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Joseph L. Sax papers: 1943-2013
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Joseph L. Sax papers comprise a comprehensive collection of legislative history and documentation on the enactment of the "Thomas J. Anderson, Gordon Rockwell Environmental Protection Act of 1970" (MEPA). MEPA was originally drafted by Professor Joseph L. Sax of the University of Michigan Law School and was one of the first projects undertaken by the Law School's Environmental Law Society.

The papers collected herein should be useful to several groups. Students of the environmental movement have herein a rich source of information on the early activities of the movement in Michigan and the philosophies behind various-approaches to environmental control. Lawyers interested in the legislative history of the MEPA will find an extensive collection of documents tracing the bill's movement through a number of committees of the Michigan House and Senate. Arguments about many of the issues that continue to be raised in MEPA litigation are presented in full detail in materials in these files. Students of government and political science may discover documentation of value in studies of interest group politics and the legislative process. Other uses, not imagined by those who assembled this collection, no doubt will be made.

The project was motivated in part by requests made of Professor Sax and others by lawyers, historians, and legislators in the United States and abroad about the background of the Michigan Act. Professor Sax feared that the documents that he had collected, many of which are unique and irreplaceable, might begin to be scattered and/or deteriorate. Later, it was decided to supplement Sax's papers by assembling all available documentation in the state on the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. Materials in this collection trace the history of the Act from the first correspondence between the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Professor Sax requesting that he draft a model environmental law, through the passage of the law by the Michigan Legislature and its signing by Governor Milliken on July 27th, 1970. The collection also contains post-enactment materials, including attempts to amend the bill, through April 1976. Plans are underway to add to the collection all relevant legislative and judicial documents relating to the law, its interpretation and amendment.

Highlights of the collection include the following: the original correspondence between Professor Sax and Mrs. Joan Wolfe relating to the idea for the drafting of a model environmental law in Michigan; correspondence on MEPA from the files of Representative Thomas Anderson in which he indicates his early hopes for and concerns over the Act and his strategy for shepherding the bill through the Michigan Legislature; various versions and drafts of the bill; analyses of the bill by the Governor's office and state agencies; and testimony delivered at public hearings on the bill. Also in the collection is a tape of the Senate Debate on the bill. (A complete listing of materials in the collection is found at the end of this document.)

Several sources contributed to this collection. The great majority of the material comes from the papers of Professor Joseph L. Sax on the passage of the Act and attempts to amend it. In addition, papers of Mrs. Joan Wolfe (who also has another collection in the Bentley Historical Library) were solicited and added. These include communications of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council at various points in the legislative consideration of the Act. Attorney General Frank Kelley indicated in a reply to a request for MEPA materials that most of the relevant documentation of the Department of the Attorney General on the Act had already been forwarded (courtesy copies) to Professor Sax. Requests were also made of the Executive office of the Governor, the Secretary of the Michigan Senate, and the West Michigan Environmental Action Council; any contributions from them will be added to the files when received.

An important supplemental source of information on the Act was found in Representative Thomas J. Anderson's papers on the MEPA in the State Archives of the Michigan History Division, Michigan Department of State: Personal papers, Thomas J. Anderson, [74-22, Accession boxes 403, 404, 405(B)]. Other materials from the State Archives were reviewed to insure that the MEPA Collection would be complete for legislative history and research on the State's environmental movement. Of relevance were House of Representatives, Standing Committees' Public Hearings, 1969-1973, [RG79-37, Lot 43, Box 1.) and House Committee, 1969-70, Conservation and Recreation [72-34, Lot 21, Box 4 and Box 51.

The State Archives material was not duplicated in total for this collection. Rather, those materials which record a significant event in the movement of the bill through the Michigan Legislature or highlight an important position on the bill by an interest group or governmental entity were reproduced for inclusion here.[7]Representative Anderson, who was the prime legislative mover in the passage of MEPA, received over 8000 letters or petitions about H.B. 3055. Many of these are included in his papers and are not found herein. Our efforts aimed to add to the Bentley Collection documentation from the Archives that would be of major interest to legal and history scholars.

[Archive material is noted in the files by a penciled asterisk (*) on the upper right hand corner of the document.]

Archive materials relating to MEPA after its passage were not searched for this study; there are several folders of post enactment materials and other relevant files in the Archives (e.g. 74-22 B405 FL "Newsclippings relating to H.B. 305511).

In 1982, the library received additional materials regarding the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. This new material collected by Professor Joseph Sax largely concerns similar kinds of legislation enacted in other states. Included are correspondence and legislative materials

In 1986, the library received an additional 13 feet of material, mainly case files detailing litigation arising out of the Act. The most important of these cases was perhaps the so-called Pigeon River case (West Michigan, Environmental Action Council v. Natural Resources Commission).

In 2014, the library received an additional 16 feet of material. This addition is organized into four series: Case Files, Teaching Materials, Travels and Lectures, and Publications and Research. Each series is further arranged in chronological order by year. Additional material related to this accession has been added to the Correspondence and Related Materials series, which includes correspondence from 1986-1998, a diary from a 1979 visit to Japan, and a copy of the finding aid from the American Heritage Center's Joseph L. Sax papers.

Show all series level scope and content notes