Wednesday, July 12, 2017
For years, I, like many other professors, have been using case studies in the classroom. Some of my favorites have come from the Stanford Law School case study series and from Harvard Law School's series of negotiation exercises (I've used Long River and Flooding, both to rave reviews from students). But I've also created several of my own. In hopes that others might also find them useful, I've provided a short description and a link for each in the text below.
Environmental Law Case Studies:
NEPA/New University Facility Case Study: This case study addresses the application of NEPA to a development in an urban environment. It's designed to raise questions about what counts as an environmental impact, what counts as a significant environmental impact, and how attorneys can advance the interests of different clients through a NEPA process. Each group also receives confidential instructions, which I'm happy to provide but have not posted here.
Emissions Reduction Game: This case study involves an in-class simulation of a carbon trading market. I begin by using a technology-specifying standard and a technology-based performance standard to establish baselines for comparison, then simulate an idealized market, and then simulate a market designed to incorporate a few of the real-world complexities of environmental trading systems. It's usually a lot of fun. The summary writeup here is skeletal, and many of the key details are in confidential instructions for each team (which I have not posted).
Natural Resources Law Case Studies:
Drilling in the Chukchi Sea: This case study considers the application of environmental laws to proposals for offshore drilling in the Arctic. I've used it in a coastal zone law class, but it also would work for an environmental or natural resources law course.
Allagash: This case study considers the application of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to a state management proposal for the Allagash River in northern Maine. The case study raises statutory interpretation and federalism issues as well as questions about the meaning and importance of wilderness. The case study itself here is here, and the exhibits are here.
Pitegoff Creek State Forest: This case study asks students to consider alternative management approaches for a new state forest. The fact pattern is hypothetical, but it draws on issues arising in forests in Maine and Oregon. It works best near the end of a natural resources course, when students can use the exercise to synthesize some of the ideas they have been considering throughout the course.
Fishing the Commons. This case study simulates the management of a common resource under conditions of uncertainty. The case study is really just a dice game, with rules spelled out in the short writeup and this Excel table, which contains a very simple numerical model, designed to track the results. It's fun, but it also illustrates how hard it can be to manage a shared-access, theoretically renewable resource under uncertain conditions.
Water Law Case Studies:
Groundwater Regulation and the Takings Clause. This case study uses the fact pattern from Bragg v. Edwards Aquifer Authority, an important takings/groundwater case out of Texas. It requires students to address a variety of thorny takings questions in the context of water use regulation.
Shady Acres. This case study addresses the intersection of water supply and land use law. It asks students to simulate a hearing in which a county board of supervisors will decide whether it can approve a proposed new mega-development while complying with California's show-me-the-water law. The case study also raises deeper questions about resource and land use planning in contexts of environmental uncertainty and change.
Delta Wetlands. This case study addresses water rights trading. It asks students to advocate for or against a specific proposal, advanced in the mid-2000s, to turn several islands in California's Sacramento/San Joaquin Bay-Delta into new, private water supply reservoirs. The case study raises statutory interpretation questions--students must evaluate the consistency of the project with specific provisions of water and environmental law--as well as deeper policy questions about the desirability of water marketing. While the fact pattern is specific to California, I've taught the case study elsewhere (as have other professors), with good results.
Advising Westlands. This case study asks students to evaluate the threats posed by environmental laws to Westlands Water District, a major water supplier in California's Central Valley. Unlike most of the other case studies, the format is non-adversarial; the students all represent Westlands. When I last taught the exercise, an attorney who actually does represent Westlands visited the class and provided feedback on the students' conclusions, but I've also taught the exercise successfully without a guest speaker (and outside California).
The Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Controversy: This case study asks students to evaluate negotiating positions of the three states involved in the ACF controversy. It's now a little dated--many important legal events have happened since I wrote it, and more or coming--so if you use it, you'd want to explain that you're asking students to evaluate interests as they existed at a past moment in time, not as they exist today.
Leg-Reg Case Study
Plan B Rulemaking Advocacy Discussion Problem. This case study asks students to think about advocacy strategies they would use to persuade an agency to adopt--or not adopt--a rule. The fact pattern is based on Lisa Heinzerling's Plan B Fiasco article, which chronicles a series of rulemaking debacles surrounding the morning-after pill. In creating the problem I also borrowed ideas (and ideas for source materials) from Bill Funk, Sidney Shapiro, and Russell Weaver's excellent administrative law casebook.
If you'd like to use any of these, please do! Let me know how it goes, but there is no need to ask for permission. Many of the case studies here are in Microsoft Word format, so you can easily adapt or update them as you see fit.
Lastly, if you're interested in an entire environmental law book built around case studies (though this one is not available for free), please check this out.
- Dave Owen