The public trust doctrine—a state-specific doctrine that entrusts certain natural resources to the state to hold for the public—most often exists as a common law doctrine. But a handful of states have constitutionalized their version of the public trust. A growing body of jurisprudential evidence shows the constitutional public trust in action—or not—against climate change. This Article examines these cases brought by governmental plaintiffs—states and local governments—investigating whether constitutionalizing the public trust has made a difference. Although the results are nascent, early signs suggest that a constitutional public trust can result in more comprehensive and aggressive law- suits when wielded by states. But many constitutional public trust states have forgone using the doctrine at all, suggesting serious limitations on the constitutional public trust. These outcomes demonstrate the peril and promise of constitutional public trust doctrines.
Recommended CitationSean Lyness, The Constitutional Public Trust in a Warming World, 41 Pace Envtl. L. Rev. 58 (2023)
Available at: https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pelr/vol41/iss1/4