The Supreme Court on Friday night temporarily halted an upcoming trial on a climate change lawsuit brought by children against the U.S. government, after the Trump administration had sought to dismiss the case.
Chief Justice John Robert’s one-page order halted discovery and the upcoming district court trial in the case, scheduled for Oct. 29. He asked for a response from the plaintiffs in the case by Wednesday. The case involves 21 children who allege that government policy has exacerbated global warming and climate change.
“We are confident once Chief Justice Roberts and the full Court receive the youth plaintiffs’ response to defendants’ mischaracterization of their case, the trial will proceed,” Julia Olson, co-counsel for the children plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Michael Gerrard, an environmental law professor at Columbia University, said the Supreme Court’s stay of the cause is unusual, and it’s unclear if the lower court trial will ultimately happen.
“It is very unusual for the Supreme Court to order a stay of a trial, especially before the Court of Appeals has ruled — even more so when previous motions for a stay have been denied,” Gerrard told the Washington Examiner. “The odds of the trial actually happening on October 29 have just gone down considerably, though we don't yet know for sure.”
The Justice Department filed an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on Thursday asking it to halt the climate change lawsuit.
In his filing, Solicitor General Noel Francisco criticized the suit, calling it "an attempt to redirect federal environmental and energy policies through the courts rather than through the political process, by asserting a new and unsupported fundamental due process right to certain climate conditions."
The move was a last-ditch effort by the Trump administration to prevent the district court trial.
It comes after Oregon-based U.S. district court Judge Ann Aiken on Monday rejected the government’s attempt to dismiss the case in her court before the trial.
In July, the Supreme Court declined a similar request from the government to put the case on hold.
Our Children’s Trust, representing the group of kids, claims the government, by propping up fossil fuels, has failed to address climate change on behalf of future generations, endangering their health and prosperity. The group originally filed the lawsuit in 2015 in Oregon federal court during the Obama administration.
Both the Trump and Obama administration argued the case threatens the separation of powers, contending that courts cannot rule on broad and speculative issues such as the impact of government policy on climate change.