Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Teens Get Day in Court to Make Government Work

Co-plaintiff Kelsey Juliana, 19, listens to arguments in a climate lawsuit brought by her and another teenager at the Lane County Courthouse on Tuesday. She is joined by attorney Liam Sherlock (far right) and Richard Whitman, adviser to Gov. Kate Brown. (Brian Davies/The Register-Guard)

I can think of a bunch of reasons to sue the federal and state governments for ignoring public safety and health. Among them are: crumbling roads and bridges; abandoned and polluted industrial properties; sewer overflows; coal-fired power plants; and nuclear power plants. Government inaction in each of these cases has resulted in serious accidents and public health disasters.

Adults either lack the courage, or more likely, have simply given up when it comes to taking on the federal or state overlords for ignoring public health and welfare responsibilities. But, every so often, teens are willing to step up to the plate and show adults a thing or two.

That’s the case in Oregon.

Two teenagers filed their lawsuit “seeking a court ruling that would force state lawmakers to work harder on a plan to reduce carbon emissions and help stave off climate change”. Their suite is based upon the “public trust doctrine” – “which holds that state governments keep the natural resources of a state in trust for current and future residents”.

Here’s the story:

Judge hears historic climate case

"A Lane County judge on Tuesday heard arguments in a potentially precedent-setting case brought by two Eugene (Oregon) teenagers seeking a court ruling that would force state lawmakers to work harder on a plan to reduce carbon emissions and help stave off climate change."

"One of the two plaintiffs, 19-year-old Kelsey Juliana, sat between her two attorneys during a two-hour hearing before Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen, who will issue a written ruling in the coming weeks. The teens’ lawyers want Rasmussen to rule that the atmosphere is a resource that state officials have a duty to protect on behalf of the public."

"Juliana and her co-plaintiff, 14-year-old Olivia Chernaik, filed suit in 2011, when they were 15 and 11 years old, respectively. Rasmussen dismissed the case in 2012 — ­saying at the time that he was being asked to do a job that should fall to the Legislature and the governor."

"But the matter bounced back to Rasmussen after the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled last year that he does have jurisdiction to consider the lawsuit’s merits."

Go here for more: Judge hears historic climate case, Jack Moran, The Register-Guard, 8 Apr 2015.

Similar action is underway in other nations. Go here for the story in Holland:
In Landmark Case, Dutch Citizens Sue Their Government Over Failure To Act On Climate Change, Natasha Geiling, 14 Apr 2015, Thinkprogress.

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