At the Environmental Justice Clinic, students represent and partner with disenfranchised communities fighting racial and economic disparities in the distribution of polluting sources, while also fighting for a say in decisions affecting their future.
About the Environmental Justice Clinic
The Environmental Justice (EJ) Clinic at VLS is one of just a few law school clinics in the United States specifically devoted to environmental justice, an interdisciplinary practice at the intersection of civil rights and the environment. Students are involved in real-life cases. They work in partnership with low-income communities and communities of color to address racial disparities and ensure that residents can fully participate in decisions affecting their health and welfare. They gain experience working on law and policy issues at the nexus of environment, race, and policy, while also learning essential community lawyering skills. Mike Harris will lead the clinic as Interim Director for the Fall 2022 Semester.
Current Cases and Projects
The clinic’s docket focuses on representing overburdened communities who are fighting for a voice while facing racial and economic disparities in the distribution of polluting sources. Students are expected to produce work consistent with that of the finest attorneys and consultants as they work with clients and partners across the country, addressing issues such as:
- Living in the Shadow of Polluting Facilities: Working on Care v. EPA, students are representing a group of community-based organizations around the country that successfully sued the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to investigate civil rights complaints in a timely way. Learn more >>
- A Landfill’s Racially Discriminatory Impact: A student team is working on behalf of the Ashurst Bar/Smith Community Organization in Tallassee, Alabama, where residents are struggling to protect their historic black neighborhood from the negative effects of a large landfill. Learn more >>
- An Environmental Justice Policy for Vermont: Students are participating in the Rural Environmental Justice Opportunities Informed by Community Expertise (REJOICE) project, which conducts outreach to communities and stakeholders throughout Vermont in order to recommend environmental justice policy to the state. EJC students helped draft Vermont's first Environmental Justice Policy. Students are currently helping with community education focused on making public comments for new Vermont proposed low emission and electric vehicle regulations.
Students also participate in a seminar that focuses on community-based lawyering, discussing the theoretical, practical, and ethical dimensions of a lawyer’s role in representing and working with disenfranchised communities. Topics include client interviewing and counseling; case theory; settlement negotiations; brief writing; oral argument (trial and appellate); direct/cross examination; depositions; discovery planning; regulatory, legislative, and media advocacy; and more.
The EJ Clinic strives to further the environmental justice movement by representing and partnering with environmentally overburdened communities of color and low-income communities. The clinic seeks to enforce civil rights in the environmental context, while providing technical assistance and sharing resources to develop and implement other legal strategies. To that end, the clinic trains students to be ethical and effective advocates for their clients while adhering to the Principles of Environmental Justice.
Launched in 2019, the Environmental Justice Clinic is a new and growing program open to Vermont Law School Master’s and JD students. For questions about the clinic, contact Interim Director Mike Harris at MRHarris@vermontlaw.edu. For questions about admission to Vermont Law School, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.