The US Supreme Court handed a win on Monday to the over 20 multinational companies being sued by the city of Baltimore after declaring that the legal dispute should be heard in federal courts.
While the Monday ruling did not address the focus of the lawsuit filed by the city of Baltimore, it did state that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals must reconsider a plea by defendants for the suit to be heard in a federal court. The appeals court had previously remanded the case back to the state courts, where it had been initially filed.
The ruling came down 7-1, with the majority opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who declared that the federal branch was fully capable of addressing any issues that may arise from the case.
“Congress is of course free to revise its work anytime,” Gorsuch wrote. “But that forum, not this one, is the proper place for such lawmaking.”
The defendants, some of which include BP PLC, Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC, have argued that the case needed be moved to a federal court because the central issue of fossil fuel extraction is done at the behest of the federal government.
Legal experts believe that if the case is heard in a federal court it would result in a favorable ruling for the defendants, and would result in a domino effect on similar cases working through the court system.
Alongside Gorsuch, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barret, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas sided with the majority. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, whereas Justice Samuel Alito abstained from the decision, as he owns stock in two companies named in the lawsuit.
Supporters of the plaintiffs have condemned Coney Barrett’s participation in the ruling, as her father worked as an attorney for one of the listed companies. Her vote, however, would not have affected the outcome of the ruling.
In her dissent, Sotomayor argued that the high court’s ruling is creating a new avenue in the legal system for appealing and delaying much-needed decisions, underscoring that the city of Baltimore has already waited three years for the case to be heard.