Teenage Anti-Wasteland

Looks like not all teenagers are complete idiots. On Wednesday, June 11, the Oregon Court of Appeals found in favor of Kelsey Juliana, 18, and Olivia Chernaik, 14, who filed a lawsuit in 2012 challenging Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen’s ruling that that courts lack the authority to order state officials to create climate change initiatives.

“They Deserve Their Day in Court”

Rasmussen’s original ruling stated that the issue was one for the state government’s legislative and executive branches. The appellate court found to the contrary, saying that state courts do have the necessary authority, adding that the teens’ request for a public trust declaration should be considered.

After hearing arguments in January at the University of Oregon School of Law, a three-judge panel of the appellate court handed down their decision.

“The court found that these young people deserve their day in court to establish that their government has an obligation to protect their public trust resources, including the atmosphere, said the teenagers’ attorney Chris Winter.

Though the state has not yet decided on any potential legal response, according to department spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson, State Justice Department officials have 35 days to ask the state Supreme Court to review the new ruling.

Ruling “Validates the Younger Generation’s Voice”

Though Oregon’s state Legislature adopted a carbon emission reduction plan in 2007, Juliana and Chernaik’s lawsuit urges the state to take additional action. Filed in 2011, the teens’ lawsuit received support for Our Children’s Trust of Eugene.

Photo credit: Liz | populational / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Photo credit: Liz | populational / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Similar lawsuits have been filed by children and teenagers in all 50 states as part of a coordinated effort to boost government efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Based on the legal principle of public trust doctrine, these lawsuits maintain that state governments must keep their states’ natural resources in a trust for current and future residents.

The Eugene teens’ case has found widespread support from politicians and numerous other groups across the state. Juliana said in a statement that the ruling “makes [her] very proud to be an Oregonian. It validates the younger generation’s voice and lets us know that we are listened to and considered, and that our future matters.”

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