Social Change Litigation Part II D.C. Personal Injury Lawyer
Litigation is a tool that can be used to effectuate social change.
Here, we cover current and recent litigation across the country hoping to make the world a better place.
BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore
The City of Baltimore sued BP and other fossil fuel companies for their role in climate change. The suit alleges that the companies knew about the impacts of its actions yet continued to produce fossil fuels, and that global warming has already caused rising sea levels, heat waves, and extreme precipitation. The lawsuit sought damages to compensate the city for the costs.
The city initially was filed in a state court. B.P. argued that it acted at the direction of federal officials, and under the federal-officer removal statute, requested a change of venue. The suit was removed (transferred) to a United States District Court for the District of Maryland. There, Judge Ellen Hollander ordered the case back to the state court due to lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The defendants appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit upheld Judge Hollander’s ruling. The oil companies petitioned to the Supreme Court. Oral arguments were heard on January 19, 2021.
Juliana v. United States
The plaintiffs claimed that the federal government violated their constitutional right to a clean and sustainable climate. The suit asked the court to order the defendants to cease using and phase out fossil fuels CO2 emitting actions.
The case was dismissed in January 2020. The court opined that even assuming that the constitutional right to a clean and sustainable climate existed, it did not have the power to grant such a broad order.
AB 32 Private Prisons
Assembly Bill No. 32 was passed in California in October 2019. The bill banned new private prison contracts and set a plan to phase out existing for-profit prisons entirely by 2028. Governor Newsom and other proponents argue that private prisons create incentives for higher incarceration rates and mistreatment of prisoners to cut costs. Former President Donald Trump’s administration sued, saying that the bill is unconstitutional because it violates the supremacy clause; they argued that federal agencies have the power to decide how to house prisoners and detainees. The judge upheld the ban one year later.
Nielsen v. Shinn
The NAACP, along with five Arizona prisoners, sued the Arizona Department of Corrections for contracting with private prisons, alleging that giving incarceration rights to for-profit corporations (thus granting corporations property interest in humans) is effectively modern-day slavery. The corporations treat prisoners as economic assets; they become property.
The suit asks the federal court to declare private prisons to be unconstitutional and to prohibit them in the future.
John Davey, founder of Abolish Private Prisons, writes that “what was affecting the value of the stock shares was projections of the number of people that would be incarcerated in private prisons…the auction of human beings, if you will, through what we call public procurement and the government sector ties the value of an individual in a prison cell to the value of the stock shares of the corporations.”
We’ll have to wait and see what happens with climate change and private prison litigation in the coming years.
If you’ve been injured due to negligence or wrongful conducts, the experienced attorneys at Cohen & Cohen can help get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (202) 955-4529 for a free case evaluation.