Richard Lazarus is the Howard J. and Katherine W. Aibel Professor of Law at Harvard University, where he teaches Environmental Law, Natural Resources Law, Supreme Court Advocacy, and Torts. He served as the Executive Director of the President’s Commission responsible for investigating the root causes of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979 and has a B.S. from the University of Illinois in Chemistry and a B.A. in Economics.
He has previously served on the law school faculties of Indiana University, Washington University, and Georgetown University, where he was the Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., Professor of Law. He has been a visiting professor of law at Columbia University, Northwestern University, the University of San Diego, and the University of Texas schools of law. For ten summers, he has co-taught a course on the history of the Supreme Court of the United States with the Chief Justice of the United States. Professor Lazarus worked for the United States Justice Department, both in the Environment and Natural Resources Division (1979-83) and the Solicitor General’s Office (1986-89), where he was Assistant to the Solicitor General. In Michaelmas Term 2018, he served as the Herbert Smith Freehills Visitor of the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge (UK) and as a Visiting Member of Jesus College. In March 2019, he was awarded an academic writing fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy.
Professor Lazarus has represented the United States, state and local governments, and environmental groups in the United States Supreme Court in 40 cases and has presented oral argument in 14 of those cases. He recently served as counsel of record for respondent St. Croix County in Murr v. Wisconsin, decided in June 2017. He also represented the United States in U.S. v. Chem-Dyne, the first case to establish joint and several liability under the federal Superfund law, and the California Supreme Court case, National Audubon Society v. Superior Court of Alpine County, applying the public trust doctrine to Mono Lake.
His primary areas of legal scholarship are environmental and natural resources law, with particular emphasis on constitutional law and the Supreme Court. He has published three books, The Making of Environmental Law (U. Chicago 2004), Environmental Law Stories (Aspen Press, co-edited with O. Houck 2005) and most recently The Rule of Five – Making Climate History at the Supreme Court (Belknap Press 2020), on the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. He was also the principal author of Deep Water – The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling (GPO 2011), which is the Report to the President of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling Commission, for which he served as the Executive Director. Professor Lazarus has won the faculty teaching award at Washington University, Georgetown University, and Harvard Law School. At the Annual Meeting in 2011, the American Bar Association gave Professor Lazarus its Award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy for 2011. In November 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division gave Professor Lazarus its inaugural Environmental Leadership Award. In the final months of 2020 and January 2021, he served on the Department of Justice Agency Review Team for President-Elect Biden's Transition Team.