Public Interest Environmental Litigation

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Fall 2013 Seminar
Meets: T 5:00pm - 7:00pm in WCC Room 4063
2 classroom credits

This course provides a overview of the practice of public interest environmental litigation. Most federal environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, include a provision allowing “any person” to bring suit in federal court against “any person” who violates the statute. These “citizen suits” have many unique characteristics that distinguish them from typical civil litigation. Public interest plaintiffs may also challenge agency action under certain other environmental statutes, such as the National Environmental Policy Act, pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act.

Students in this class will learn, from start to finish, how to litigate cases under the federal environmental laws—both true citizen-suit cases and cases brought under the APA. The emphasis will not be on mastering the substance of the various environmental laws (although some of that will be necessary), but instead on the practical skills and knowledge necessary to prosecute and defend these suits.

The topics to be covered include:

  • Factual investigation of potential claims and evidentiary issues.
  • Drafting notice letters.
  • Conditions precedent to suit and other procedural requirements and defenses.
  • Standing declarations: interviewing clients and helping them prepare a declaration to establish their standing.
  • Intervention.
  • Remedies, including injunctions, civil penalties, and attorneys' fees.
  • Characteristics of different types of environmental suits.
  • Strategies for plaintiffs, defendants, and intervenors.
  • Media relations.
  • Ethical issues in public interest environmental litigation.

Students are encouraged to enroll in the Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, which will provide students with practical experience through projects for clinic clients. Some seats in this seminar are reserved for students who are enrolled in the clinic (students must be enrolled in the clinic before they can claim one of these reserved seats). A student’s enrollment in a reserved clinical seat is dependent on the student’s enrollment in the Environmental Law & Policy Clinic. Please see the clinic’s description for more information.

Subject Areas: Environmental Law , Regulatory Law , Procedure & Practice .