As more fully described in the Winter 2017 issue of The Climate Report, in November 2016, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken adopted an April 2016 magistrate judge's recommendation to deny motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the federal government by a group of plaintiffs ranging between 8 and 19 seeking relief from government action and inaction allegedly resulting in climate change. Juliana v. United States, No. 6:15-cv-01517 (D. Or.). The fossil fuel industry representatives, who were allowed to intervene as defendants in this matter in January 2016, joined the federal government defendants in moving to dismiss.
On March 7, 2017, the government defendants moved to certify an interlocutory appeal of the district court's November 2016 order denying the motions to dismiss and moved to stay the proceedings. On June 8, 2017, Judge Aiken denied both the motion for interlocutory appeal and the motion to stay. The next day, the government defendants filed a writ of mandamus to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit seeking ultimate dismissal of the case and, in the meantime, a stay of the proceeding until the writ of mandamus is heard on the merits. On July 25, 2017, the Ninth Circuit granted the government defendants' request for a temporary stay pending resolution of the petition for writ of mandamus. On July 28, 2017, the Ninth Circuit ordered the real parties in interest to file a response to the petition for writ within 30 days. The district court filed its response on August 25, 2017, arguing that the government defendants would not be irreparably damaged if the matter proceeded to trial because any error the district court may have made can be corrected during the normal course of a direct appeal following final judgment. Three days later, on August 28, 2017, the plaintiffs filed a response also arguing that the petition should be denied and the matter should proceed to trial at the district court. A decision from the Ninth Circuit on the merits of the mandamus petition is expected shortly.
Separately, in May 2017, following the district court's dismissal of the motions to dismiss, the industry interveners moved to withdraw from the suit, arguing that they no longer sought to pursue their right to participate as parties in the suit. The plaintiffs responded to the motions to withdraw in early June 2017. The plaintiffs did not outright oppose the withdrawal of the interveners but argued that the withdrawal should be granted only with the following conditions: (i) the interveners are dismissed with prejudice; (ii) the withdrawal includes the dismissal of all of the interveners' pending motions and objections; (iii) the interveners are required to pay attorneys' fees and costs; (iv) all legal determinations made to date have stare decisis effect on the interveners' interests or remedies in other litigations, and (v) the interveners are precluded from participating in this case as parties in the future.
On June 28, 2017, Magistrate Judge Coffin granted the industry interveners' motion to withdraw without conditions. In the same order, Judge Coffin also set the trial of the matter to begin on February 5, 2018, in front of Judge Aiken.