The Volokh Conspiracy

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Climate Change

Juliana Plaintiffs Opt Against Filing Cert Petition in Kids Climate Case

Without the prospect of Supreme Court review, does the district court still have jurisdiction to consider a settlement?


The plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States, the so-called "Kids Climate Case," have opted to forego filing a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court, according to this Climatewire report. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the case dismissed in January 2020, and the court denied the plaintiffs' petition for rehearing en banc. While appealling the Ninth Circuit's judgment would prolong the case, it also risked a broad adverse ruling from a Supreme Court unlikely to be very sympathetic to the plaintiffs' aggressive (some would even say outlandish) claims and legal theories.

Now that there is no longer any prospect of Supreme Court review, it would seem that the case has come to an end, but has it? That's not so clear.

As I noted here, the plaintiffs filed a motion to amend their complaint in March. Although the Department of Justice objected, including on the grounds that the district court lacks the jurisdiction to consider the filing, the district court scheduled oral argument on the motion and (perhaps more questionably) ordered the parties to conduct settlement negotiations. These orders prompted responsive filings by Red and Blue state AGs, and Judge Aiken heard argument on the plaintiffs' motion to amend on June 25, but no order has yet issued.

As I understand it, the district court's jurisdiction to continue to oversee proceedings in this case was dependent upon the potential of further appellate review. That is, the district court was not obligated to follow the Ninth Circuit's instruction to dismiss the case so long as it was possible for the plaintiffs to seek (and potentially obtain) further appellate review of that order. But now that we have reached the deadline for a cert petition, and no such petition was filed, it would seem to me that time is up, and Judge Aiken no longer has any authority to consider additional proceedings. I suppose we will soon see whether Judge Aiken sees things the same way.