Betty B. Fletcher: NEPA's Angel and Chief Editor of the Hard Look

14 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2012 Last revised: 19 Jul 2014

See all articles by William H. Rodgers

William H. Rodgers

University of Washington - School of Law

Date Written: March 1, 2010


The underpinnings of modern environmental law rest comfortably on assumptions of a creative, active, thorough, and demanding judicial review. The judicial founders — and expounders — of environmental law were relentless practitioners of what became known as the “hard look” doctrine of judicial review. This was the stance of the great first judges of environmental law — they included David Bazelon, Harold Leventhal, and J. Skelly Wright — and this was the posture of those who came later — including the much admired Patricia Wald. This tradition of a meaningful hard look has been carried on — and extended — by many contemporary jurists, including Betty B. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In this review of the decisionmaking of Judge Fletcher, the environmental version of the hard look is on conspicuous display. And it stands in stark contrast to the “values” of lassitude, passivity, timidity, hesitation, and trusting acceptance that pass for “judicial review” in the new world celebrated by sorry precedents, such as Lands Council v. McNair.

Suggested Citation

Rodgers, William H., Betty B. Fletcher: NEPA's Angel and Chief Editor of the Hard Look (March 1, 2010). Environmental Law Reporter, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2010, Available at SSRN:

William H. Rodgers (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

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Seattle, WA 98195-3020
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