Category Archives: Reynolds v. State of Florida

Whether COVID-19 or Climate Change, Trust in Science


Today, more than ever, science and scientists are the key to our collective futures. Doctors and nurses are heroically saving lives while putting their own lives at risk in the process. Chemists and biologists will soon be saviors when they invent a cure. As we seek expert solutions to the pandemic, it is my hope that the COVID-19 crisis will make clear the profound importance of science and scientists to our society. And when it comes to our climate crisis, respect for science can help us all unite to solve the crisis by better understanding the scientific research that predicts, for example, that coastal communities including South Florida are at risk of extinction from sea level rise.

Consider a new scientific study that illustrates how grave the future is unless society quickly moves away from fossil fuels and embraces sustainable energy everywhere. Researchers from the University of Illinois, University of Hawaii, and the U.S. government studied over 200 tide gauges and concluded that in about 30 years the accelerating speed of sea level rise will cause what are today rare flooding events to become annual occurrences for over 70% of the U.S. coastline, according to the study published in Scientific Reports. And by 2100, flooding currently considered a once in a lifetime event will become a daily high tide occurrence for more than 90% of coastal communities.

These scenarios threaten to cause billions of dollars in damage, along with the very viability of some communities to exist. Major cities such as Honolulu, New Orleans, and yes, Miami, the place I call home, will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding and stronger storms fueled by the global heating caused by human activity. The time is past due to listen to the science and act accordingly.

Thankfully, the world’s youth get it. We are deeply worried about the climate crisis and those concerns permeate political affiliation, race, religion, or economic standing. As we mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, consider the diversity of young people profiled in the April National Geographic article Fighting for Their Future, highlighting young climate activists from Rwanda, Nepal, Sweden, Canada, England, and including myself from Miami. We embrace the science and want to see our governments quickly lead us into a sustainable future before it’s too late for places we love like No Name Key, Miami, and the Everglades that are at risk of being forever lost due to our fossil fuel use.

And that’s why, in April 2018, seven of my friends and I filed a lawsuit, Reynolds v. State of Florida, against the State of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, the Florida Department of Agriculture Agriculture and Commissioner Nikki Fried, the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund and the Public Service Commission.

We believe to our core that Floridians have a constitutional right to a stable climate system and that the state government is actively contributing to our climate catastrophe by supporting an antiquated energy system based on fossil fuels. They are demonstrating a deliberate indifference to our fundamental rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. In doing so, they are violating the Florida Constitution.

We are asking the judiciary to order the government to protect our constitutional rights and create a climate recovery plan to transition Florida’s energy system to one based on clean energy solutions before it’s too late. We believe that when government actions infringe on our constitutional rights, then we must look to the judiciary for protection.

Like the amazing scientists responsible for keeping us safe during the COVID-19 crisis, our legal system should protect our constitutional rights. And just as our scientists will solve the pandemic, it is my hope that at our first hearing, now scheduled for June 1, that Florida’s court system will protect our constitutional rights to a stable climate before it’s too late.

Sleight of Hand: Florida’s Magician Governor Rick Scott

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I love a good magic show and have been fooled by some of the best. When street magician extraordinaire David Blaine made ¾ of a deck of cards disappear in front of my eyes just prior his show here in Miami last year, I was stunned. By any measure, David is an amazing artist and makes his craft look, well, like real magic.

But as wonderful as he is, you know that he’s an expert at deception, at sleight of hand, of making uncomfortable, often impossible things appear normal. Right before your eyes.

Carter The Great

The longer I follow Florida’s Governor Rick Scott the more I become convinced that he’s also a world class necromancer, a magician of sorts (apologies to real magicians). In fact, David Blaine has nothing on our Governor and if you were to wonder why I think this, you need only to consider a few of the tricks he’s pulled on Floridians and our environment in recent years.

Alakazam: Making “Climate Change” Disappear


Houdini would blush at how Governor Rick Scott made our climate crisis and phrases like “climate change”, “sea level rise” and “global warming” disappear from state records and reports during his terms in office as was widely reported in the media and press (click here to learn more).

