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Supreme Court for Now Won’t Halt Youths’ Climate-Change Trial (1)

Nov. 2, 2018, 11:36 PMUpdated: Nov. 3, 2018, 2:29 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court refused, for now, to stop a trial in a sweeping lawsuit pressed by young people seeking to force the federal government to take steps against climate change.

The order Nov. 2, which came over two dissents, rejected a Trump administration bid. But it said the administration could return to a federal appeals court and ask it to stop the case from going forward in a federal court in Oregon. The justices also didn’t preclude another Supreme Court request later.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch said they would have stopped the trial immediately. The three-page unsigned order didn’t explicitly say how the other justices voted, including the court’s newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh.

The Supreme Court order lifts a temporary halt issued earlier by Chief Justice John Roberts. The trial had been set to start this week before Roberts intervened.

The 21 young people pressing the case say U.S. government policies have exacerbated global warming for decades in violation of their constitutional rights and those of future generations. They want the government to put in place a plan to phase out carbon emissions and stabilize the Earth’s climate. The youths were all under age 20 when the suit was filed in 2015.

The Trump administration inherited the case from President Barack Obama’s administration, which had similarly tried to have it thrown out.

In asking the high court to intervene, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco called the suit “an attempt to redirect federal environmental and energy policies through the courts rather than through the political process.“

Lawyers for the youths said the Supreme Court should follow its usual practice and stay out of the case until the trial judge had reached a final decision. Supreme Court intervention at such an early stage “will disrupt the integrity of the judiciary’s role as a check on the political branches and will irreparably harm these children,” the lawyers said.

The Supreme Court in July rejected a similar request to halt the lawsuit as premature but hinted at skepticism, saying the breadth of the youths’ claim was “striking.“

In the latest order, the justices noted that a San Francisco-based federal appeals court had likewise rejected requests to stop the case because at the time the litigation was still in its early stages and there was a chance the case might be narrowed.

“Those reasons are, to a large extent, no longer pertinent,” the Supreme Court said Friday. The court said the trial was scheduled to last 50 days and was to have begun on Oct. 29 before Roberts’ order.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission

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To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net