Thursday, March 31, 2011

Time capsule

Bill Douglas could have--if circumstances were a little different--been President. In that light it's more than a little strange to see him as a monosyllabic guest on a silly TV game show. Of course it does seem pretty sophisticated, as silly game shows go.


susan said...

It was a real treat seeing a bit of that program again. I knew Wm. Douglas was a pretty wonderful example of the high court at its best but I did have to go to Wikipedia to refresh my memory. I loved this ruling he made:

"Trees have standing"

In his dissenting opinion in the landmark environmental law case, Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972), Justice Douglas famously, and most colorfully argued that "inanimate objects" should have standing to sue in court:

The critical question of "standing" would be simplified and also put neatly in focus if we fashioned a federal rule that allowed environmental issues to be litigated before federal agencies or federal courts in the name of the inanimate object about to be despoiled, defaced, or invaded by roads and bulldozers and where injury is the subject of public outrage. Contemporary public concern for protecting nature's ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation. This suit would therefore be more properly labeled as Mineral King v. Morton.

He continued:

Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality, a fiction found useful for maritime purposes. The corporation sole — a creature of ecclesiastical law — is an acceptable adversary and large fortunes ride on its cases.... So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes — fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or who enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it.

Ben said...

That is a great opinion. And he's right. Inanimate objects are granted standing all the time, when it's convenient for certain animate objects.