Rather than deal with the issue in a direct, decent way, the Governor has insisted that those who work for him should avoid using these terms and others as if the problem does not exist. You can learn more about his tricks and even see him perform by watching the short video produced by Ahead of the Tide entitled Chapter Three: The Political Climate.

The Amazing Power Plant Vote Vanish


Conjurer, I mean Governor, Scott pulled an especially big rabbit out of his hat in Broward County last month by making a long-expected vote in support of a gigantic new power plant disappear. Scott’s largest corporate donor (giving a reported $ 500,000 to his U.S. Senate campaign), Next Era Energy’s Florida Power & Light (FPL) plans to build the new power plant in Dania, a facility it describes as world class. Unfortunately, we’ve also learned that the planned “Dania Beach Clean Energy Center” plant will produce a “net increase from some pollutants”.

The Governor did not, of course, use his magic to require his friends at FPL make the pollution disappear. Doing that would have been rude considering the price they’ve paid ($ 500,000) for tickets to his “show”.

No, what he did was postpone the long-planned September 11th hearing to approve the plant until after the upcoming election, likely deciding it better that news of the plant, its vote, his support and especially the news that it will actually increase pollution disappear until after the polls close. It’s like watching that age-old trick where the magician asks you to find where the ball is hidden under a set of cups, reliant upon the notion that the hand is quicker than the eye.

Florida’s Climate Change Litigation Levitation


And that leads me to this week’s long planned legal Hearing in Tallahassee for the climate change lawsuit that seven other Florida children and I have brought against the State, our Governor and others. We filed our case (Reynolds v. State of Florida) in April (you can read about it here).

Late Monday, just three days before the October 4th Hearing and many months after the Judge was assigned the case, Judge Cooper announced that he was recusing himself due to a conflict of interest, turning the case back over to the Chief Justice and, thus, requiring that a new Judge and Hearing date be set. You can read about the Judge’s recent decision in the article from Politico below:

Key hearing in climate change lawsuit delayed after judge steps aside

By Bruce Ritchie

10/01/2018 05:49 PM EDT

A state judge today removed himself from a lawsuit challenging Florida’s inaction on climate change, indefinitely delaying a key hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday.

Circuit Court Judge John C. Cooper, in an order recusing himself from the case, said he had a conflict of interest and asked the chief judge to assign one of his colleagues to the matter.

Cooper provided no details about led to the decision and did not respond to requests for comment. He had scheduled the Thursday hearing to consider the state’s motion to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit, filed in April, alleges state officials ignored a constitutional policy requiring Florida “to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty.”

Briefs filed in July on behalf of Gov. Rick Scott several state agencies argue the state constitution is not self-executing and that the court is being asked to involve itself in policy decisions and executive branch functions.

The lawsuit was filed by eight Florida residents ranging in age from 10 to 20 and is supported by the Oregon-based nonprofit Our Children’s Trust, which has been involved in similar lawsuits in other states.

A copy of Cooper’s request can be viewed by clicking here.



The immediate reaction by many was to ask whether the Governor and politics have played a role in this surprise news just days before the Hearing. Lawyers tell me this type of decision this close to a planned Hearing is unusual but not unprecedented. And, of course, there is supposed to be a separation between our Executive and Judicial branches of government but the recent Supreme Court deliberations in Washington illustrate that that politics and the courts interact in strange and mysterious ways.

Whether the Governor performed some sort of sleight of hand to not face our concerns (and us) just before the election, I can’t say, but as a well-known climate change denier and someone who has spent two terms avoiding the topic he’s likely not unhappy with the news. Having to publicly answer tough questions about his total lack of action on an issue impacting millions of Floridians, one that local communities are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on to mitigate could and should hurt his chances on November 6th, so the postponement could be seen as welcome news the same way delaying the polluting power plant vote might help.

Political hocus pocus?


But you can rest assured that our Hearing will be rescheduled and that we will have our day, likely many days, in Court. My young friends and I are resilient, we will NEVER give up until we solve the climate crisis and our society shifts to sustainable energy solutions. Doing that will not require magic but hard work and perseverance to break through established politics and special interests.

