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Stanford's Environmental Law Clinic Files Amicus Brief for Sen. Kerry and Rep. Inslee in Climate Change Suit

Publication Date: 
February 08, 2007
Stanford Law School

[ See Court Documents ]

STANFORD, Calif., February 8, 2006--The Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford Law School has filed an amicus brief on behalf of U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) in support of environmental groups that are suing the Bush administration for allegedly suppressing scientific research about climate change that is required by Congress under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 (GCRA). This is a rare instance where members of Congress have supported a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the executive branch for failing to provide Congress with accurate scientific data necessary to enact appropriate legislation to address global climate change.

The amicus brief was filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District in California in the case Center for Biological Diversity v. Brennan and argues that the Bush Administration has failed to ensure that rapidly evolving scientific information about global climate change and other international environmental crises would promptly reach the public and those government policymakers in a position to act upon it, as required the GCRA. The brief was filed by the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic. The clinic’s director, Deborah A. Sivas, a lecturer at Stanford Law School, is the attorney of record, and Craig Segall, a third-year Stanford law student, is one of the key student authors of the brief.

The filing of the brief coincides with Congressional testimony this week by Rick Piltz, a key declarant in the case who was a senior government scientist coordinating the multi-agency U.S. government program that supports scientific research on climate and associated global environmental change under the auspices of the GCRA. Mr. Piltz has provided sworn testimony illustrating how and why, during the 2001-2005 time frame, he “came to the conclusion that politicization of climate science communication under the current Administration was undermining the credibility and integrity of the Climate Change Science Program in its relationship to the research community, to program managers, to policymakers, and to the public interest.”

The lawsuit was filed by three non-governmental environmental organizations, the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, and Defenders of Wildlife. The suit names Dr. William Brennan, who heads up the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, along with other administrators and contributing agencies, for failing to produce the crucial U.S. National Assessment of Climate Change within Congress’ required time frame and instead acting to suppress existing science and muddy future efforts.

The GCRA was intended to advance public understanding and facilitate timely government policymaking on global climate change. The 1990 Act was passed to ensure that Congress and the public had the best possible comprehensive synthesis of the science, threats, and policy responses required by the threat of global climate change in a single national assessment. The GCRA requires the Administration to update the national assessment every four years to keep pace with the fast-changing science. Congress intended for GCRA to guide the “development and coordination of a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”

The amicus brief and accompanying declaration of Mr. Piltz provide new evidence that current administration officials actively sought to avoid public dissemination of the first National Assessment and have intentionally evaded preparation of a new comprehensive, publicly assessable second Assessment as required by Congress. In the face of this evidence, Senator Kerry and Representative Inslee urge the court to correct this abuse of process: “Given the urgent and potentially catastrophic implications of global climate change, Defendants’ subversion of the GCRA’s most basic provisions is alarming. This Court should restore the proper balance of power between the legislative and executive branches by ordering Defendants to comply with the mandatory duties of the GCRA. Only then will Congress and the public have the comprehensive policy-relevant scientific information they need to confront the specter of global climate change.”

About Deborah A. "Debbie" Sivas, Director, Environmental Law Clinic and Lecturer in Law

Sivas has been the Director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic since 1997. She is a 1987 Stanford Law School graduate, clerked for a federal court, serves as president of the board for two NGOs, and has litigated many significant environmental cases on behalf of nonprofit organizations.

About Craig Segall

Craig Segall is in his third year of study in administrative and environmental law at Stanford Law School. He is an active leader in the environmental law community, serving as co-editor in chief of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal, and is the former co-president of the student-organized Environmental Law Society.

About the Environmental Law Clinic at Stanford

Stanford Law School offers a variety of clinics that litigate in specialized fields, including environmental protection, immigrants’ rights, community law, cyberlaw, and educational advocacy. The clinics provide pro bono representation and operate cohesively as a single law firm, the Stanford Legal Clinic (SLC). The SLC provides students an opportunity to apply classroom theory to real client situations and to develop a lifelong commitment to public service values.

The Environmental Law Clinic, directed by Deborah A. Sivas, enables students to provide legal assistance to nonprofit organizations on a variety of environmental issues, focusing primarily on natural resource conservation. The clinic's clients include large national environmental organizations and a variety of regional and local grassroots groups. Working under Clinic attorneys, students routinely investigate cases, assist clients in developing legal strategies, draft comment letters, court pleadings, and briefs, present testimony before administrative agencies, and argue cases in state and federal courts. Clinic students also provide policy advice and work on regulatory and legislative reform in the environmental field.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School is one of the nation's leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, and write books and articles for academic audiences, as well as the popular press. Along with offering traditional law school classes, the school has embraced new subjects and new ways of teaching.


Stanford Legal Clinic: Deborah Sivas, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic and Lecturer in Law 650 723.0325,

Stanford Law School: Judith Romero, Associate Director of Media Relations, 650 723.2232,