In the war for social and environmental justice, even the best lawyers rarely serve as anything more than battlefield medics.
They do what they can to stop the bleeding for the people, places, and causes suffering on the front lines, but they do not possess the weapons to return fire in any serious way. Lawyers lack effective weapons because American law functions to protect those in power from the rest of us; effective legal weapons are, quite literally, outlawed.
Nonetheless, understanding the limits of the law to affect change through my experiences as a public defender, I recently helped the Colorado River sue the State of Colorado in a first-in-the-nation lawsuit — Colorado River v. Colorado — requesting that the United States District Court in Denver recognize the river’s rights of nature. These rights include the rights to exist, flourish, regenerate, and naturally evolve. To enforce these rights, the Colorado River also requests that the court grant the river “personhood” and standing to sue in American courts. [Read more…]