Citizens' arrest

News ARTBA July 02, 2001
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"Private individuals should not be able to bring lawsuits using so-called 'environmental justice' claims to halt transportation

"Private individuals should not be able to bring lawsuits using so-called 'environmental justice' claims to halt transportation improvement projects," the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) said in a brief filed June 29 with the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.


Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that individuals do not have a private right to sue under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 claiming disparate-impact. Such "environmental justice" lawsuits have been used in recent years in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, New Bedford, Mass., Mabane, N.C. and Lawrence, Kan., to challenge transportation and other development projects on the grounds that minority or low-income populations may be unfairly impacted.


Despite the Supreme Court ruling, a U.S. District Court judge in New Jersey refused to lift an injunction blocking the construction of a cement plant under an "environmental justice" claim in South Camden Citizens in Action v. New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection. The judge reasoned that while there is no private right of action under Title VI, there may be a private right of action under Section 1983 of the civil rights code, which authorizes suits against state actions that deprive individuals of rights secured by the Constitution and federal laws. The judge's decision was appealed to the circuit court, where ARTBA filed its brief.


ARTBA noted that "environmental justice" is already used as a consideration in the planning process. Allowing individual lawsuits could further delay transportation improvement projects that have already undergone layers of review and approval, ARTBA said.



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