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Source & Scope of Public Health Legal Powers

Juliana v. United States

Overview

Juliana v. United States (U.S. Court of Appeals – Ninth Circuit, Jan. 17, 2020): The Ninth Circuit ordered a federal district court to dismiss a climate change lawsuit against the federal government, holding the court lacked the power to order the government to develop a plan to eliminate fossil fuel emissions and reduce CO2. The plaintiffs argued the government violated their constitutional right to a “climate system capable of sustaining human life” by promoting fossil fuel use. After considering the plaintiff’s evidence, the Ninth Circuit found that climate change is rapidly occurring, the federal government has known of the risks of fossil fuel use and increasing CO2 emissions, and it affirmatively promotes fossil fuels. The plaintiffs sought to stop government from “permitting, authorizing, and subsidizing fossil fuel use,” and to develop a plan to reduce harmful emissions. The Ninth Circuit found the plaintiffs lacked standing, which requires, in part, that the alleged injury is likely to be redressable by a favorable judicial decision. The court ordered the case’s dismissal, concluding the injury was not redressable because “it is beyond the power of an Article III court to order, design, supervise, or implement” a remedial plan involving complex legislative and executive policy decisions. Read the decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – February 18, 2020.

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