Supreme Court Review

Article Title

Irreparability as Irreversibility


My goal here is to explore the idea of irreversibility, with particular reference to preliminary injunctions, environmental problems, and some enduring controversies within the Supreme Court. In one sense, any losses are irreversible, simply because time is linear. If Jones plays tennis this afternoon rather than working, the relevant time is lost forever. If Smith fails to say the right words to a loved one, at exactly the right time, the opportunity might be gone forever. If one nation fails to take action to deter the aggressive steps of another, in a particular year, the course of world events might be irretrievably altered. If a project to drill oil in Alaska is delayed for five years, there is an irreversible loss as well: The oil that might have been made available will not be made available when it otherwise would have been. An injunction can prevent irreversible harm; it can also create irreversible harm.

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