David Schoenbrod

Trustee Professor Of Law, New York Law School

A pioneer in the field of environmental law, David Schoenbrod was at the forefront of environmental justice, taking on big business. Now, his concern has turned to Congress evading accountability to voters. Professor Schoenbrod’s most recent book is DC Confidential: Inside the Five Tricks of Washington published by Encounter Books in 2017 with forewords by Governor Howard Dean and Senator Mike Lee. The book shows how politicians from both parties use the tricks to take credit for popular promises, but avoid blame for unpopular consequences and points the way to stopping the trickery. A description of the book is available at Professor Schoenbrod is a co-leader for “Breaking the Logjam: An Environmental Law for the 21st Century,” along with Richard Stewart (NYU professor and former chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund) and Katrina Wyman, (NYU professor). The project is a joint undertaking of New York Law School, NYU School of Law, and NYU’s Environmental Law Journal. A full description of the project and its reports can be found at The project leaders wrote a book, Breaking the Logjam: Environmental Protection That Will Work, published by Yale University Press in 2010. He frequently contributes to the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other newspapers and periodicals. Professor Schoenbrod asserts in his scholarship that Congress has inappropriately shifted its responsibility for the laws to regulatory agencies and courts. As staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) during the 1970s, he led the charge to get lead out of gasoline, dramatically helping to reduce the amount of the braindamaging contaminant in the air. For insight into this litigation campaign, see the correspondence between EPA Administrator Russell Train and Professor Schoenbrod. After seven years with the NRDC, Professor Schoenbrod felt the need to write about the trends he had been finding in practice. “Many of the environmental statutes that were supposed to be helping people were charades,” he says. “I found I enjoyed the give and take of the classroom, as well as the opportunity to write about the ideas that began to occur to me in practice.” His widely-praised 1993 book, Power Without Responsibility: How Congress Abuses the People Through Delegation, published by Yale University Press, was the genesis for legislation in Congress and litigation that went to the Surpeme Court. Also widely-praised is a second book from Yale, Democracy by Decree: What Happens When Courts Run Government, written together with his litigation partner at the Natural Resources Defense Council and present colleague at New York Law School, Professor Ross Sandler. The Supreme Court cited the book in adopting its most important recommendation. In 2005, Yale released a third book, Saving Our Environment from Washington: How Congress Grabs Power, Shirks Responsibility, and Shortchanges the People. Professor Schoenbrod was the originating author of – Remedies: Public and Private (West), now in its fifth edition. He has also published articles in scholarly journals on environmental law, remedies, and the law and politics of regulation. He began in law practice as director of program development at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, which had been established by Robert F. Kennedy. He then was a staff attorney for the Association of the Bar of the City of New York Committee on Electric Power and the Environment before heading to the NRDC. At the NRDC, Professor Schoenbrod also served as codirector of the Council’s Project on Urban Transportation with Professor Sandler. They coauthored A New Direction in Transit, a plan to renovate the city’s subway system that was endorsed by all the city’s major newspaper editorial boards and ultimately adopted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Professor Schoenbrod’s academic career includes positions at Yale Law School (1977) and New York University School of Law (1979–84), in addition to his current position at New York Law School. He holds membership in the American Law Institute and the Education Advisory Committee, Common Good. As a member of the American Tree Farm Association, Professor Schoenbrod has managed a woods at his country home in the Adirondacks.