Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2003

Abstract

The rise in litigation against administrative bodies by environmental and other political interest groups worldwide has been explained predominantly through the liberalization of standing doctrines. Under this explanation, termed here "the floodgate model," restrictive standing rules have dammed the flow of suits that groups were otherwise ready and eager to pursue. I examine this hypothesis by analyzing processes of institutional transformation in two conservationist organizations: the Sierra Club in the United States and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). Rather than an eagerness to embrace newly available litigation opportunities, as the "floodgate" model would predict, the groups' history reveals a gradual process of transformation marked by internal, largely intergenerational divisions between those who abhorred conflict with state institutions and those who saw such conflict as not only appropriate but necessary to the mission of the group. Furthermore, in contrast to the pluralist interactions that the "floodgate model" imagines, both groups' relations with pertinent agencies in earlier eras better accorded with the partnership-based corporatist paradigm. Sociolegal research has long indicated the importance of relational distance to the transformation of interpersonal disputes. I argue that, at the group level as well, the presence or absence of a (national) partnership-centered relationship determines propensities to bring political issues to court. As such, well beyond change in groups' legal capacity and resources, current increases in levels of political litigation suggest more fundamental transformations in the structure and meaning of relations between citizen groups and the state.

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