William Shakespeare famously put in the mouth of Henry VI this prescription: “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.” Thinking about this recently led me to two questions: First, why kill all the lawyers? Second, how many would that be and how long would that take? Third, what is the problem to be addressed? Is there another solution?
In the field of environmental law, these questions are worth asking. Is the environment better off with or without environmental lawyers? How many environmental lawyers exist and what do they do? If there is an imbalance, can something be done to right it?
I will venture some answers to these questions, and then look at enforcement of environmental laws by lawyers representing citizens and civil society.
HOW MANY ENVIRONMENTAL LAWYERS AND WHOM DO THEY SERVE?
While the Shakespeare quotation gives rise to laughter in most audiences, the context of the quotation reveals a more serious meaning. In his play, Shakespeare has rebel leader and megalomaniac Jack Cade fantasizing about taking over England through force and becoming its King, so that the people will “worship me their lord.” In order to set up such a tyranny, one of his followers exclaims, “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.” Lawyers are a bulwark that stands in the way of those who would take power in order to abuse it. Law controls not only citizens, but also government.