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Kanuk v. State, Dep't of Natural Resources

Supreme Court of Alaska

September 12, 2014

NELSON KANUK, a minor, by and through his guardian, SHARON KANUK; ADI DAVIS, a minor, by and through her guardian, JULIE DAVIS; KATHERINE DOLMA, a minor, by and through her guardian, BRENDA DOLMA; ANANDA ROSE AHTAHKEE LANKARD, minor, by and through her guardian, GLEN " DUNE" LANKARD; and AVERY and OWEN MOZEN, minors, by and through their guardian, HOWARD MOZEN, Appellants,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, Appellee

Page 1089

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Sen K. Tan, Judge. Superior Court No. 3AN-11-07474 CI.

Brad D. De Noble, Eagle River, for Appellants.

Seth M. Beausang, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellee.

Peter Van Tuyn, Rebecca L. Bernard, and Teresa B. Clemmer, Bessenyey & Van Tuyn, L.L.C.,. Anchorage, for Amici Curiae Law Professors.

Gabriel W. Scott, Cordova, for Amicus Curiae Alaska Inter-Tribal Council.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 1090

MAASSEN, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

The appellants in this case are minors from communities across Alaska who claim that the State has violated its duties under the Alaska Constitution and the public trust doctrine bye failing to take steps to protect the atmosphere in the face of significant and potentially disastrous climate change. The minors argue that the superior court erred

Page 1091

when it dismissed their complaint on grounds that their claims were not justiciable -- specifically, that the claims involved political questions best answered by other branches of state government. On that basis we affirm the dismissal of the claims asking the court to set specific standards for carbon dioxide emissions and to order the State to implement reductions in accordance with those standards.

The minors also sought a declaratory judgment on the nature of the State's duty to protect the atmosphere; the claims for declaratory relief do not present political questions. We nonetheless affirm their dismissal, because in the absence of justiciable claims for specific relief, a declaratory judgment will not settle the parties' controversy or ...


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