Vermont Journal of Environmental Law Asks, 'Should Nature Have Its Day in Court?'

The editors of the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law (VJEL), Volume 20, at Vermont Law School will convene a Symposium to explore a new paradigm in environmental jurisprudence, whether nature should have legal rights of personhood.

"Are environmental statutes really protecting nature? We welcome speakers from all over the world for a lively discussion about an alternative legal theory, giving nature the right to speak in court. We invite people from all walks of life to join us in this important conversation," said Margaret Shugart, Senior Symposium Co-Editor of VJEL.

Drawing on the international trend of legal personhood for natural entities, the symposium will investigate and debate if this approach works in these countries and whether it will work in the United States. The journal and event welcomes contributors and speakers from multiple cultures and perspectives for a lively discussion of nature’s place in our legal system. The event will feature speakers from New Zealand, Ecuador, Israel, South Africa, Canada, Native American tribes, both coasts of the U.S., and our local Vermont region. Attendees are also invited to draft their own Rights of Nature constitutional amendment for Vermont with the guidance of gubernatorial candidate Steven Marx.

As the environmental journal and the top environmental law school in the United States, the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law wants to be at the cutting edge of theory and jurisprudence in the field,” said Hannah Dean, Symposium Editor of VJEL. We are welcoming speakers from all over the world for a lively discussion and debate about whether nature should have its day in court. We invite people from all walks of life to join us in this important conversation."

Details on the Symposium are included below.

8:00am: Breakfast/ Registration

8:30am: Introductory Remarks
Dean McHenry, VLS Dean
Dillon Post, Journal Editor in Chief
John Echeverria, Journal Faculty Advisor
Hannah Dean and Margaret Shugart- Symposium Editors

9:00am: Introductory Panel
Moderator: Tony Zelle, Partner in Zelle McDonough & Cohen, Board Treasurer of Earth Law Center
Margaret Stewart, Director of Center for Earth Jurisprudence
Grant Wilson, Directing Attorney at Earth Law Center
Cormac Cullinan, Directing Attorney with Cullinan and Associates in South Africa, CEO of EnAct International
Shannon Biggs, Co-Founder of Movement Rights
Question and Answer

10:30am: Keynote Address 
Catherine Iorns Magallanes, Professor University of Wellington, National Board Member of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand

11:30am: Indigenous Perspectives Panel
Moderator: Rachel Stevens, Attorney and Assistant Professor with Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic
Deon Ben, Grand Canyon Trust and Navajo Nation
Kirsten Anker, McGill University, Faculty of Law
Question and Answer

12:30pm: Lunch
Drafting activity with Steven Marx, gubernatorial candidate in Vermont
Reading examples of constitutional amendments

1:45pm International Panel
Moderator: Tracy Bach, Professor at Vermont Law School
Hugo Echeverria, Environmental Attorney in Ecuador
Craig Kauffman, University of Oregon, Associate Professor of Political Science
Rachelle Adam, Animal Rights and Environmental Attorney and activist in Israel, Lecturer
at the Faculty of Law, Hebrew University
Question and Answer

3:00pm: Break/ Snack

3:15pm: Applied Law Panel
Moderator: Dean Jennifer Rushlow, Director of Environmental Law Center at Vermont Law School
Linda Sheehan, Senior Counsel Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
Reed Loder, Professor at Vermont Law School
Kevin Schneider, Executive Director of the Nonhuman Rights Project
Thomas Linzey, Executive Director of Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)
Question and Answer

4:45pm: Closing Remarks

The first 150 people to register through Eventbright receive lunch. See: https://vjelrightsofnature.eventbrite.com.

The event will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 19, in Chase Community Center at VLS. The symposium, open to the public and press, will be streamed live at vermontlaw.edu/live.