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Oregon judge shoots down civil litigation by students

While some young students spend their time writing papers about changes they would like to see in society, two Oregon students went as far as to take their mission to a circuit court in an effort to hold the state to its environmental liability.

The girls, ages 11 and 15, asked both the court and the state's governor to take action in slowing pollution and preserving the land, water, wildlife and atmosphere in Oregon from the effects of climate change. Both students were aided in this process by their mothers and a lawyer. The girls were students at Spencer Butte Middle School and South Eugene High School.

A judge in Lane County Circuit court, however, shot down their request and proclaimed it unconstitutional. The judge explained that a court in one of the state's 36 counties was not permitted to order the rest of the state to scale back on carbon emissions.

Perimeters for carbon emissions in the state were founded in 2007. The students were asking the judge to instruct the governor to obtain information on his state's greenhouse gas emissions and also change the 2007 legislation in order to reduce it. By not doing so, the students argued that the government was not properly taking care of natural resources in Oregon that are used by the public.

An attorney for the state pointed out, that Oregon residents can petition to have legislation repealed or amended, but the judicial branch did not have the power to do so.

The judge continued on in his judgment to say that it is not his place to decide whether the guidelines established in 2007 were sufficient enough. He said that by one judge asserting their opinion in this fashion tears down the principals of democracy.

Neither the girls, nor their legal representation, offered a comment following the ruling. Many other young students throughout the country have filed similar lawsuits. The action has been spurred by a campaign put on by Our Children's Trust in Eugene, Oregon, a partnership of two environmental groups.

Source: The Register-Guard, "Judge dismisses two girls' lawsuit about climate change," Karen McCowan, April 6, 2012

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