Heartland Daily News H. Sterling Burnett | June 23, 2020
In another in a string of defeats of lawsuits in which youth plaintiffs are attempting to force governments to take action to fight climate change, Florida Circuit Court Judge Kevin Carroll dismissed a lawsuit brought by eight Florida youths against Gov. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
This defeat tracks the history of cases brought by climate activist law firms on behalf youths in Alaska, Montana, Oregon, Washington state, and in a federal case dismissed earlier this year. In those cases, as in the Florida decision, the courts found legislative bodies, not the courts, are the appropriate forum in which to shape states’ and the nation’s climate and energy policies.
No Constitutional Violations
In the case, Reynolds v. State of Florida, the plaintiffs, ranging in age from 12 to 22, alleged state political leaders had violated their constitutional rights to a healthy environment and the public trust doctrine to manage natural resources responsibly, by not taking serious action to prevent climate change and by supporting the continued development and use of fossil fuels.
Florida’s Attorney General’s office argued the state’s public trust doctrine applies only to certain waterways and some shorelines, not the air, and matters of climate and energy policies are for voters and the legislature, not courts, to decide.
Carroll agreed, rejecting the case before it went to trial, saying he concluded climate concerns were more appropriately settled in state capitols and by governors, rather than judges.
“We can’t rely on judges to be dictators of public policy because, at the end of the day, a dictator in a black robe isn’t any better than a dictator in a suit or in a military uniform,” wrote Carroll in the June 1 ruling dismissing the case.
Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.