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Judicial Oversight in the Comparative Context: Biodiversity Protection in the United States, Australia, and Canada

February 2013

Citation: 43 ELR 10169

Issue: 2

Author: Robert Shaffer

How effective are courts as policymaking institutions? Generally speaking, courts play a far larger role in American biodiversity law than they do in comparable Australian and Canadian statutory programs. As a result, studying endangered species protection offers a useful way to identify and isolate the policy impacts of judicial intervention. In the two cases I examine, the American system functioned at least as well as, and sometimes better than, the biodiversity programs in Australia and Canada. Contrary to most scholarship on the topic, lawsuits did not appear to slow the American policymaking process significantly; rather, litigation helped enforce important legal provisions and forced government officials to address critical shortcomings in their regulatory actions. At least in these cases, then, litigation acted as a productive and useful part of the policymaking process.

Robert Shaffer is a Ph.D. student, Government Department, University of Texas at Austin

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