Clarice Z. Smith,
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute, 212-599-7000, Ext. 318

Listen to Ross Sandler & David Schoenbrod discuss Democracy by Decree with Brian Lehrer on WNYC. Recorded on 1-15-03.

Manhattan Institute Book Catalog.

David Schoenbrod
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 government officials and public interest advocates exercising government power in ways that evade accountability to voters.

An adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, a Washington, D.C. libertarian think tank, Professor Schoenbrod 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 in appropriately shifted its responsibility for law-making powers to the regulatory agencies and courts.

As staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) during the 1970s, he successfully led the charge to get lead out of gasoline, dramatically reducing the amount of the brain-damaging contaminant in the air. 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 explore in written form the ideas that I had been developing for some time.”

His widely-praised 1993 book, Power Without Responsibility: How Congress Abuses the People Through Delegation, published by Yale University Press, was the genesis for the 1996 Congressional Review of Agency Rule Making Act. In January of 2003, Yale will release a new book, Democracy by Decree: What Happens When Courts Run Government. The book was written by Professor Schoenbrod and his litigation partner at the Natural Resources Defense Council and present colleague at New York Law School, Professor Ross Sandler. Professor Schoenbrod’s other books include, Remedies: Public and Private (West, 2002), now in its third 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 of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, which had been established by Robert Kennedy. While there, he devised a plan to improve the area’s chronically underserved inner-city.

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. His academic career includes positions at Yale Law School (1977) and New York University School of Law (1979-82), in addition to his current positions at New York Law School and the Cato Institute.

At the NRDC, Professor Schoenbrod served as codirector of the Council’s Project on Urban Transportation with Professor Sandler. They cowrote “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.

As a member of the American Tree Farmers’ Association, he has raised and tended trees at his country home in the Adirondacks for many years. He is also an avid gardener, music lover, and art collector.

Selected Publications:

Remedies: Public & Private. 2nd ed. (West, 1996) (with A. MacBeth, D.I. Levine & D. Jung).

Power Without Responsibility: How Congress Abuses the People Through Delegation. (Yale University Press, 1993); paperback edition (Yale University Press, 1995).

Remedies: Public & Private. (West, 1990) (with A. MacBeth, D.I. Levine & D. Jung) (Annual Supplements, 1992-1994).

Teacher`s Manual to Accompany Cases & Materials on Remedies: Public & Private. (West, 1990) (with A. MacBeth, D.I. Levine & D. Jung).

A New Direction in Transit: A Report to Mayor Edward I. Koch from Robert F. Wagner, Jr., Chairman, City Planning Commission. (City of New York, 1978) (with R.A. Chudd & R. Sandler).


Democracy by Decree.


“This is a fascinating book for someone like me who regretted agreeing to a court-approved consent decree limiting the city's authority in programs involving prisons, welfare, education, homeless shelters, etc. The authors discuss the topic in an interesting and clear manner making it a read well worth your time.”
—Ed Koch, former mayor,
New York City

 “A compelling story with a powerful argument backed by lots of fascinating stories about judicial shipwrecks.”
—James B. Jacobs,
New York University School of Law

“Democracy by Decree shows how courts can protect rights and still let mayors and governors do their job.”
—John Sexton,
president of New York University, and dean of NYU Law School

“An easy to read, insightful and scholarly explanation of how our country's government of the people became a government of the courts. Sandler and Schoenbrod offer a measured and practical prescription for restoring democracy while still honoring rights. This book will appeal to liberals and conservatives alike.”
—Lamar Alexander,
former governor of Tennessee

“Democracy by Decree is an impressive and thoughtful analysis of the current court-centered rights culture in which it is too easy for elected officials to ‘pass the buck’ to courts while taking actions that are blatantly unconstitutional.”
—Nadine Strossen,
President, American Civil Liberties Union and professor, New York Law School

“A brilliant, well-written and brave account of how federal courts have distorted our political system by taking control of complex institutions like schools and prisons-sometimes for decades-instead of enforcing rights, which is their proper domain.”
Diane Ravitch,
New York University

“Democracy by Decree is a devastating indictment of how high-sounding legal mandates undermine the social goals they purport to guarantee. With fascinating blow-by-blow accounts, Sandler and Schoenbrod expose how advocates for one interest group inevitably undermine the interests of others and thwart the ability of those in responsibility to balance interests for the common good.”
Philip K. Howard,
Author of The Death of Common Sense

“Sandler and Schoenbrod's account-really a discovery-of the existence of a second government in our midst is meticulous, nuanced, and alarming. By showing how unilateral judicial government undermines both democracy and individual rights, they have done a significant service to both.”
—Christopher DeMuth,
president, American
Enterprise Institute