Enviros back Sotomayor for Supreme Court

Likely new Justice expected to help stem anti-environmental trend by the Court’s activist conservative justices-

The last term of the Supreme Court was the most anti-environmental in memory, ruling against conservation groups in all cases. New Chief Justice Roberts joined with Justice Scalia and other conservative justices to ignore settled law, and precedent,* so to weaken laws and regulations to protect the environment (and other areas of the law).

Sotomeyer’s record, according to these groups, is neutral without a built in bias against environmental protection laws. She will replace David Souter, who generally favored the settled interpretation of environmental law. Therefore, President Obama will need to replace several more Justices before the trend can really be reversed.

Story: Enviros back Sotomayor for Supreme Court. by Lisa Hymas. Grist

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The word “judicial activist,*” which generally has a negative connotation, refers to judges that rule broadly when there is no necessity to do so in a case, and interpose their own policy views to overturn precedent and, in effect, re-write the laws by consistently interpreting unclear portions of them in just one direction.

The word has been used for years by conservatives to attack liberal judges, but in fact, activism has become the conservative’s judicial weapon of choice in recent years.

Activism is not always a negative feature, especially when over the years a series of precedents have led to absurdities when compared to the realities of a situation.





  1. jdubya Avatar

    This was one of the worst rulings of the recent court. It allows this mining company to destroy a lake by filling it with mine tailings. It also bodes poorly for protection of Bristol Bay (named after Palins’ promiscuous daughter) from gold mines (the Pebble mine in particular) in the headwaters. Would Sotomayer’s presence altered this ruling? I dunno but she would not have made it worse.


  2. Tom Woodbury Avatar

    I prefer to think of these conservative judges as “passivist” judges, rather than activist, as they refuse to apply laws passed by Congress when those laws do not comport to their conservative ideology. An activist judges reaches beyond the plain meaning of a law to the spirit of the law, and gets criticized, while a conservative judge finds a way to defeat both the spirit and the letter of the law based on semantics and convenient omissions of fact. At least one of these judges is trying to do his job. Guess which one?

  3. Layton Avatar


    You are just one sick puke!! First of all Bristol Bay has been there a LOOOOOOOONG time longer than Palin’s daughter — second, anyone that would bring a person’s teenage daughter into a discussion the way you did is just —- aw hell, I can’t say the words that I’m thinking on this forum — use your sick imagination to figure them out!!!!

  4. outsider Avatar

    very well said Layton

  5. otto Avatar

    The recent spate of environmental losses–decreeing toxic mining sludge as benign “fill” so that the Army Corps has jurisdiction rather than EPA; ruling that Navy sonar testing overides endangered species protecitons, preventing EPA from doing cost benefit analysis in deciding on proper power plant water intakes, limiting responsibility for cleaning up toxic waste, and insulating the forest service regulations from outside challenges–are not so much anti-environment as decidedly pro big business. And all of them the result of activist, and not conservative, judging.

    Each of these decisions were lengthy, legalistic and based on tortured logic. All of them are activist in that relatively settled areas of law, the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Superfund, and the doctrine of standing were narrowed to protect the deep pockets of the business community from government regulations.

    In contrast, Brown v. Board of Education, which finally outlawed segregation in public schools, while clearly challenging existing legal precedent and the cultural status quo, was a short, plain, and unanimous decision.

    The unifying characteristic of all these decisions is not the members of the court, rather the advocates who argue the cases. Thurgood Marshall argued Brown and rose to become a Supreme Court Justice. Likewise, in all the environmental cases this term the US Chamber of Commerce ensured that only seasoned, experienced and accomplished litigators represented business interests. Enviros must recruit our own stable of superstar litigators to counter both the activists bent of the conservative block and the out-sized influence of the business interests.

    For a more complete discussion of this point see: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/04/us/04scotus.html?hp

  6. Virginia Avatar

    I think the environmental groups have their fingers crossed that Judge Sotomayor will be reasonable and practical when facing environmental issues, since she really doesn’t have much of a record ruling on these issues. The next Supreme Court choice will be more important, because the court is now packed (thanks to bush) with conservative, activist judges who seem intent on destroying environmental laws.

  7. jdubya Avatar

    Layton and Outsider, you save your outrage for all of those “frivolous” abuse of power complaints lodged against Palin that drove her out of office. They dethroned your queen!


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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