A federal appeals court Wednesday rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a group of kids who want to force the government to do to fight climate change.
The San Francisco-based Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that it would be premature to dismiss the case based on how burdensome the Trump administration believes the process of searching for documents and questioning people will be, a process called discovery.
“The defendants’ argument fails because the district court has not issued a single discovery order, nor have the plaintiffs filed a single motion seeking to compel discovery. Rather, the parties have employed the usual meet-and-confer process of resolving discovery disputes,” the three-judge panel wrote in their Wednesday decision.
“The defendants rely on informal communications as to the scope of discovery — in particular, the plaintiffs’ litigation hold and demand letter — but the plaintiffs have clarified that these communications were not discovery requests.”
Filed in 2015 in Oregon federal court by 21 youths and two environmental groups against numerous federal agencies, the lawsuit argues that since the federal government knows reasonably well about the consequences of climate change, it has a constitutional duty to take stronger actions to protect the children’s futures.
Federal attorneys have argued that the lawsuit’s basis is too speculative and broad, and that the courts shouldn’t let it move forward.
The Oregon court has rejected bids by the government to dismiss the case or to restrict the discovery process, leading the Trump administration to appeal to the 9th Circuit for a “writ of mandamus,” a rare action in which the court could potentially order the lower court to dismiss the case.
“Absent any discovery order, the mandamus petition is premature insofar as it is premised on a fear of burdensome discovery,” the appeals court judges said.
Such pleas are subject to a five-part test, including an examination of other avenues available and whether a party would be injured beyond correction, all of which the court said the government failed to demonstrate.
The lower court in Oregon can now continue considering the case and any discovery requests.
Alex Kozinski was one of the judges who originally heard the 9th Circuit argument in December. He retired shortly afterward over allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct, but Judge Michelle Friedland took over his spot in the climate case.