Briefly

Stuff that matters

the jig is Alsup

4 surprising facts about the judge behind California’s climate change trial.

On the morning of a historic climate change trial, Judge William Alsup arrived at the courthouse ready to rumble. He had asked for a climate science “tutorial” in a case he’s presiding over — a lawsuit filed by two California cities against five major oil companies.

Here’s what we know about the fella holding the fate of the planet in his hands like a tiny baby bird:

  • He’s a fan of science. On Wednesday, Alsup came to court sporting a tie with a snapshot of deep space painted on it. He had prepped for the hearing by watching a slew of documentaries, including An Inconvenient Truth. Courts have these sort of tutorials from time to time, Alsup said, “so the poor judge can learn some science.”
  • He does his homework. In 2012, Alsup was the presiding judge over a major Silicon Valley lawsuit and — in a move that caught both sides by surprise — he showed up to the courthouse with a passable understanding of JavaScript.
  • He helped save DACA from President Trump. In January, Alsup blocked Trump’s move to end DACA, calling the decision “arbitrary and capricious.” Burn.
  • He’s got a sense of humor. During Wednesday’s climate change tutorial, in the midst of a round of questions about sea-level rise, a loud beep went off in the courtroom. “Coastal flood alert,” Alsup quipped.

Alsup isn’t afraid of laying down the law. After lawyers for most of the oil companies stayed silent in court on Wednesday, he demanded they come back in two weeks with more information.