The Public Trust Doctrine as an Anti-Corruption Weapon

As Rick noted a couple of weeks ago, the California Court of Appeal has recently decided that the public trust doctrine applies to groundwater resources — a long overdue holding that flows (so to speak) pretty much directly from the landmark Mono Lake decision that applied the PTD to surface water. (Since surface and groundwater are hydrologically identical, the burden rests on those who deny the applicability to make the case, which they so far have not done). Environmentalists love the Public Trust Doctrine, and of course will seek to apply it everywhere and anywhere, especially since it could serve as a powerful Takings defense. But one thing about it has jumped out at me, namely, its embrace by courts in several developing countries in the Global South. Scholars have long remarked on the trend, but without a good reason: why should countries as far away as India and South Africa pay so much attention to a sub-national doctrine from the United States (whose…

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