Does Government have a DUTY to protect common resources for the people? This question, applied to the livability of our environment, has been challenged in various courts for nearly a decade under the Public Trust Doctrine.
What is the latest news? On June 8, 2016, a federal judge denied a Trump administration’s appeal in a climate change lawsuit, paving the way for the unprecedented suit to go to trial. This is the latest chapter of a legal case I’ve been following since 2014 when it was listed as the Texas iMatter TRUST lawsuit. A post still remaining from when I first encountered this case is best updated by
Our Children’s Trust website.
“On June 8, 2017, Judge Ann Aiken denied the Trump administration’s motions seeking an interlocutory appeal of her November 10, 2016 opinion and order denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss a constitutional climate change lawsuit filed by 21 youth. The decision means that the youth, age 9 to 21 and from all over the U.S., now have standing because their rights are at stake, and now their case is headed to trial. But on June 9, 2017, the Trump administration filed a rare “writ of mandamus” to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking, again, to avoid a climate trial.
“The youth had filed their constitutional climate lawsuit against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in 2015. Also acting as a plaintiff is world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James E. Hansen, serving as guardian for future generations and his granddaughter. Their complaint asserts that, through the governments affirmative actions in causing climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.“
Make no mistake, these youth and their collective group are going against the full legal weight of the US Government. This Writ of Mandamus seeks to wrest the proceedings out of the hands of the initial magistrate and subsequent federal judge, bumping it early up to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The filing is in hopes of avoiding discovery due from the industry associations that had argued their way onto the case, only to plead to be allowed to withdraw. This is just one battle briefly won and the court documents of record for their litigation efforts can be found at this link to their Major Court Orders and Pleadings
What is the PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE, and
What resistance is likely from CURRENT FEDERAL OFFICIALS
The current lawsuit began in August of 2015 and argues that the federal government, in its actions, has endangered future generations’ rights to what is known as the public trust. The public trust is an old legal doctrine that holds that it is the government’s responsibility to preserve certain natural resources for public use.
The principle that certain natural and cultural resources are preserved for public use, and that the government owns and must protect and maintain these resources for the public’s use.”
Cornell Law resources“Regardless of how we trace its ancestry the Public Trust Doctrine – the principle of common law directing who owns and manages natural resources – is deeply rooted in our culture and history. Some historians have argued that hunting of game, fishing and wildlife management responsibility components of the doctrine have their origins in English common law dating back to the Saxon invasion of England in about 450 AD and maintained after the Norman Conquest in 1066.”
In the 2012 case PPL Montana, LLC v. Montana, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the public trust doctrine “is of ancient origin” dating back to Roman civil law; that the public trust doctrine is found in state laws throughout our nation; and that federalist principles of our nation affirm the state’s rights and duties over public trust resources within their borders. The public trust is also a central principle in legal systems of many other countries throughout the world.“
The Public Trust Doctrine simplifies to the concept of doing what we do on behalf of our children. It is the drum-beat message for not saddling future generations with intolerable national debt, and in everyday terms it is why parents are expected to scrape as necessary so as to feed, clothe and educate their children.
In examining just how much the tone of reception to this case has shifted from when it started in 2015 against the awareness of climate change of the Obama Administration, I can think of few articles as pointed as this one by “Inside Climate News” from which I accessed the above graphic. The details in the article are recommended reading. See this earlier post for a history of climate denial.