Petition to continue environmental law classes at CWSL

By Breanna Hayes, News Editor

What made you go to law school? Some of us came to law school with a particular pursuit or passion in mind. Perhaps the plight of the planet played a part in your decision to study law, or you’ve simply contemplated the problem. 

On March 25, the Environmental Law Society (ELS) created an online petition to continue environmental law classes at CWSL. So far, 59 people have signed the petition urging the administration to consider hiring another environmental law professor in light of Professor Richard Finkmoore’s retirement after the Spring 2019 trimester. Prof. Finkmoore has been CWSL’s only environmental law instructor, and currently no new environmental law classes are planned due to his departure.


ELS President Brendan Hughes and ELS President-Elect Emily Casillas shared their motivation for the petition: “We want to highlight the struggle with getting the classes on campus. Administration has not refused to add classes, but they are not making it a priority, which is why we started the petition. We want the deans to know that [this] is important and [this] is what the students want. Cal Western should be making progressive steps and offering more of these types of classes.” 

Professor Joanna Sax commented on how far-reaching the consequences of climate change may be on various areas not readily associated with environmental law, including our food systems:

“Climate change is one of the most important issues that the world faces today, and we need attorneys who understand the complexity of the problem and can craft creative solutions,” she said. “We need to use science and evidence-based approaches to solve our food supply issues, which includes how to grow and maintain a food supply that recognizes the problem of climate change.”

Prof. Sax’s statement alludes to the politicization of an issue essential to our daily survival. As a legal community we must consider the larger picture when making decisions that will have an everlasting impact on our environment, and consequently, the world at large.

Interestingly, in an ongoing case filed in 2015, Juliana v. United States, youth plaintiffs filed suit against the federal government, asserting their constitutional rights had been violated under the Fifth Amendment and Public Trust Doctrine. Claims by plaintiffs allege the government knew of the dangers associated with carbon emissions resulting from fossil fuels, and decided to capitalize on those resources anyways, causing life-threatening carbon dioxide concentrations impacting plaintiffs presently and in the future. The intersection of environmental law with constitutional issues (sometimes referred to as ‘environmental justice’) is a growing field of litigation. CWSL students have even taken it on themselves to rally for awareness of environmental issues.

According to the ABA – Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources: “Environmental law” is a wide-ranging field, covering literally dozens of federal and state statutes as well as constitutional and common-law principles on subjects as varied as protection of endangered species, urban air quality, stewardship of public lands, and climate change. An environmental practice can take many forms, including litigation, participation in administrative proceedings relating to enforcement, permitting, and rulemaking, transactional work, various dispute resolution processes, or a combination of these areas. The varied nature of practice types and subject matter areas among lawyers working in the environmental field makes creation of a successful environmental law curriculum a challenging task.”

If you are interested in learning more about environmental law during your law school career, or support those students who are passionate about environmental law, please sign the petition to let CWSL administration know that our student body demands environmental law in our curriculum. Share with classmates and spread the word about the need for environmental law classes at CWSL.

To lighten the moooooo’d, NASA answers a pressing question: which is a bigger methane source: cow belching or cow flatulence?

Interesting sources for information on climate change, both locally and globally-focused:

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