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Abstract

Environmental justice litigation using the Equal Protection Clause and civil rights statutes has largely failed. This article explains that failure as a result of a general shift by federal courts to limit the scope of civil rights law rather than an improper characterization of environmental justice as a civil rights issue. This explanation is important to both encourage and caution environmental justice advocates and scholars as they approach claims under Title VIII. I suggest that Title VIII's ability to bridge property and dignity may still present a powerful and much-needed tool for bringing equality to environmental law, but that, based on recent treatment of civil rights in the courts, those concepts should be bridged outside of the civil rights context first. Thus, I recommend that environmental justice scholars and advocates shift their focus from litigating civil rights claims to building the conceptual and doctrinal connection between environmental quality, property, and personal dignity through the administrative process, tort suits, and other means before making the leap to Title VIII.