Standing up for Common Goods? The Case of Access to Justice in Environmental Matters
PhD student: Mrs M. Melis
Promotors: Prof K. Deketelaere, Prof P. van Orshoven
Duration: 1/9/2007 - 31/8/2011
Access to justice is not unlimited in our society. In order to maintain an action in court, litigants must overcome the barrier of locus standi, by demonstrating sufficient interest or alleging personal injury. For litigants who want to stand up for public interests, achieving locus standi is often quite a challenge. Especially in environmental matters, this situation is perceived as problematic. This has led to a relaxation of standing requirements in many legal systems. In the United States recent climate change litigation raised difficult questions regarding standing and the role of courts, and in Europe, international rules regarding access to justice in environmental matters were established. Some legal systems though, as is the case in Belgium, have a more reserved attitude towards the idea of public interest litigation. This research project aims to evaluate this evolution towards greater access to justice in environmental matters, by looking into the reasons for relaxing locus standi, the compatibility with the procedural system, and the approach found in other legal systems. As environmental interests are preeminent examples of collective interests, this will in turn afford the possibility to draw conclusions with regard to locus standi and collective interests in general.