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Articles by Sean Siperstein

Sean Siperstein maintains the blog Warming Law on behalf of the Community Rights Counsel, a public interest law firm in Washington, DC. Warming Law was launched following the Supreme Court's landmark Massachusetts v. EPA ruling, with a focus on the evolving legal landscape impacting the climate movement.

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Community Rights Counsel has spent much of the last decade researching and documenting undue, anti-environmental corporate influence on the federal judiciary, exposing the proliferation of privately-funded junkets billed as “judicial education seminars.” Through reports such as 2004’s Tainted Justice, we’ve highlighted the agenda of particular hosting groups, one steeped in libertarian economics and a regulatory agenda that is deeply opposed to government efforts to combat global warming. Recent ethics rules for the federal judiciary have addressed judges’ participation in these junkets, but contained loopholes that have continued to benefit their supporters.

One of the organizations involved in this arrangement is the Montana-based Foundation for Research on the Environment and Economics (FREE), a pro-business/anti-regulation outlet that has received heavy funding from corporate interests such as Exxon-Mobil and ideological forces such as the foundations run by the Scaife and Coors families. Two years ago, in response to an ethics petition filed by CRC, the federal judiciary’s Committee on Codes of Conduct authored a non... Read more

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  • Medical device case could impact global warming debate

    In last week's negotiations over the energy bill, one of the most significant victories for proponents of getting serious about global warming came when Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood up to yet another attempt to short-circuit efforts by over a dozen states to demand cleaner cars.

    The issue on which Pelosi convinced Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and other auto industry allies to back down, known in legal circles as "preemption," has emerged as a lightning rod in global warming politics. The focus on preemption has only intensified in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling this April in Mass v. EPA, recent developments in the states, and the current confused state of Supreme Court preemption law.

    Things could get better or worse depending how the Court disposes of a case that was argued on Tuesday. On its face, Riegel v. Medtronic, about liability for faulty medical devices, doesn't have anything to do with global warming. It could, however, be a turning point in preemption doctrine, and thus have a significant long-range impact on the global warming/federalism/politics mix.

    The Legal and Political Landscape

    My boss, Doug Kendall, noted the dynamic at stake back in May, in a Knight Ridder op-ed assessing the potential impact of Mass v. EPA: