Parting Shots

That’s Not Justice

Fronting kids as legal foils, OCT sought to bypass Montana’s entire political system in court, especially Montana’s uncooperative, elected Legislature

By Dave Skinner

A million weekly-newspaper years ago, I wrote about a thankfully-failed lawsuit filed by environmental radicals out of Eugene, Oregon, operating as “Our Children’s Trust” or OCT, a 501c3 public charity. 

Fronting kids as legal foils, OCT sought to bypass Montana’s entire political system in court, especially Montana’s uncooperative, elected Legislature. The Montana Supreme Court shot them down unanimously.

Spring 2020 brought new litigation, however: Held v. Montana, the pleadings of which are available on the Net. Tellingly, this new litigation complains “numerous efforts to pass climate change related legislation in Montana have failed, with the legislation never making it out of committee.” So, the target now is executive-branch environmental agencies, aiming to force a court-supervised “climate” regulatory mandate “by a date certain.”

Montana First District (Helena) Judge Kathy Seeley hasn’t granted plaintiffs the immediate injunction they craved, but will hear limited arguments at trial next February.

That’s the what, but who, which helps explain why?

Well, like every other political dark-money “charity,” OCT must file IRS Form 990 reports that eventually become public about 18 months after any fiscal year. In 2019 they collected over $4 million (without spending a dime on fundraising), a massive increase from 2015 ($357,000). But OCT’s donor list is, of course, totally “RESTRICTED” from public scrutiny. 

Nonetheless, other search methods revealed some clues: $75,000 in 2019 to OCT from Foundation for the Carolinas, another $102,000 passed through the Oregon Community Trust in 2017, and $15,000 in 2017, partly for “fracking work,” through the half-billion-a-year Tides Foundation. The commonality? All these foundations are “donor advised,” meaning they use accounting that strips donated cash of any identifiers while giving secret donors a nice tax whiff. Not an accident, kids. OCT’s rich funders don’t want to be identified as totalitarian kooks.

What about the lawyers? Three, led by Nathan Bellinger of OCT, a David Brower Fellow at U of Oregon Eugene. Dave Brower (now deceased) was environmentalism’s “archdruid,” too radical for even the Sierra Club he led for a time.

Joining are co-counsels Shiloh Hernandez of the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC), son of longtime Montana Wilderness Association staffer Cesar Hernandez, and Flathead lawyer Roger Sullivan, who made his biggest mark (actually a good one) against Anaconda Aluminum’s fluoride emissions back in the last century.

OCT insists Held v. Montana is a “youth-led constitutional climate lawsuit.” Top plaintiff Rikki Held is a young adult, 18 when the case was filed in spring 2020, an environmental science major at Colorado College. But the others, ages 4 through 17 today are represented “by and through [their adult] guardian [.]” Who?

Well, I’ll just stick with a few one might have heard of before, or clearly have related ideological or professional interests. One guardian is, yep, Cesar Hernandez, lawyer Shiloh’s dad. Guardian Laura King, a Harvard graduate, is an attorney with Shiloh at WELC, having represented Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Information Center in other litigation.

There are even Flathead Valley plaintiffs. Guardian (of two plaintiffs, both veterans of OCT’s failed 2011 lawsuit) Sara Busse is in public relations. 

Fly-fishing guide and writer Todd Tanner founded and runs both the climate-change nonprofit “Conservation Hawks” and a “School of Trout,” held at the Trout Hunter lodge in Island Park, Idaho. 

I could go on, but let’s face it. The adults participating in (actually, leading) this “youth-led” lawsuit have the agenda and agency here – unilaterally turning global society into a decarbonized utopia by whatever means works. Do they expect their kids will rule this brave new world in turn?

OCT’s “guardians” are failing to make headway with their fellow adults through the democratic processes free societies fight so hard to keep. Not even forum-shopping in the grown-up court system has worked to their satisfaction. So now, they’re fronting their kids as foils in hopes of justice?

That’s not justice. 

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