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    This page contains Supreme Court rulings -- with summaries of the majority and minority conclusions.

98-822 on Oct 12, 1999

Decided Jan 12, 2000
Case Ruling: FRIENDS OF THE EARTH v. LAIDLAW
Laidlaw Environmental Services bought a wastewater treatment plant and was granted a Pollutant Discharge Permit by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). Laidlaw began to discharge various pollutants into the waterway, repeatedly in excess of the limits set by the permit. In April 1992, Friends of the Earth (FOE) sued; the DHEC and Laidlaw reached a settlement requiring Laidlaw to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and to make “every effort” to comply with its permit obligations.

In June 1992, FOE filed this citizen suit against Laidlaw, alleging noncompliance with the permit and seeking further penalties. A judge found in 1997 that Laidlaw had gained a total economic benefit of $1,092,581 as a result of 13 permit violations between 1992 and 1997; and awarded a civil penalty of $405,800. Laidlaw [appealed on the grounds that] the entire facility has since been permanently closed, and all discharges from the facility have permanently ceased, [and the Fourth Circuit dismissed the case as moot].

Held:

(Ginsburg, joined by Rehnquist, Stevens, O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter, and Breyer(
The Fourth Circuit erred in concluding that a citizen suitor’s claim for civil penalties must be dismissed as moot when the defendant has come into compliance with its Pollution Discharge permit.

Dissent:

(Scalia, joined by Thomas)
The Supreme Court uncritically accepting vague claims of injury [where] the District Court found that Laidlaw’s discharges caused no demonstrable harm to the environment. It then proceeds to marry private wrong with public remedy in a union that violates traditional principles of federal standing--thereby permitting law enforcement to be placed in the hands of private individuals. I dissent from all of this.


    Participating counts on VoteMatch question 8. Question 8: No 'rights' to clean air and water Scores: -2=Strongly oppose; -1=Oppose; 0=neutral; 1=Support; 2=Strongly support.
  • Topic: Environment
  • Headline: OK to sue polluters for past pollution (Score: -1)
  • Headline 2: Can't sue polluters after they stop polluting (Score: 1)

    Participating counts on AmericansElect question 8.
  • Headline: OK to sue polluters for past pollution (Answer: C)
  • Headline 2: Can't sue polluters after they stop polluting (Answer: B)
  • AmericansElect Quiz Question 8 on Environment: Which of the following statements comes closest to your personal view?
    • A: Natural resources exist for the benefit of humanity
    • B: Natural resources exist for the benefit of humanity, but should be somewhat protected
    • C: Natural resources should be mostly protected, but also exist for the benefit of humanity
    • D: Natural resources exist on their own and should be completely protected
    • E: Unsure


  • Key for participation codes:
  • Sponsorships: p=sponsored; o=co-sponsored; s=signed
  • Memberships: c=chair; m=member; e=endorsed; f=profiled; s=scored
  • Resolutions: i=introduced; w=wrote; a=adopted
  • Cases: w=wrote; j=joined; d=dissented; c=concurred
  • Surveys: '+' supports; '-' opposes.



Democrats participating in 98-822

Stephen Breyer j1US Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 
Ruth Bader Ginsburg w1US Democratic Appointee to Supreme Court 



Republicans participating in 98-822

Anthony Kennedy j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
Sandra Day O`Connor j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2005) 
William Rehnquist j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (until 2005) 
Antonin Scalia w2dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 
David Souter j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2009) 
John Paul Stevens j1US Republican Appointee to Supreme Court (retired 2010) 
Clarence Thomas j2dUS Republican Appointee to Supreme Court 



Independents participating in 98-822



Total recorded by OnTheIssues:

Democrats: 2
Republicans: 7
Independents: 0


















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