Justice Stevens and the Rule of (Environmental) Law

by Daniel Farber | July 18, 2019

Originally published on Legal Planet

There's already been a lot written in the aftermath of Justice Stevens's death, including Ann Carlson's excellent Legal Planet post earlier this week. I'd like to add something about an aspect of his jurisprudence that had great relevance to environmental law: his belief in the rule of law, and specifically, in the duty of both the judiciary and the executive branch to respect and implement congressional mandates.

This stance was evident in Justice Stevens's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, probably the most important environmental case that Supreme Court has ever decided. The Bush administration refused to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. But the statute was very clear. It defined air pollutants as any substance emitted into the air, and it required regulation of such pollutants whenever they endanger human health or welfare. The Bush administration also argued that international negotiations would be a more fruitful way of addressing the problem. Apart from the fact that this was clearly a pretext – Bush had shown no interest in brokering an international agreement – it had nothing to do with the only relevant issue under the statute: what the science had to say about the dangers of greenhouse gases.

Justice Stevens wrote: "To the extent that this constrains agency discretion to pursue other priorities of the Administrator or the President, this is the congressional design." EPA had simply ...

Kisor v. Wilkie: A Reprieve for Embattled Administrative State?

by Robert Glicksman | July 10, 2019
Originally published by The George Washington Law Review. Reprinted with permission. Imagine a world in which administrative agencies whose actions are challenged in court are afforded little respect and even less deference from reviewing courts. Imagine further that congressional efforts to vest authority in these agencies to act as guardians of public health and safety, environmental integrity, consumer interests, and economic security are viewed as alarming threats to liberty and to the very foundations of the separation of governmental authority ...

The Witching Auer

by Daniel Farber | July 08, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. The Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Kisor v. Wilkie was eagerly awaited by administrative law experts. It is one skirmish in the ongoing war over deference to agencies. In this case, the issue was whether to overrule the Auer doctrine, which requires courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of its own regulations. This doctrine, like its big brother, the Chevron doctrine, has become a target for conservative scholars and judges. The Auer doctrine has ...

The Census Case and the Delegation Issue

by Daniel Farber | July 01, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. In a recent decision, four of the conservative Supreme Court Justices indicated a desire to limit the amount of discretion that Congress can give administrative agencies. If taken literally, some of the language they used would hobble the government by restricting agencies like EPA to "filling in the details" or making purely factual determinations. Some observers have feared that the conservatives were on the verge of dismantling modern administrative law. As I indicated in a ...

Justice Gorsuch versus the Administrative State

by Daniel Farber | June 27, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Gundy v. United States was a case involving a fairly obscure statute regulating sex offenders, but some have seen it as a harbinger of the destruction of the modern administrative state. In a 4-1-3 split, the Court turned away a constitutional challenge based on a claim that Congress had delegated too much authority to the executive branch. But there were ominous signs that at least four Justices are willing to change the ground rules in ...

Opinion Analysis: Virginia's Moratorium on Uranium Mining Is Not Pre-empted, but the Role of Legislative Purpose Remains Open for Debate

by Emily Hammond | June 18, 2019
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). The Supreme Court has concluded that Virginia's decades-old moratorium on uranium mining is not pre-empted by the Atomic Energy Act. But there is no clear answer to the question that pervaded the briefing and oral argument: What is the proper role for state legislative purpose in a pre-emption analysis? Monday's judgment was accompanied by three opinions: a lead opinion written by ...

A Meditation on Juliana v. United States

by Lisa Heinzerling | June 17, 2019
In a recent essay posted to SSRN, I try to see, and to appreciate, the wisdom in a species of climate litigation that has many detractors. This litigation asks the courts to hold the government and private parties judicially accountable for their active promotion and pursuit of climate-endangering activities, even after they knew better – even after they knew the terrible risks we faced if they continued on their preferred course. It calls upon venerable legal doctrines, deployed as modern ...

Opinion Analysis: The Justices Wish Sturgeon 'Good Hunting' in Sturgeon v. Frost

by Sandra Zellmer | March 28, 2019
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). The Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week in favor of Alaskan John Sturgeon, who waged a 12-year battle against the National Park Service over its ban on hovercraft in park preserves. As a result of the decision, Sturgeon can once again "rev up his hovercraft in search of moose" on the Nation River in the Yukon Charley Preserve. This is the ...

