*Afterthought #121: Still Suing the Government

My April 2021 Afterthought, “Suing the Government,” highlighted the documentary film, YOUTH v GOV.  One year later, I’m writing about the film again, because yesterday, YOUTH v GOV  became available on Netflix. I hope you’ll watch.

This is what the film is about. In 2015, twenty-one young people, ages eight to nineteen, filed a constitutional climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, against the federal government. The lead plaintiff, Kelsey Juliana, was an environmental studies student at the University of Oregon; the youngest, eight-year-old Levi Draheim, was from a barrier island in Florida. Their complaint asserts that, “through the government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.” Many of the plaintiffs, like Levi, were driven by first-hand experience of wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters that threatened them and their families.

Kelsey Juliana

I first heard of the youth’s lawsuit from Liz Smith, my successor as the writer-in-residence on the Interisland ferry.  In her application for the position, Liz listed one of her current projects—co-producer and archival researcher for a feature documentary film, “YOUTH v GOV.”  I learned later that her research work included reviewing hundreds of hours of archival clips of every president from Carter through Obama in which they called on the nation to leave the world a better place for future generations. YOUTH v GOV producer, Christi Cooper, and the team also filmed over two hundred hours of original footage, including stories of the plaintiffs. 

The film’s trailer will give you a preview of this inspiring story and the tenacity of the youth and their lawyers. 

According to the YOUTH v GOV website, as of  March 2022, “the attorneys and youth plaintiffs are awaiting a ruling on their request to amend their 2015 complaint. An oral argument hearing took place in June 2021.”

To learn more about Kelsey Juliana and the rest of the plaintiffs, visit the website of Our Children’s Trust, the non-profit, public interest law firm, that represents them.

*Afterthoughts are my blog version of a practice followed in some Quaker meetings. After meeting for worship ends, people continue in silence for a few more minutes during which they’re invited to share thoughts or reflect on the morning’s worship. I’ve adopted the form here for last-day-of-the-month brief reflections on headlines, quotes, books, previous posts, maybe even bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets.


    1. Great! I think you’ll be inspired – as well as infuriated at our leaders’ long-standing history of inaction to prevent the climate crisis. These youth plaintiffs have reason to sue.

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