Harvard Divestment Lawsuit Appealed

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Excerpt from today’s Harvard Crimson:

Students from the environmental activist group Divest Harvard have appealed the dismissal of their lawsuit filed against the University last November, which asks the court to compel Harvard to divest its $37.6 billion endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

The appeal, filed on Oct. 5 to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, is the group’s second attempt to use legal action to prompt Harvard to divest its endowment from fossil fuels. Their initial lawsuit was dismissed by a Massachusetts Superior Court judge for lack of standing in a March hearing after Harvard and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office filed motions to dismiss. Superior Court Justice Paul D. Wilson ruled that the students brought their activism to “a forum that cannot grant the relief they seek.”

Despite the initial unfavorable ruling, Harvard’s climate activists are adamant about continuing their legal battle. The plaintiffs, who call themselves the Harvard Climate Justice Coalition, claim in their 113-page appeal that Harvard has mismanaged its endowment by investing in “abnormally dangerous activities” and allege that Harvard is violating its charitable duties as a nonprofit by failing to divest.

Though the plaintiffs may not introduce new arguments at the appeals stage, according to plaintiff and Harvard Law School student Alice M. Cherry, the brief seeks to argue why the dismissal was unwarranted so that the case can proceed in a lower court.

“It was an error for the Superior Court judge to grant the Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” the appeal brief read.

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This time around, the plaintiffs appear to have more external support to bolster their case. The Animal Legal Defense Fund and James E. Hansen, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, have filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the Harvard students, according to a press release. In addition, the Cambridge City Council has voted unanimously to support the lawsuit.

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Read the entire article here.

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