From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund)
Jump to: navigation, search
Earthjustice Logo
Founded 1971
Focus Environmentalism, Public Health
Approx. 150[1]
Slogan "Because the earth needs a good lawyer"

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law organization based in the United States dedicated to environmental issues. It is headquartered in San Francisco, has nine regional offices across the United States, an international department, a communications team, and a policy team in Washington, DC.[citation needed]


The organization was founded in 1971 as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, though it was fully independent from the Sierra Club. It changed its name to Earthjustice in 1997 to better reflect its role as a legal advocate representing hundreds of regional, national and international organizations. As of January 2009, the group had provided free legal representation to more than 700 clients ranging from the Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, and the American Lung Association to smaller state and community groups, such as the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and the Friends of the Everglades.[2]

Earthjustice is a nonprofit and does not charge any of its clients for its services. Funding for the organization comes from individual donations and foundations. It does not receive any funding from corporations or governments. As of 2006, Earthjustice had $21 million in revenue and a full-time staff of about 150 attorneys and lobbyists in nine offices across the US.[3]


Earthjustice’s work is divided into three major program areas:[4]

  • Health and Toxics – focuses on cases that they argue fight for healthy communities.
  • Climate and Energy – focuses on cases that advance clean energy and promote policies that are argued will result in stable climate.
  • The Wild – focuses on cases that preserve wildlife and wild lands as defined by Earthjustice or their associates.

Earthjustice also partners with organizations from other regions, including Latin America, Russia, Japan, and China to promote the development of environmental law in their respective countries. Every year, Earthjustice submits a country-by-country report on Human Rights and the Environment to the United Nations.[5]

Impact on U.S. environmental law[edit]

Earthjustice has been a critical player in a number of important, precedent-setting cases regarding environmental protection in the United States.

In the 1972 Supreme Court case Sierra Club v. Morton, Earthjustice (then known as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) helped establish the right of citizens to sue for environmental damages. The case ultimately forced the Walt Disney Corporation to drop its plans to develop an enormous ski resort in the Mineral King valley in California’s Sierra Nevada Range. The lawsuit blocked any further development or private use of the land which has since been incorporated into the Sequoia National Park.[6]

In 1998, Earthjustice helped local community groups convince the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to withdraw an approval to construct a uranium enrichment plant between two low-income, predominantly African-American communities near Homer, Louisiana. It was the first time a government agency had formally embraced the principle of 'environmental justice" in its decision-making.[7]

In the 2006 Supreme Court case, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, Earthjustice attorneys helped a coalition of state governments and conservation groups force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fight global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. It was the first Supreme Court case to ever address the issue of climate change.[8]

Other suits have been less successful. In 2008 the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the US Navy in a suit brought in part by Earthjustice, which ordered Navy personnel to stop the use of certain types of sonar if a marine mammal such as a dolphin or whale was sighted within 2,200 yards. Among other details, the court noted that in 40 years of such sonar training there had not been a documented case of injury or death to a marine mammal that could be directly attributed to the sonar.[9] In 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a suit against the EPA with the goal of banning the pesticide Chlorpyrifos. The court ruled that an environmental coalition, including Earthjustice, failed to follow procedure by filing the suit with the court before filing their appeal of a 2007 EPA ruling allowing the pesticide.[10][11]

Legislative positions[edit]


In 2010, Earthjustice launched a fundraising campaign using the location-based social networking app Foursquare. The ad campaign, which ran in billboards in San Francisco's BART system, gained national recognition as one of the first successful nonprofit uses of Foursquare, and was featured in media outlets such as the New York Times, Mashable, and MacLife magazine, as well as books such as Carmine Gallo's The Power of Foursquare.[14][15][16][17]


In 2001, Worth magazine, aimed at high-income Americans, named Earthjustice as one of America’s 100 best charities.[18]

As of June 2014, Earthjustice has a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, the oversight group's highest rating.[19]

In December 2014, the organization was recognized for its tagline "Because the earth needs a good lawyer",[20] which was chosen in a 2009 online contest as one of the best nonprofit taglines out of 1,702 entries.[citation needed]

Earthjustice has come under criticism for actions that are described as radical or counterproductive. Kevin Mooney of the right-leaning Capital Research Center writes that Earthjustice has represented a wide range of clients and causes, ranging from those well within the political and scientific mainstream to "radical fringe groups with a reputation for outrageous claims and uncompromising positions."[3] Similarly, Fargo, North Dakota columnist Rob Port has described Earthjustice as fundamentally "obstructionist" in their strategy against the Dakota Access Pipeline during 2016.[21]

See also[edit]


  • Tom Turner, with photographs by Carr Clifton, Wild by Law: The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and the Places It Has Saved (San Francisco: Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund and Sierra Club Books, 1990) ISBN 0-87156-627-3
  • Tom Turner, Justice on Earth: Earthjustice and the People It Has Served (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2002) ISBN 1-931498-31-8


  1. ^ About Earthjustice
  2. ^ Earthjustice Clients and Coalitions
  3. ^ a b Kevin Mooney (2009). EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund: How Environmentalism Weakens U.S. National Security; accessed 08 December 2017
  4. ^ Earthjustice: Our Work
  5. ^ Earthjustice International Program
  6. ^ Finally -- The Valley of Mineral King Becomes Wilderness Archived 2010-08-15 at the Wayback Machine., EarthJustice
  7. ^ Earthjustice: Uranium Enrichment Plant Stopped Archived 2008-12-12 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Earthjustice: Massachusetts v. EPA
  9. ^ Winter vs. National Resources Defense Council No. 07–1239., October term, 2008
  10. ^ Timothy Cama (2017) Court rejects greens’ appeal of EPA decision not to ban pesticide,; accessed 08 December 2017
  11. ^ Jessica Domel Judge denies petition to ban chlorpyrifos pesticide, Texas Farm Bureau, 19 July 2017; accessed 08 December 2017
  12. ^ "CBO - H.R. 2279". Congressional Budget Office. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  13. ^ "House Subcommittee Votes Increase Coal Ash Exposure, Threaten Public Health". Earthjustice. 6 June 2013. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  14. ^ Woody, Todd (October 19, 2010). "With Foursquare, Ads Let You Check In at Your Favorite Billboard". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  15. ^ Van, Jennifer (2010-05-27). "Non-Profit Uses Foursquare to Raise Environmental Awareness". Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  16. ^ . Archived from the original on 2014-02-01. Retrieved 2014-01-28.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "The Power of foursquare". Gallo Communications. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  18. ^ "WORTH Magazine Names America's 100 Best Charities - and Highlights 12 Worth Avoidng". Business Wire. 29 November 2001. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  19. ^ "Earthjustice". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  20. ^ Fritz, Joanne (6 December 2014). "Nonprofit Taglines and Mission Statements". Retrieved 13 January 2016. 
  21. ^ "Earthjustice isn’t out to promote safe, responsible oil and gas development, goals all reasonable people share. They don’t want a safe pipeline, per se. Rather, they’re out to choke oil and gas development to death by obstructing energy infrastructure with legal maneuvering." Port, Rob (2016). Standing Rock Tribe Should Ditch Earthjustice if They Want Pipeline Lawsuit Taken Seriously, accessed 08 December 2017

External links[edit]