Ongoing lawsuit naming "future generations" as plaintiffs; advice sought for how to investigate

post by kokotajlod · 2018-01-23T22:22:08.173Z · score: 8 (8 votes) · EA · GW · Legacy · 6 comments

Juliana vs. US is an ongoing lawsuit. Notably, it names "FUTURE GENERATIONS" as plaintiffs in the case.

I don't know much law, but I hear precedents are important, and so maybe EA's concerned about the long-term future should be especially interested in ensuring that this case sets a good one.

I heard about this from someone I met yesterday who studies this case. I'm going to meet with him someday soon and ask more questions. What questions should I ask?

So far I intend to follow the importance/neglectedness/tractability framework and ask questions like "What is the budget of this organization? Is there no other precedent, are they really the first case of this kind? Is it too late to change anything about their approach, or are there still decisions that need to be made?" But I think people with more legal background than me (I have zero) could suggest better questions to ask...

Also, I'm interested in hearing whether or not I've completely misjudged the expected value of looking into this. Maybe this sort of thing is actually not that important or tractable?

Thanks in advance.




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comment by mhpage · 2018-01-25T03:21:02.971Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I haven't read about this case, but some context: This has been an issue in environmental cases for a while. It can manifest in different ways, including "standing," i.e., who has the ability to bring lawsuits, and what types of injuries are actionable. If you google some combination of "environmental law" & standing & future generations you'll find references to this literature, e.g.:

Last I checked, this was the key case in which a court (from the Phillipines) actually recognized a right of future generations:

Also, people often list parties as plaintiffs for PR reasons, even though there's basically no chance that a court would recognize that the named party has legal standing.

comment by mhpage · 2018-01-25T03:24:43.549Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Related (and perhaps of interest to EAs looking for rhetorical hooks): there are a bunch of constitutions (not the US) that recognize the rights of future generations. I believe they're primarily modeled after South Africa's constitution (see &

comment by kokotajlod · 2018-01-25T03:44:32.314Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

OK, thanks! This is very helpful, I'm reading through the article you cite now.

comment by zdgroff · 2018-01-25T01:51:20.031Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

This seems really exciting and promising to me now that you point it out. I did not pay much attention to this lawsuit since I classified it in my head as a climate change thing, and climate change is much more crowded than other high-impact future causes. Based on what I know of the U.S. legal system, though, having a lawsuit recognize future generations' claims would be a pretty big deal and probably very good for far future causes in general. I'm glad you thought of this.

comment by MarkusAnderljung · 2018-02-02T11:52:51.859Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Sounds really interesting!

Here are some potentially interesting things to be aware of:

comment by kokotajlod · 2018-01-24T15:48:21.938Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I should clarify: I'm not only looking for help from lawyers. Any advice or ideas would be appreciated.