Massachusetts v. EPA: The Inconvenient Truth About Precedent

Volume 93

93 Va. L. Rev. Online 75
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Every so often, the Supreme Court renders a decision that is difficult to separate from the politics of the day—not that Justices consciously promote a political party or purpose, but sometimes political inclinations insinuate themselves into the Justices’ thinking in a way that colors their approach and tilts toward one outcome. It happens less often and less boldly than is often supposed. But it does happen.

This Term’s decision in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (“Mass. v. EPA”) is just such a decision. In their eagerness to promote government action to address global warming, the Justices stretch, twist, and torture administrative law doctrines to avoid the inconvenient truth that this is not a matter on which judges have any real role to play.

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