Photo: Ryan McKee

Photo: Ryan McKee

We are working to file new legal action in New Mexico. If you live in New Mexico and would like to get involved, please contact us


March 12, 2015

New Mexico Court of Appeals Finds Atmosphere Protected by N.M.'s Constitutional Public Trust Provision.

The Court of Appeals of the State of New Mexico issued a highly significant decision in the case of Akilah Sanders-Reed and WildEarth Guardians. The Court ruled that the N.M. Constitution establishes the state’s public trust responsibility to protect the atmosphere. This is the first time any state appellate court has gone so far. This ruling goes a great distance to establishing governments’ responsibilities to preserve the atmosphere as the youth in this case argued and is the most comprehensive expression of public trust protection for New Mexico's natural resources ever issued by a N.M. court. However, the Court also found that the state’s public trust responsibility was met by the state’s compliance with its Air Quality and Control Act (ACQA) which our youth contested. The Court suggested that the youth either ask the State to adopt a specific climate protection rule, and then if they were not satisfied with the rule, to appeal to court again, or, in the alternative, to bring a claim alleging the unconstitutionality of the AQCA. With affirmation of the state’s public trust responsibility for the atmosphere, the youth are evaluating their next steps.

January 27, 2015

New Mexico Court of Appeals Will Hear Oral Argument for Youth's Climate Case.

Come watch a panel of three judges at New Mexico Court of Appeals hear oral argument in Akilah Sanders-Reed's climate change case. Akilah is asking the Court of Appeals to uphold her rights as a beneficiary of the Public Trust Doctrine in New Mexico and order the State of New Mexico to fulfill its duty as trustee by preventing further impairment to the atmospheric trust resource from New Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Sanders-Reed’s and co-plaintiff WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit, filed on May 4, 2011 against Governor Susana Martinez and the State of New Mexico, relies upon the long-established principle of the Public Trust Doctrine, which requires all branches of government to protect and maintain certain shared resources fundamental for human health and survival, like water and air, and in this case the atmosphere and climate system.

We need to show the judges that we support Akilah, in her efforts to protect everyone’s rights to a safe and livable New Mexico.

Help us pack the courtroom!

WHEN: January 27, 2015, 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. MST (please arrive at least 15 minutes early)

WHERE: Court of Appeals courtroom, Room 119, 237 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe, NM

May 30, 2014

Youth Plaintiffs submitted their reply brief in response to the state's answer to their appeal. Plaintiffs' opening brief on appeal can be found here.

March 27, 2014

New Mexico State Representative, Legal Scholars, and Conservation and Tribal Groups Support Youth in Climate Change Lawsuit

New Mexico Representative Gail Chasey, and conservation and tribal groups showed their support for youth plaintiff, Akilah Sanders-Reed and the non-profit, WildEarth Guardians' climate change lawsuit. They filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief documenting the significant threats of climate change to New Mexicans and to support plaintiffs’ request that the Court of Appeals rule that the atmosphere is a public trust resource and that the State has an obligation as trustee to prevent further substantial impairment of the atmosphere from New Mexico’s carbon emissions.

The youth also have the support of 28 top law professors and legal scholars from around the nation, including New Mexico law professors, who filed a separate amicus curiae brief. Their brief informs the Court of the sovereign legal obligations that the Public Trust Doctrine imposes on government to protect the atmosphere from the adverse effects of greenhouse gas pollution.

Read the full press release here.

Plaintiffs' opening brief on appeal can be found here.

August 23, 2013

In their appeal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, Akilah Sanders-Reed and WildEarth Guardians filed their docketing statement, detailing the nature of the proceedings below and the issues on appeal. They are currently waiting for a briefing schedule from the court.

July 24, 2013

Akilah Sanders-Reed took her climate change lawsuit to the New Mexico Court of Appeals, appealing Judge Sarah Singleton’s July 4, 2013 dismissal of her case. The Judge ruled that the Public Trust Doctrine did not apply to the case because New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) “made findings that there was no need to regulate the State’s greenhouse gas emissions, because that would have no impact on the issue of global warming or climate change.”

“The Court erred in determining that the Public Trust Doctrine only applies if the State’s administrative process for dealing with a trust resource was flawed in some way, rather than recognizing that the State has an affirmative obligation to protect crucial natural resources for its citizens,” said Akilah’s attorney, Samantha Ruscavage-Barz of WildEarth Guardians. “The Court also erred in relying on the EIB’s finding that greenhouse gas regulation was unnecessary. The State simply cannot abdicate its trust responsibility in this way.”

Read the press release.

June 25, 2013

New Mexico judge is to decide whether state has violated its public trust duty to protect the atmosphere on Wednesday, June 26th, 1:30pm MST at the First Judicial District Court, 100 Catron St., Santa Fe, NM 87504.
In July 2012, nineteen-year-old Akilah Sanders-Reed’s climate change lawsuit against the state of New Mexico proceeded on the merits after Judge Sarah Singleton denied the state defendants’ motion to dismiss. Judge Singleton’s order recognized that “Plaintiffs have made a substantive allegation that…the state is ignoring the atmosphere with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.”

On Wednesday, nearly one year later, Judge Singleton will hear arguments from attorneys for the plaintiffs and the state on whether the state has violated its public trust duty to protect the atmosphere, specifically relating to whether the New Mexico’s Environmental Improvement Board’s (EIB) repeal of greenhouse gas regulations absolved the state of its duty as trustee of the atmosphere.

This is the first ATL case in the United States to be heard on the merits. The plaintiffs, Sanders-Reed and WildEarth Guardians, filed their case on May 4, 2011 against Governor Susana Martinez and the State of New Mexico. It relies upon the long established principle of the public trust doctrine, which requires all branches of government to protect and maintain certain shared resources fundamental for human health and survival.

The New Mexico ATL case is part of one of the most remarkable legal strategies on the climate crisis to date. The strategy was launched in May of 2011, as part of the TRUST Campaign, in which youth filed legal actions in 49 states and against the federal government.

July 31, 2012

On Progressive Radio Network, CRAG's attorney Tanya Sanerib and our New Mexico youth plaintiff, Akilah Sanders-Reed, joined Sandy LeonVest to talk about Atmospheric Trust Litigation. Take a listen around 17:21 in the show.

July 16, 2012

Judge Sarah Singleton issued her decision denying the state's motion to dismiss and moving the case forward on the merits to determine whether the state has complied with its public trust obligation to protect the atmosphere. This is the first ATL case to proceed to the merits! Congratulations to Samantha Ruscavage-Barz of WildEarth Guardians and Plaintiff Akilah Reed-Sanders.

Check out the press release.

February 16, 2012

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint to address the concerns the court articulated in her response to the government’s motion to dismiss.

January 26, 2012

Hearing on State’s motion to dismiss. Judge Sarah Singleton gave plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint to refine the relief they sought and to specify specific government actions causing harm. Importantly, the court acknowledged during the hearing that the case could be brought as a public trust case and that the atmosphere could be found to be part of the public trust.

July 2011

Motion to dismiss has been filed by the State of New Mexico, and a response is in preparation by OCT partner attorneys. A hearing date has been set for January 26, 9am.

May 4, 2011

Complaint was filed on behalf of plaintiffs by OCT Partners and Wild Earth Guardians Attorneys Sam Ruscavage-Barz and Jay Tutchton against the Governor's Office in the State of New Mexico.