A lawsuit filed in a Pennsylvania federal court against the President of the United States has two shocking defendants behind it: a 7-year-old and an 11-year-old. They’re suing him (and the administration, along with the EPA, Scott Pruitt, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry) in order to fight against their continued efforts to throw out the Clean Power Plan.
The children aren’t filing the suit alone — they are helped along by the Clean Air Council. The Clean Air Council, and their two youth partners, argue that by willingly “relying on junk science,” the Trump administration is knowingly worsening and damaging the environment. Their concerns seem to be intergenerational, and that is the basis of the case.
The lawsuit is not without precedent, and it appears that the Clean Air Council is cribbing from a lawsuit filed by Earth Guardians, Our Children’s Trust, 21 youths, ages ranging from ten to 21-years-old. The case, called Juliana V. U.S., was filed against the Obama administration and argued that the administration’s actions and reliance on coal and non-green energy violate young generation’s “constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.” The lawsuit takes a long-term approach by arguing that the damages of climate change will affect the youngest people in our world most intensely, and highlights children’s concerns about climate change.
And it’s not as though this is the President’s first lawsuit. Trump has been sued five times more than President Obama at this point in the administration — 134 times to Obama’s 26. Similarly, former President George W. Bush was sued seven times and former President Bill Clinton 15. It’s a prescient legal strategy by Attorney Generals and attorneys who take issue with President Trump’s many executive actions and orders.
Not all of the lawsuits have legitimate standing. Most of them do — the vast majority have either to do with the Muslim ban, prisoner petitions, or civil rights actions. But some of them aren’t exactly legit (One woman sued because of “loss of enjoyment of life”). Most of the lawsuits have been dismissed — most notably, a lot of lawsuits regarding the Muslim ban were thrown out after the Trump administration backtracked on their hard-line green card position. And whether or not the suit filed in federal court by the two children in Pennsylvania will go anywhere is unclear. It’s not clearly an excellent legal strategy. But what it should do — even though it may not go anywhere — is help people understand the dangers of climate change not just in terms of their own bodies and livelihoods, but of their progeny.