Showalter Quoted on Citizen Suits in Environmental Cases

Houston Chronicle
Partner J. Michael Showalter was quoted on the citizen suit, currently under appeal in the Fifth Circuit, brought against Exxon Mobil.

Citizen suits opened up a new legal strategy for environmental groups that didn’t require direct proof of harm suffered by the environmental violations. Some groups, instead, just use the offending company’s own regulatory filings and argue that state authorities failed to take appropriate action.

Mike said, “It may be regulators want discretion not to do something, they’re not paying attention, or they could be in cahoots with the polluting parties. The (nonprofits) like the Sierra Club, their goal is to raise the transaction costs, to make it harder for companies to do business.”

Who is entitled to file them has long been a major question in citizen suits. A 2000 US Supreme Court ruling decided that citizens could bring a suit if the pollution had damaged their home environment, even if they personally had not shown individual harm. That is the ruling on which the citizen suit against Exxon stands on.

However, Mike noted that more recent rulings by federal judges have shown less deference to plaintiffs. The question now is will the current Supreme Court continue to give deference to plaintiffs in citizen suits.

“I don’t know if [the Supreme Court would] take the case, but this is the sort of thing that gets conservative legal groups up in arms,” Mike said.

Read the full article here. (Subscription required)


Continue Reading