The New York City metropolitan region and the United States overall present a nearly inexhaustible supply of environmental troubles. At the urban core and in outlying areas, communities face diverse challenges such as alarmingly high asthma rates, scarce open-space resources, brownfield redevelopment, and sprawl. Students in the Environmental Law Clinic represent local, regional, and national environmental and community organizations working to solve critical environmental challenges facing the metropolitan region.
Clinic students represent clients on a broad array of issues including clean water, wetlands preservation, endangered species, environmental justice, "smart growth," and clean air. In weekly seminars, students lead strategic discussions of the issues to be resolved in their cases. This clinic emphasizes litigation skills that have broad applications beyond environmental law, such as drafting pleadings, arguing motions, and negotiating settlements. Students are also exposed to mechanisms, such as citizen suits, that are prevalent in both civil rights and environmental cases.
Students in the Environmental Law Clinic have worked with community groups concerned about pollution and public health as well as with statewide and national organizations and coalitions dealing with such issues as land conservation and transportation. In the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center, they counseled firefighters and others exposed to asbestos and other toxins. They have advocated for citizen and environmental groups before state and federal agencies to ensure that nuclear-power-plant owners maintain adequate resources to operate, maintain, and shut down the plants safely. With a heavy emphasis on client interaction, the clinic teaches students to counsel community groups to grapple with and settle their cases in ways that best achieve their goals. The clinic also addresses the interplay of economic development and environmental protection and the impact of contamination and regulation on communities of color and other economically disadvantaged groups.
"The Environmental Law Clinic showed me the broad range of roles that lawyers play. In one case, students litigated a case that went to trial. In another, we researched the law for several community and environmental groups so that we could advise them on the strategies they might use in convincing decision makers to do the right thing. We were also involved in filing formal complaints in a regulatory administrative process, which ultimately got the governor of New Jersey to come out and oppose the construction of a mall on wetlands."
Ben Longstreth '02 Clerk, Chief Judge John M. Walker, Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit
Professor Edward Lloyd, the Evan M. Frankel Clinical Professor in Environmental Law, is the Director of Clinical Education at Columbia. He joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 2000. Formerly executive director of the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, Professor Lloyd serves as its general counsel. He is co-director of the Eastern Environmental Law Center and a member of the Litigation Review Committee of Environmental Defense. An activist and scholar on a wide range of environmental legal issues and citizen suit litigation, Professor Lloyd has testified before U.S. Senate and House of Representatives committees on environmental enforcement. In 2002, he was appointed to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission.
Susan J. Kraham is a Senior Staff Attorney and Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School's Environmental Law Clinic. Susan has spent her legal career representing public interest clients with a particular focus on environmental and land use law. Prior to joining the Environmental Law Clinic, Susan served as Counsel to the New Jersey Audubon Society. From 1998 until 2005 she was an Associate Clinical Professor in the Environmental Law Clinic at Rutgers Law School, Newark. Susan was a 1992 graduate of Columbia Law School. She also has a Masters in Urban Planning from New York University’s Wagner School. After graduation from Law School, Susan clerked for the Honorable Justice Gary Stein of the New Jersey Supreme Court. She was a Skadden fellow. Susan was also an echoing green fellow where she partnered on a community-based environmental justice project.