Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tulane's Environmental Clinic Under Attack

Recently I posted about an attack by the Maryland legislature on the environmental clinic at University of Maryland.  Now the environmental clinic at Tulane is under similar fire.  Here's a quote from a recent Times-Picayune article (shared with the environmental clinicians by Tulane Environmental Law Clinic Director Adam Babich) :

Since 1989, third-year Tulane law students at the clinic have represented clients in lawsuits against chemical companies, landfills, energy companies and other industries. Among other issues, the cases have dealt with wetland protections, zoning and permitting issues, and violations of environmental regulations on clean air and water. LCA chief Dan Borne and Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, say those torts are job killers, and they cast Adley's Senate Bill 549 as a reasonable way to put a stop to excessive litigation damaging to the Louisiana economy.


As it was introduced, Adley's bill would block university law clinics at any school that receives state money from suing a government agency or representing a client who is suing a private defendant for monetary damages. Adley said he plans to propose an amendment today that would limit the restrictions to environmental law clinics, effectively limiting the bill to Tulane.

As I recently e-mailed Adam, I guess it's good when your opponents are really clear that they want to take you out.  It does seem that this bill doesn't have much political traction, particularly in light of the Gulf Oil Spill:

"I think it's bad public policy to single out a group like this," Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner, said. "It amazes me that the chemical industry would pursue this when we've got all that oil out in the Gulf."

Sens. John Alario, D-Westwego, A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, and Nick Gautreaux, D-Abbeville, noted that their districts include fishers and others who have been affected by industry in the past or could have claims in the wake of the oil spill, though many of those clients likely could hire private-sector attorneys on contingency. Alario and Gautreaux said they oppose the bill. Gautreaux said, "Maybe the attorney general should hire Tulane law students to sue BP. If they can scare the chemical association this bad, then they can scare BP, TransOcean and Halliburton."

Crowe said he "has a real dilemma" and is generally reticent about a proposal that could potentially limit his constituents' access to adequate counsel.

Commerce Committee Chairwoman Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, cited "the poor people in my district" who have, with the help of the Tulane clinic, beaten back attempts to locate landfills in eastern New Orleans.

The closest to a "yes" vote the LCA has gotten so far is from Sen. Mike Michot, R-Lafayette, who said he's going to listen to both sides. Michot said he's heard from constituents who were represented by Tulane students. But, he said, "There has to be a balance. ... I'm going to listen to both sides."

The Clinical Legal Education Association and the Society of American Law Teachers have both come out against this bill, as has Tulane's president.  I'll post an update after the hearing.

Jamie Baker Roskie

UPDATE: The legislature effectively killed the bill through total lack of support. Read the story here.

Environmental Law, Oil & Gas, State Government, Teaching | Permalink

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