Young plaintiffs in Montana V Held case walk to the court room surrounding by supporters with signs
February 14, 2024

Montana v. Held: Montana Youth Use the Courts to Fight for a Livable Climate

Event Details

Date & Time

Wednesday, Feb 14, 2024 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

Event Link

Learn more about this event


Institute for Climate, Water, and the Environment


Free and open to the public


Hemmingson Auditorium, Gonzaga University


Event Type & Tags

  • Academics
  • Global Impact
  • Service Community Impact
  • Sustainability


About This Event

Montana is one of only a handful of states that recognizes a constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment, including the climate. With our partners at Our Children’s Trust and the McGarvey Law Offices, Barbara and Melissa represented 16 youths who believe Montana supporting and promoting a fossil fuel-driven energy system that contributes to the climate crisis violates these rights. Hear from the lawyers who won the first youth climate case to go to trial in U.S. history. The trial aspect is important because it’s very easy for a judge to read court filings about why a government is harming people’s rights to a livable climate via its energy policies, but it’s a much different thing to look a child in the eyes and tell them their rights are not being violated as our climate changes.

About the speakers:

  • Barbara Chillcott joined WELC in 2021 after 15 years working on water law and policy in Montana. Originally from South Carolina, Barbara earned a B.A. in economics from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her law degree from the University of Montana School of Law. She previously worked to restore instream flows across Montana as a project manager and executive director of a statewide water trust. From 2010 through 2016, as the legal director for the Clark Fork Coalition, Barbara developed and advanced strategies for protecting and restoring the Clark Fork river watershed. She joined WELC after working as an attorney for the Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation for five years on water rights law and policy.
  • Melissa Hornbein joined WELC in January 2020 after working in state and federal government. She holds a B.S. in botany and a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Washington, and obtained her J.D. in 2008 from Hastings College of the Law. The next year, she earned a M.S. in environmental studies from the University of Montana. Before practicing as an attorney, Melissa worked in the field as a botanist/biological technician for various academic and governmental entities, including the National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey. She worked as an attorney with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation on tribal and federal water rights issues, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Montana with the Department of Justice.