OVER THE PAST two decades federal judges--who for years had quietly deferred to the expertise of administrators--have become increasingly aggressive in their oversight of administrative action. This judicial activism has drawn praise from critics of bureaucracy spanning the political spectrum, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to its consequences for national policy and national institutions. Have the courts in fact improved policymaking? Or have they, as Felix Frankfurter might have predicted, exceeded their institutional capacity?
In this book R. Shep Melnick, assistant professor of government at Harvard University and former research fellow and research associate in the Brookings Governmental Studies program, examines how the federal courts have influenced policymaking in one highly significant and controversial area, the regulation of air pollution. He probes the longterm effects of a variety of court decisions that have helped to shape environmental policy during the 1970s. His analysis of the bureaucratic and congressional politics of air pollution control provides insight into the process of environmental regulation as well as the effects of judicial activism.
Melnick shows not only that court decisions had consequences unforeseen by judges and legal commentators, but also that the net effect of a large number of trial and appellate court decisions was to widen the gap between the promise and performance of the programs administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. He explains how these