The Continuing Innovation of Citizen Enforcement

In this article, Professor Thompson examines the role of private citizens in the field of environmental enforcement. Federal environ-mental statutes permit private citizens to bring suit to enjoin or pe-nalize environmental violations. Individuals serving as prosecutors have filed thousands of such lawsuits in the past thirty years. Citizen suits, however, are just one of three ways individuals and nonprofit organizations are involved in environmental enforcement. Both groups also perform the roles of monitor and informer. In their role as monitors, citizens and nonprofits ferret out potential environ-mental violations in their communities. Acting as informants, citizens report information concerning violations that have occurred. Profes-sor Thompson concludes that all three roles-prosecutor, monitor, and informant-are useful innovations in environmental law, but the greatest value comes from the encouragement of broad citizen envi-ronmental monitoring.* Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law, Stanford Law School. Tremendous thanks are due to Professor Russell Korobkin for organizing the symposium on In-novation in Environmental Law at the University of Illinois College of Law, to the symposium partici-pants for their thoughtful insights on citizen enforcement, and to J.B. Ruhl for his valuable comments on this article. I also am indebted to the Hoover Institution, where I was a visiting fellow during the spring of 1999, for its support while writing this essay.

The full text of this Symposium is available to download as a PDF.