an important decision today from the Supreme Court that shows even the most powerful government in the world must follow the rules and process of litigation in our democracy,” she said in a statement.
Attorneys are already taking steps to get Juliana v. U.S. “back on track for trial in the next week,” said Olson.
The Supreme Court in July shot down an earlier attempt by the Trump administration to block the case, calling that action “premature.”
The Obama administration also tried to have the case thrown out.
In the latest argument, Solicitor General Noel Francisco complained in a brief to the Supreme Court that the plaintiffs “seek nothing less than a complete transformation of the American energy system — including the abandonment of fossil fuels — ordered by a single district court at the behest” of a group of young people.
Such an action “has no place in federal court,” the brief argued.