¬†¬†¬†¬† More than 40 national environmental organizations actively supported President Obama’s appointment of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.¬† In a letter to¬†Senators prior to last Thursday’s Senate approval of Kagan’s confirmation, the groups cited her “understanding of the importance of fair Court decisions that uphold, enforce, and correctly interpret laws that protect people, wildlife, and the environment.”
¬†¬†¬†¬† Since the Supreme Court decides the fate of lawsuits that attack safeguards for clean air, clean water, endangered species, and special natural places, it is important that the Supreme Court be made up of Justices who respect the right of future generations to a healthy planet.¬† Unfortunately, however, four of the current Justices–Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Thomas, and Scalia–are no friends of the earth.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Four other Justices–Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kennedy, and Breyer–have been much more sympathetic¬†to environmental issues.¬† Kagan is replacing the fifth pro-environment Justice, John Paul Stevens.¬† In his decisions, Stevens upheld the power of governments to regulate pollutants.¬† So while the appointment of Kagan does not give us an environmental majority on the Court, her appointment¬†does mean that we should not lose ground.
¬†¬†¬† Indeed, Kagan’s environmental background is reason to cheer her presence on the nation’s highest court.¬† As Dean of¬†Harvard Law School, Kagan made environmental law a top priority there.¬† She helped found the Environmental Law Program and started the Harvard Law School Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, which she called “the heart of our environmental program.”¬†¬†She wrote in 2008 that “this program is fast becoming an international leader in showing how law schools (and lawyers) can actively shape a field that will in many ways determine the world’s future.”
¬†¬†¬†¬† Now that Elena Kagan is a member of the Supreme Court, and¬†the “mum’s the word”¬†Senate confirmation process is over, let’s hope she will be a strong¬†voice on the Supreme Court for the environment.–April Moore