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Reforming Judicial Ethics to Promote Environmental Protection

August 2019

Citation: ELR 10789

Author: Tom Lininger

Does the duty of environmental protection belong in the ethical rules for our profession? A number of scholars have explored whether lawyers should bear such duties. But little attention has focused on the possibility that “green ethics” would also be appropriate for judges. Rules of judicial ethics frame the manner in which judges take account of environmental concerns. At present, these rules provide very little guidance that is relevant to environmental matters. Many judges have a general inclination to favor private property rights or to defer to governmental approvals of development projects, but there is no countervailing authority that counsels judges to consider environmental priorities. This Article offers proposals for a series of reforms to the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct to help to create conditions in which the legal system can play a more efficacious, inclusive and transparent role in environmental protection.

Tom Lininger is the Orlando J. and Marian H. Hollis Professor of Law at University of Oregon.

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