Your Legal Right to a Healthy Environment: Juliana Redux

Joel B. Stronberg
5 min readJun 20, 2023

In 2015 21 youths between the ages of eight and 17 asked a federal court to find that they have a constitutionally protected right to a healthy and su-stainable environment. In the interim, more than a few of the 21 youths are now 20-somethings. They’ve yet to have their day in court.

But it’s all about to change — twice over. First, a bit of background on the cases is in order.

Juliana v. US is a federal case that looks to establish a habitable environment as a constitutionally protected right. The case has been in and out of the courts multiple times, including the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS). A recent decision by the US District Court in Oregon has now cleared the way for a trial to begin, although a date has not been set.

Held v. Montana is being brought by “16 Montana youth against their State to protect their equal rights to a healthy environment, life, dignity, and freedom.” The plaintiffs in Held are accusing Montana of violating Articles II and IX of the state’s 1972 Constitution. Article II, Section 3 states, “All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right to a clean and healthful environment.

Article IX of Montana’s state constitution provides:

The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.

The youth are also “challenging the constitutionality of a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act that prohibits the state from considering the impacts of climate change when making certain decisions about which projects to permit.”

A Montana state court will hear Held beginning on June 12, 2023. The court proceeding is expected to take two weeks.

The Held plaintiffs are asking the court “to declare that Montana’s fossil fuel energy policies and actions violate young people’s state constitutional rights. The youth want the court to tell the government that it is unconstitutional to keep exploiting fossil fuels and they need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and transition to clean energy no later than 2050.”

Held is the first-ever constitutional climate case that has made it to trial in the US



Joel B. Stronberg

Stronberg is a thought leader in the climate community with over 40 years of experience covering environmental and sustainability issues as a freelancer.