In This Review

The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court
The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court
By Richard J. Lazarus
Belknap Press, 2020, 368 pp

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, by a vote of five to four, that the Environmental Protection Agency could regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant. The decision was immensely important not only because of the existential threat of climate change but also because no one in the Supreme Court’s two-century history had ever before won a case against the federal government after losing in the lower courts. In vivid detail, with every sentence clear to a nonlawyer, Lazarus traces the story of the case through eight years of ups and downs. He brings to life the strategy of brief writing, how petitioners try to beat the slim odds of the high court hearing their case, an attorney’s 200 hours of agonizing preparation for a 30-minute oral argument, and the culture and operations of the Supreme Court. This case highlighted the work of the late, brilliant justice John Paul Stevens, who, at 86, was determined to write a momentous decision while holding together a fragile majority. This is a riveting story, beautifully told.