State moves to dismiss unprecedented Colorado River lawsuit
Legal efforts to have Colorado’s eponymous river declared a person have hit a roadblock after federal court proceedings were canceled last week following a filing by the State of Colorado, the defendant in the lawsuit, to have the case dismissed.
The state attorney general’s office, which represents Colorado in the legal proceedings, filed a motion to have the case dismissed, contending that the plaintiffs in the case, environmental group Deep Green Resistance and six other co-plaintiffs, failed to establish the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, and also failed to state a claim for relief.
“The complaint alleges hypothetical future injuries that are neither fairly traceable to actions of the State of Colorado, nor redressable by a declaration that the ecosystem is a ‘person’ capable of possessing right,” stated the request for dismissal.
The state contends the question of whether or not the Colorado River should be declared a legal “person,” with protected rights and options for the redress of grievances, is a political issue, rather than a legal one, stemming from choices of public policy.
“Whether the ecosystem should have the same rights as people, and who should be allowed to assert those rights in federal courts, are matters reserved to Congress by the Constitution,” read the motion to dismiss.
Jason Flores-Williams, a Denver-based civil rights attorney, represents Deep Green Resistance and the other plaintiffs in the case.
Flores-Williams was set to appear in federal court for a status conference last week, but those proceedings were canceled after the state filed its motion to dismiss.
At a press conference late last week, Flores-Williams told attendees he had already filed an amended complaint addressing the issues raised by the state in its motion to dismiss and alleging violations of the river’s rights to due process under the Fifth Amendment, as well as equal-protection violations under the 14th Amendment.
Flores-Williams said he expected the state to submit a new motion to dismiss his amended complaint, after which a hearing would be set to consider the arguments of both sides and determine whether or not the issue is one for federal courts to decide.
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