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Court Backs Climate Change and Calls for More Protests

There’s no law against grandstanding in court, but that doesn’t make it right. Take the case of John Schulte, a Duluth judicial referee who saw the trial of three climate protesters as a platform to deliver his personal verdict on global warming.

To his credit, Schulte found the three defendants who chained themselves to a Duluth Wells Fargo bank entrance to prevent it from opening earlier this year guilty of trespassing, fining them $135 apiece. Yet after that slap on the wrist, the court gave th protesters a pat on the back and virtual pep talk, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

But in his ruling, Judicial Referee John Schulte seemed to agree in spirit with the men’s actions.

“They should keep up the fight,” Schulte wrote in his memorandum filed in District Court in Duluth. “There is a long tradition in this world of honorable and appropriate civil disobedience. This case is a perfect example.”

Schulte proceeded to drop additional disorderly conduct and obstruction charges against the three defendants whose only defense was they had no other options.

Referring to themselves as water protectors, they were calling on Wells Fargo to divest itself from fossil fuels and Enbridge Energy, in particular. Enbridge is on track to build a new Line 3 oil pipeline replacement through Minnesota.

The defendants argued in court in October that they’d exhausted legal avenues that would have resulted in climate change being addressed more lawfully.

A former family law and bankruptcy attorney, Schulte generally oversees small claims cases, evictions and domestic disputes, according to the job description. Yet when one of the most complex scientific and political issues of our day came up in his courtroom, the family court referee didn’t hold back.

But Schulte also offered up the following in his memo: “Based on testimony (of an expert witness) and the consensus of the scientific community, the Court finds that the climate is in fact changing, the earth is warming, and human activity in the form of carbon emissions is a major cause of said climate change.”

Case closed? Not outside Schulte’s courtroom, where the jury’s still out on climate change in the court of public opinion. Polls consistently show the issue rates at or near the bottom of most American’s concerns.

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