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Environment and Land Use Chair Paul Weiland Quoted In Law360 On Key Issues In Kids' Climate Change Suit

02/04/2019 Law360

Paul Weiland was recently quoted in the Law360 article, “4 Key Issues In Kids' Climate Suit At 9th Circ.”  The article discusses how the “federal government wants the Ninth Circuit to save it from having to face a trial over whether its policies contribute to climate change” and notes that “the court must resolve several potentially groundbreaking issues first, including the judiciary’s reach over environmental and energy policies.”  The trial is the result of a suit filed by a group of 21 plaintiffs, who ranged in age from 8 to 19 at the time of the filing. 

Commenting on the hurdle the plaintiffs face in proving they have legal standing to pursue the lawsuit and the government’s pushback on their claims, Mr. Weiland said that the “government will frequently challenge plaintiffs’ standing, and in this case the youths behind the suit [have] a steep…hill to climb.  The stakes are a lot higher and the arguments are more novel.”  

Mr. Weiland also spoke on how the remedy aspects of the suit raise a number of questions regarding how much authority a court has to create a remedy to a diffuse problem such as climate change.  “There's a concern about the balance of power among the three branches, and the importance of the kind of institutional checks that are created by the Constitution…” he said.

Lastly, discussing the prospects beyond the Ninth Circuit, Mr. Weiland said that if the case reaches the Supreme Court, he “sees the plaintiffs’ chances at any success plummeting… if the Ninth Circuit greenlights a trial, that could be interpreted as a vast expansion of plaintiffs’ standing rights that the justices could be keen to weigh in on.”  He added that “[s]ince the Berger court of the early 1970s when the environmental movement was at its high point and the Supreme Court was fairly sympathetic, it’s gotten somewhat more cautious, and frankly with the newly composed court I would expect it will continue to move in that direction.”

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