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Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided Hoboken v. Chevron, rejecting the oil company defendants' efforts to remove state-law-based climate change claims to federal court. The opinion by Judge Stephanos Bibas is short and to the point, and makes quick work of the oil company efforts to derail climate change-based tort claims filed in state court.
Our federal system trusts state courts to hear most cases—even big, important ones that raise federal defenses. Plaintiffs choose which claims to file, in which court, and under which law. Defendants may prefer federal court, but they may not remove their cases to federal court unless federal laws let them. Here, they do not.
Oil companies ask us to hear two sweeping climate-change suits. But the plaintiffs filed those suits in state court based only on state tort law. And there is no federal hook that lets defendants remove them to federal court. So we will affirm the District Courts' orders sending them back.
In his opinion, Judge Bibas swiftly and soundly dispatches the oil companies' three arguments for removal: 1) that tort claims based upon climate change actually arise under federal law either because they are "inherently federal" or because they necessarily raise substantial federal issues justifying removal; 2) that the claims relate to oil production on the Outer Continental Shelf, and 3) that the oil companies were acting under federal officers.
There is a logic to the argument that issues like climate change should be handled at the federal level, as opposed to in state-law-based litigation in state courts. I am sympathetic to that argument. Yet that is a choice to be made by Congress, not the courts. As Judge Bibas concludes:
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