Until then, please keep in mind that the real magic this Fall takes place in the voting booth where the Governor can be made to vanish from office and, I hope, disappear from politics all together faster than you can say Sim Sala Bim. The magic wand to make that happen is in your hands and appears on November 6th. I sure hope you use it wisely. Florida’s future depends on it.

Why October 2018 Is Critical To Climate Change Cases


I am pleased to share two important legal updates with everyone related to both the historic Florida and Federal climate change lawsuits that youth are bringing against our State and Federal government and that are progressing through the courts.

Here in Florida the case Reynolds v. Florida, in which I am involved in suing Governor Rick Scott, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam and the State of Florida along with seven other children, we seek that the State uphold its legal duties outlined in the Florida Constitution and Public Trust Doctrine to protect our environment and current and future generations from the impacts of climate change.

As expected, the State responded to the lawsuit we filed in April by asking that the Court dismiss the case and on October 4th we will have a hearing in Judge Cooper’s courtroom in Tallahassee. You can read our lawsuit by clicking here and the Governor/State’s initial responses by clicking here.

We look forward to our day in Court and all of the children are excited about the opportunity to continue to seek justice here in Florida so as to protect our State and planet for future generations.

“The breadth of (the youth’s) claims is striking”


The folks at Our Children’s Trust, the people helping with my Florida case, are making fantastic progress with their Federal case: Juliana v. United States. President Trump and his Administration have been aggressively trying to stop that case but the Federal Courts, and most recently the Supreme Court, have sided with the children (and our environment) time and time again. Most recently, here’s what’s been happening in this critically important case:

  • On May 25th, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin issued an order denying the Trump Administration’s motion for protective order and a stay of all discovery.
  • On July 18th, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken heard oral arguments and considered the Trump Administration’s attempt to avoid a trial, something called Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings (MJP) and a Motion for Summary Judgement (MSJ). I am pleased to report that supporters of the children’s case filled the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse and three overflow rooms in Eugene, Oregon.
  • On July 20th, Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas and Circuit Judges Marsha Berzon and Michelle Friedland of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump Administration’s second petition for Writ of Mandamus.
  • And most recently I am pleased to share that just this past Monday, July 30th, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the 21 youth plaintiffs. The Court denied the Trump Administrations application for a stay and, thus, preserved the U.S. District Court’s trial start date of October 29th, 2018. The Supreme Court also denied the government’s “premature”, that’s the word the Court used, request that it review the case before the district court hears all of the facts that support the children’s claims.

The Supreme Court wrote, in part, in rendering its judgement on MondayThe breadth of (the youth’s) claims is strikingThe Court then went on to order the District Court to take the federal government’s “concerns into account in assessing the burdens of discovery and trial, as well as the desirability of a promote ruling on the Government’s pending dispositive motions.” To read more about the Supreme Court’s recently ruling please consider reading an article in the July 31st American Bar Journal that you can find here of from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) Blog of July 30th that you can read here.

And speaking of Our Children’s Trust, October is also an important month for another landmark case, Martinez v. COGCC, a case that seven young plaintiffs have brought against the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission including intervenors the American Petroleum Association and the Colorado Petroleum Association. I am pleased to advise that on October 16th, their attorneys will be arguing before the Colorado Supreme Court. Colorado’s youth are asking the Colorado Supreme Court to affirm a Court of Appeals ruling in their favor from March 2017 and to agree with their view that the Commission has an obligation to protect public health, safety and welfare from the oil and gas development and operations.

It is, I believe, unfortunate that anyone has to sue another entity, much less children having to sue our government, to protect our natural resources but I am incredibly proud of my brave co-plaintiff’s here in Florida, as well as the children all over America involved in the Federal case and other state cases such as Colorado and elsewhere. There is no more important issue to my generation, much less future generations, than the health and safety of our environment, starting with our climate change crisis.

Our concerns related to the global climate change crisis grows by the day and, while broad in their impact to the health and well-being of people, economies and our environment, it is critical that our society significantly evolve in sustainable ways before it’s too late.

The children and I humbly place our concerns into the hands of the American legal system in hopes that the Judges will have the wisdom to remove politics and special interests from the discussion, to focus on the overwhelming facts that support that human use of carbon emitting products such as fossil fuels is causing our climate to warm and to take action before it’s too late.