For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Michelle Sanborn, michelle@celdf.org 

Financial Threats to Rights of Nature Lawmaking

Corporate 'person' uses constitutional rights law to justify attorney fees from the Town of Nottingham, targeting people’s use of direct democracy for climate action.

WASHINGTON - Corporate personhood “rights” are once again being weaponized to financially punish and intimidate a local community that took a stand for the Rights of Nature and future generations. On April 23, 2021, Nottingham Water Alliance (NWA), which campaigned to adopt a Freedom from Chemical Trespass Ordinance, filed a brief opposing a corporation’s demand for over $50,000 in attorney fees from the taxpayers of Nottingham.

“These desperate tactics deny liberty and justice to the people of Nottingham. We should be free to protect the health and safety of our whole community. These tactics will not stop this movement. It’s time for state constitutional change," says Peter White of NWA.

In Nottingham, a resident plaintiff and his corporate shield, G&F Goods, LLC, filed a lawsuit against the Ordinance, arguing it unconstitutionally discriminates against corporations. (The courts decided to protect corporate privileges and overturn the law.) Threats to freshwater systems and climate disruption prompted residents to popularly adopt the Ordinance at their 2019 town hall meeting. It secures rights of ecosystems “to naturally exist, flourish, regenerate, evolve, and be restored” and rights of townspeople to a “climate system capable of sustaining human societies.”

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The Town, which has refused to defend the direct democracy vote of the people, opposes the demand for attorney fees and said the whole “case was entirely unnecessary.” “A day late and a dollar short to wait until a motion for attorney fees is filed to make such a statement. The Town could have filed a motion to dismiss from the very beginning and instead, town officials capitulated to a single dissenter and denied the local NWA the opportunity to defend the Ordinance when the Town knew they were not going to defend it themselves,” says CELDF’s Michelle Sanborn.

Court documents are available upon request.

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The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.

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