An Oregon federal judge on Monday ruled that a group of young Americans can move forward with a lawsuit against the US government for climate change inaction but that President Donald Trump cannot be named as a defendant in the case.
The suit was initially filed in 2015 by 21 young people and Our Children’s Trust. It alleged that the federal government violated their due process rights by supporting the use and development of fossil fuels that are harmful to the environment.
The complaint named former president Barack Obama and several federal agencies as defendants but was later amended to include Trump after the 2016 election.
The government on Friday filed a motion to stay the case until it could be reviewed by the Supreme Court. They argued that allowing the case to move forward would violate the separation of powers because of Trump’s presence in the lawsuit.
US District Judge Ann Aiken agreed. She wrote:
But as articulated in Franklin, any equitable relief awarded against a sitting president with respect to his official duties raises constitutional concerns. Accordingly, when effective relief is available against lower administration officials, the Court concludes that dismissal of the President is the correct decision for either type of equitable relief. On the current record, the Court concludes that President Trump is not essential to effective relief because “plaintiffs’ injures can be referred fully by inductive [or declaratory] relief against the remaining defendants.” Due respect for separation of powers therefore requires dismissal of President Trump as a defendant.
The agencies named as defendants in the original lawsuit are still being sued. The case is scheduled to go to trial in federal court on October 29.