Friday, March 3, 2023

Professor Angela Fernandez, "Environmental Law, Standing, and the History of Sierra Club v. Morton", for JOTWELL (March 2, 2023), a review of  Daniel P. Selmi's Dawn at Mineral King Valley: The Sierra Club, the Disney Company, and the Rise of Environmental Law (2022):

Sierra Club v. Morton is a seminal 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case on standing, the essential procedural question of who has a legal right to initiate a lawsuit based on a plaintiff’s alleged injury traceable to a defendant’s unlawful conduct. Daniel Selmi’s new book provides a deep dive into the history and context of this famous case, showing that it was about much more than the majority decision’s denial of the Sierra Club’s standing. And it was not, as some have claimed, launched as a test case to establish standing for environmental groups or the entities themselves, the possibility William O. Douglas went into in his famous dissent dear to the hearts of those interested in the Rights of Nature.

The story begins in the mid-1960s with a decision by the Forest Service to allow the Disney Company to develop a ski resort in the Mineral King area of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. The Sierra Club was initially supportive of the project. However, they turned against it, as younger members of the Board came to believe they should be protecting wilderness rather than facilitating its use and development, even for skiing, an important out-of-doors activity for Club members. Selmi emphasizes that the Club changed tack at a time when their odds of winning were slim to nil. They (surprisingly) won at trial before a judge who barely registered the standing question (P. 135) and then lost at the Supreme Court. Yet, the war was ultimately won when longstanding transportation issues (for example, expanding an existing road versus building a cog railway) could not be resolved, and political support for the project fell apart. Then, in 1978, Congress decided to make Mineral King part of Sequoia National Park.

Continue reading review at JOTWELL