Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2006

Publication Title

Environmental Law

Publication Title (Abbreviation)

Envtl. L.



First Page


Last Page



This Article explores possible insights from the “procedural justice” literature about features of government decision making processes that citizens are likely to consider to be particularly valuable or important. Numerous commentators have urged that the government take steps to increase citizen participation in its decision making processes as a way to offset concerns about government legitimacy. The premise of the Article is that incorporating into government decision making processes features that are important to citizens is a potentially helpful step in fostering meaningful citizen participation. Processes that citizens value are more likely to be processes that citizens use and that enhance citizen confidence in government, while processes with features that citizens find unsatisfactory are more likely to be processes that do not engender meaningful citizen input; they may even operate to undermine citizen confidence.

This Article reviews a framework that the procedural justice literature proposes for assessing citizen satisfaction with decision making processes, and it applies this framework to an international decision making process that relies heavily on citizen participation, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s (CEC) citizen submissions process. This process, which empowers citizens to file complaints in which they claim that any of the North American countries is failing to effectively enforce one or more of its environmental laws, was created with the hope that it would increase government accountability and transparency, and inform and thereby improve the exercise of agency discretion. This Article considers the track record of the process in light of the procedural justice literature in an effort to advance thinking about the design of government decision making processes that are intended to promote meaningful public participation.


© 2006 David L. Markell


First published in Environmental Law.

Faculty Biography