constitutional law

Federalism and the Pandemic

For statutory, practical, and constitutional reasons, states are on the front line.

The states have been out in front in dealing with the coronavirus. Apart from Trump’s tardy response to the crisis, there are reasons for this, involving limits on Trump’s authority, practicalities, and constitutional rulings. Statutory limits. As I discussed in a previous post, the President’s power to deal with an epidemic is mostly derived from …

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From the Grand Canyon to Contaminated Cantaloupes – and More

Five books with fresh perspectives on environmental issues.

Law reviews make little effort to track new books, unlike other journals in other disciplines . So it’s pretty much hit-or-miss whether you learn about relevant new books.  I wanted to share some interesting finds that have crossed my desk, joined a growing pile of unread books, and then slowly left the pile. The subjects …

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Threat Assessment: The Supreme Court & the Environment

The current bench is tilted against environmental regulation. It could get worse.

In September, Take Back the Court issued a study entitled, “The Roberts Court Would Likely Strike Down Climate Change Legislation.”  In my view, that’s too alarmist. But the current conservative majority definitely will be an obstacle to aggressive use of government regulation.  That could hold true well into the 2030s, depending on who leaves the …

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EPA v. the Inspector General

Surprise, surprise, EPA has tried to stonewall an investigation.

EPA’s Acting Inspector General Charles J. Sheehan took the extraordinary step last week of notifying Congress that EPA was stonewalling his investigation of potential misconduct involving EPA’s Chief of Staff.  This was a gutsy move for Sheehan, especially given the extra vulnerability created by his Acting status. Sheehan, it is worth noting, is a career …

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The Pro-Environmental Lochner Court

How a conservative Court defended environmental protection a century ago.

Like today’s Court, the Supreme Court a century ago was dominated by conservatives. The Lochner era, from around 1900 to 1935, was named after the most notorious case of that period. The Lochner case, which struck down a maximum hours law for workers, epitomized the conservative Supreme Court of that era.  Yet that conservative Court …

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Clearing the Air

The DC Circuit upholds a major air regulation.

On Friday, the D.C. Circuit decided Murray Energy v. EPA.  The court upheld EPA’s health-based 2015 air quality standards for ozone against challenges from industry (rules too strong) and environmental groups (rules too weak).  However, it rejected a grandfather clause that prevented the new standards from applying to plants whose permit applications were in-process when …

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

The odds against the “children’s case” are bad and getting worse. But there’s a valid insight at its core.

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.  They ask the court to “declare the United States’ current environmental policy infringes their fundamental rights, direct the …

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The Anthropocene and public law

Major doctrinal changes could occur in constitutional law, administrative law, criminal law

In this post, I will discuss ways in which the Anthropocene might affect public law doctrines, focusing on constitutional law, administrative law, statutory interpretation and criminal law. Again, the changes here are driven by three characteristics of the interaction of the Anthropocene with the legal system that I have developed in my prior posts: a …

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The Misleading Argument Against Delegation

Agency rulemaking is limited in ways that are far different from legislative lawmaking.

It’s commonplace to say that agencies engage in lawmaking when they issue rules. Conservatives denounce this as a violation of the constitutional scheme; liberals celebrate it as an instrument of modern government.  Both sides agree that in reality, though not in legal form, Congress has delegated its lawmaking power to agencies.  But this is mistaking …

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Regulators Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Extraterritorial Dilemma

Current dormant commerce clause doctrine creates an incredible dilemma for state lawmakers. No matter what they do, they are at serious risk of attack under the dormant commerce clause. Here’s an example. Suppose a state wants to move its own electricity generators from fossil fuels to renewable energy. For instance, the state might require that …

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