Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Sponsored Post: Practicing Environmental Law
The following post is by Todd Aagaard, Vice Dean & Professor of Law at Villanova; David Owen, Professor of Law at UC Hastings; and Justin Pidot, Associate Professor at University of Denver, and is sponsored by West Academic.
A month or so into a typical environmental law course, something bad can happen. Students encounter the Clean Air Act. Statutory interpretation can be tough in any circumstance, but the Clean Air Act is a particularly daunting beast, with hundreds of partially overlapping and somewhat intertwined provisions and no simple organizing principles or themes. Many students approach environmental law with the notion that the subject matter is going to be inspiring and fun. Now, instead, they are slogging through statutory provisions that seem, in Justice Rehnquist’s memorable words, to “swim before one’s eyes.
After that initial shock, things don’t get much easier. The authors of the Clean Water Act, CERCLA, and RCRA accomplished many wonderful things, but they won no prizes for the accessibility of their prose. The appellate court decisions interpreting those provisions often aren’t much better. And reading those decisions offers only a glimpse into the world of environmental lawyers, who often rely more heavily on guidance documents and administrative decisions than the rulings of judges. By the end of the semester, more than a few students are wondering if environmental law is really what they want to do.
As law students, each of the three of us had this experience. But we still practiced environmental law, and it was intellectually engaging and inspiring and even sometimes fun. So, when we became professors, we wondered how we might bring the excitement of environmental law practice into environmental law pedagogy.
A new casebook, Practicing Environmental Law, published by Foundation Press®, is our response to that dilemma. Our basic premise is that the way to make students’ learning experiences more enjoyable— and deeper and more lasting—is to bring environmental law practice into the classroom. We did that by building the book around a series of case studies. Over the course of the semester, students will advise a community group on an environmental justice advocacy strategy, help clients determine whether they have standing to bring an environmental case, negotiate a RCRA enforcement settlement and a regional- scale habitat conservation plan, design a litigation strategy to address changes to air quality standards, and testify at a hearing on water pollution reduction—among many other exercises. As this list implies, applying law to new facts, doing some teamwork, and engaging in oral and (if the professor chooses) written advocacy all will be part of an environmental law course taught out of our book. And the range of materials goes well beyond the federal appellate decisions that dominate a typical casebook.
So, will it work? We, the three authors, have each taught much of the book several times in our own classes, and students really appreciate the new format. And if you’re interested in reviews from professors who didn’t actually write the book, we’d be happy to put you in touch with one of the many professors who is testing the book out this semester.
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