Does the Future Have Standing?

by Daniel Farber | February 07, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Climate change is not just a long-range problem; it's one that will get much worse in the future unless major emissions cuts are made. For instance, sea levels will continue to rise for centuries. But the people who will be harmed by these changes can't go to court: they haven't been born yet. How can their interests be represented in court? And even people now alive who might still be around in, say, 2100, will ...

What's Wrong with Juliana (and What's Right?)

by Daniel Farber | January 22, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Juliana v. United States, often called the "children's case," is an imaginative effort to make the federal government responsible for its role in promoting the production and use of fossil fuels and its failure to control carbon emissions. The plaintiffs ask the court to "declare [that] the United States' current environmental policy infringes their fundamental rights, direct the agencies to conduct a consumption-based inventory of United States CO2 emissions," and use that inventory to "prepare and ...

Opinion Analysis: Frogs and Humans Live to Fight Another Day

by Lisa Heinzerling | November 30, 2018
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). In a mixed-bag ruling, a unanimous Supreme Court returned Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit to decide several questions not answered on the first go-round. Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion for the court appears calculated to decide just enough to justify shipping the case back to the lower court. ...

Argument Analysis: Yukon-Charley Continues to Commandeer Gray Cells

by Sandra Zellmer | November 06, 2018
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). Click here to read Professor Zellmer's follow-up analysis of the opinion in this case. Alaska hunter John Sturgeon is asking the Supreme Court to slam the door on the National Park Service's ability to apply its nationwide hovercraft ban to the Nation River within the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Sturgeon's attorney, Matthew Findley, told the justices during oral argument yesterday that the Alaska National ...

Argument Analysis: Justices Express Skepticism over Using Legislative Motive in Pre-emption Analysis

by Emily Hammond | November 06, 2018
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). The Supreme Court heard oral argument yesterday morning in Virginia Uranium Inc. v. Warren, which concerns the largest uranium deposit in the United States, located in south-central Virginia. The petitioners are owners of the deposit who wish to mine uranium, and they are challenging a 1983 statute by which the Virginia General Assembly imposed a moratorium on uranium mining. Although all ...

Argument Preview: Can a Hovercraft Navigate the Shoals of Yukon-Charley?

by Sandra Zellmer | October 31, 2018
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). Click here to read Professor Zellmer's follow-up analysis of the oral arguments in this case and here to read her analysis of the opinion. “Alaska is different.” So said Chief Justice John Roberts when the U.S. Supreme Court last took up this case two years ago in Sturgeon v. Frost (Sturgeon I). When the court hears a second oral argument in Sturgeon ...

Argument Preview: Justices May Consider Role of Legislative Motive in Pre-emption Analysis

by Emily Hammond | October 30, 2018
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). Click here to read Professor Hammond's follow-up analysis of the oral arguments in this case. On November 5, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren, which could test the extent to which a court will explore a state legislature’s motives when evaluating whether a state statute is pre-empted by federal law. The facts concern the ...

The Major Rules Doctrine -- A 'Judge-Empowering Proposition'

by Rena Steinzor | October 11, 2018
This post was originally published as part of a symposium on ACSblog, the blog of the American Constitution Society. Reprinted with permission. Now that they have a fifth vote, conservative justices will march to the front lines in the intensifying war on regulation. What will their strategy be? Two tactics are likely, one long-standing and one relatively new. Both have the advantage of avoiding the outright repudiation of Chevron v. NRDC, 467 U.S. 837 (1984), although, as a practical matter, ...

Argument Preview: Justices to Consider Critical-Habitat Designation for Endangered Frog

by Lisa Heinzerling | September 28, 2018
This post was originally published on SCOTUSblog. It is republished here under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US). Editor's note: You can read Professor Heinzerling's follow-up post, which analyzes the oral arguments in this case, on SCOTUSblog. A tiny amphibian takes center stage in the first case of October 2018 term. The dusky gopher frog is native to the forested wetlands of the southern coastal United States, with a historical range from the Mississippi River in Louisiana to the ...

Knick v. Township of Scott: Takings Advocates' Nonsensical Forum Shopping Agenda

by John Echeverria | September 28, 2018
On Wednesday, October 3, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Knick v. Township of Scott. The case poses the question of whether property owners suing state or local governments under the Takings Clause are required to pursue their claims in state court (or through other state compensation procedures) rather than in federal court, at least if the state has established a fair and adequate procedure for awarding compensation if a taking has in fact occurred. The Knick ...

Justice Stevens and the Rule of (Environmental) Law

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