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Spring 2021 Seminar

Environmental Law in the Supreme Court

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this seminar. 

Exam: No Exam

This seminar will explore the role of the United States Supreme Court in the shaping of the nation’s environmental, energy, and natural resources laws, with special emphasis on both advocacy before the Court and the Court’s internal decision making processes. The seminar is designed to introduce students both to the full scope and meaning of environmental law, the related challenges of environmental lawmaking (and advocacy) and to the workings of the Supreme Court and advocacy before the Court. After the introductory class session, we will examine each week some of the most significant environmental cases decided by the Supreme Court, but by going far beyond just the Court’s final opinion. We will seek to better understand environmental law and the Court, by examining the briefs and oral argument in the case and, when available, the internal decision making documents of the Justices, including bench memos, conference votes, and draft opinions. We will also frequently visit with counsel of record in some of the cases and discuss with them their litigation strategies.

The one possible exception to our focus on past Supreme Court environmental law cases will occur if the Supreme Court happens to be considering a significant environmental law case at the time the seminar is meeting next spring. If that happens, we will likely shift some of our attention to that case on a real-time basis. That could include discussions whether the Court should, or is likely to grant review. Or, if review is already granted, how best to prepare for argument in the case. And, if the argument is already complete, what the Court seems most likely to rule in the case. Again, we will review a wide range of readings and consult with counsel in our examination of the case.