Climate Activists Triumph Based on Climate Necessity!

A Victory! On March 27, 2018, thirteen defendants appeared in Boston’s West Roxbury District Court to answer charges that they blocked construction on the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, a high-pressure natural gas pipeline. They were part of a sustained campaign of civil disobedience that resulted in 198 arrests between October 2015 and September 2016. Although the prosecutor reduced the charges from misdemeanor criminal offenses to civil infractions, Judge Mary Ann Driscoll allowed each defendant to testify on the necessity of their actions.

Following the testimonies, the judge ruled that the defendants were not responsible for any civil infractions because their actions were necessary in order to prevent a greater harm. This was the first time, to our knowledge, that defendants were acquitted based on the civil disobedience defense of necessity/competing harms to prevent climate change.

Since 2015, the NLG-Mass Chapter’s Mass Defense Committee (MDC) has been working with the Climate Disobedience Center to support the Resist the Pipeline coalition. The MDC facilitated legal briefings for hundreds of activists and represented over 200 people in court after their resistance actions.

After this victory, CommonWealth magazine noted:

“[i]n the course of a drawn-out discovery battle, the defendants’ pro-bono National Lawyers Guild attorneys forced pipeline company Spectra Energy (now Enbridge) to admit in an affidavit that it had no safety plan for the neighborhood in case of a catastrophe—even though this pipeline terminates in a residential neighborhood across the street from an active quarry where ground-shaking blasts are a regular occurrence.”
(Italics ours.)