Whittier Law Student Helps Draft High-Profile Lawsuit against United States Government

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Last month, a high-profile lawsuit was filed against President Obama and assorted agencies of the US government by 21 young people from around the country. Curtis Morrison, a Whittier Law School 3L, spent most of his summer helping lawyers draft that complaint as an extern with the environmental law non-profit Our Children’s Trust.

“My time preparing Our Children’s Trust complaint was spent primarily researching facts for the lawsuit, including scouring countless government reports over the last 50 years,” said Curtis. “That’s the most amazing part about this lawsuit…we uncovered that the defendant, the United States, knew in 1965 (under President Johnson) what the devastating impacts of the last 50 years of fossil fuel promotion would have on the climate, but that didn’t stop the defendant from promoting, permitting, licensing, and defending fossil fuel consumption in every way imaginable. Our complaint alleges that the government’s promotion of that fossil fuel enterprise violates fundamental rights of our youth plaintiffs.”

Curtis first heard about Our Children’s Trust at the University of Oregon School of Law’s Public Interest Environmental Law Conference. “I learned they had been working since 2011 to promote the use of the Public Trust Doctrine against governments as a way for youth plaintiffs to secure their rights to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate system.”

This led him to the externship this summer. “Mind you, I’d only learned what the public trust doctrine was a few months before in Professor Reich’s environmental law class. So in a matter of months, I went from not knowing what the public trust doctrine was, to working on what will hopefully be the most important case applying it in history,” he says. The government’s response to the Complaint is expected in early November.

Curtis felt very well prepared for his experience. “WLS professors, especially Professor Mate, invested a lot of work in me that put me on track for that amazing externship, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Also, I’m really hoping I’m not the last WLS student to extern with Our Children’s Trust!”

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