Environmental Litigation in Historical Perspective

During the past several decades, litigation has played a major role in the attempt by citizens to realize environmental objectives. Its impact has been elaborated extensively in the vast array of writing in law journals as well as in the cases themselves. Most analyses have focused on specialized subjects of either substantive policy or legal procedure. In this brief Essay I attempt a more comprehensive overview involving two background factors- the growth of environmental values since World War II and the response of governmental institutions to the resulting demands placed upon them. Among these institutions were the courts. Their role cannot be understood simply in terms of the evolution of judicial opinion, but more in terms of the response of judges and the legal profession to changing public attitudes, legislative policies, scientific knowledge, and technical capabilities.