With a 70-percent affirmative vote of its membership, the National Lawyers Guild has incorporated advancement of “the rights of ecosystems” into its Guild Constitution.

The National Lawyers Guild Constitution’s Preamble now reads:

“The National Lawyers Guild is an association dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system. We seek to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers of America in an organization which shall function as an effective political and social force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights and the rights of ecosystems shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests…”

Marti Schmidt, an employment law attorney in Seattle, proposed the change last year, and several members of the association added statements of support.

“The truth of the matter is that the rights of ecosystems are human rights. Humans are a part of the ecosystem; they are not separate from it. Rather than a relationship based on human domination, we must recognize that the humans are dependent on ecosystems.” Nathan C. Frischkorn – AZ

“If we aim to keep fighting for democracy and justice, we must necessarily fight for the ecosystems on which all life depends. The Guild has always been at the vanguard of the struggle for human rights. Now it must also step forward and speak up for the rights of nature.” Karen Hoffman – PA

The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and most extensive network of public interest and human rights activists working within the legal system. It was founded in 1937 by progressive lawyers and jurists who believed then – and now – theirs is a major role in reconstructing legal values to emphasize human rights over property rights. Over the past 82 years they have:

  • helped prosecute Nazis at Nuremburg,
  • participated in Hansberry v. Lee,
  • represented the U.S. in the founding of the United Nations,
  • founded the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Center for Constitutional Rights,
  • represented accused during the McCarthy Era, and
  • represented civil rights activists and the Chicago 7 in the 1960s.

Several National Lawyers Guild attorneys who were involved also represent the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which applauds the inclusion of ecosystem rights.

“Recognizing the rights of the earth and its ecosystems is going to take time, and this social movement will progress in stages. The first stage is just being able to think the thought that ecosystems can have rights, and not be merely property.” Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin – WA

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