Amy Laura Cahn named acting director of Environmental Justice Clinic
SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (Feb. 1, 2021) – The director of Vermont Law School’s (VLS) Environmental Justice Clinic (EJC) has been appointed by President Joseph Biden, Jr., to a prominent role in his administration fighting racial and economic disparities in environmental policies.
Marianne Engelman-Lado has been named deputy general counsel for environmental initiatives at the Environmental Protection Agency. The position highlights the legal expertise she employed at VLS as a law professor and the founding director of its community-based lawyering clinic. The EJC represents and partners with environmentally overburdened communities of color and low-income communities to enforce civil rights protections through an environmental lens.
“Marianne’s leadership was critical to launching the clinic and building it into a national model that everyone at VLS is very proud of,” said Jenny Rushlow, the associate dean for environmental programs at VLS. “We are grateful for all that she did for VLS, her students, our staff, and the communities we represent. We are not surprised in the least that she caught the attention of the Biden administration and are delighted that a member of our VLS community will be tackling these important issues on such a grand scale.”
Prior to her appointment, Engelman-Lado and the EJC provided recommendations to the Biden transition team, a process through which she learned first-hand that environmental justice would be a priority for the new administration.
“This is the first president that has really committed their platform to addressing issues of inequality in the environmental sector and this is the moment to bring higher visibility to those who have been negatively impacted by environmental injustices,” said Engelman-Lado. “It’s bittersweet to leave VLS because I have been thrilled to work with all the amazing students, staff and communities we represented, but the opportunity to work at the EPA is so compelling and I’m excited to serve the country and this president.”
VLS has tapped Amy Laura Cahn to serve as acting director of the EJC on an interim basis. Cahn is an experienced environmental and climate justice advocate and practitioner who has held senior leadership roles at the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston and Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia, and clerked for the U.S. District Court and Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division. She has also served as an instructor at Tufts University and the University of Pennsylvania, and earned her juris doctor, magna cum laude, at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
“As sad as we are to see Marianne go, we are very excited to have Amy Laura take the reins of the clinic,” said Rushlow. “She brings a wealth of experience in community lawyering and a passion for environmental justice that will be very beneficial to our students, the VLS community and the clinic’s clients.”
Through her role at the Conservation Law Foundation, Cahn has collaborated with VLS on a number of projects, including launch of the Vermont Legal Food Hub and rural transportation research, and mentored VLS students during their internships at the Boston-based legal advocacy organization, which serves all of New England.
“I am inspired that the VLS leadership, faculty, and students are so committed to environmental justice as a curricular priority and area of growth for the law school,” said Cahn. “There is a new level of public awareness and this is a new political day. Now is the moment to shift power in how we make policy. To be intersectional and to center racial justice, civil rights, and the people most affected by the decisions we make. I am excited about the role this next generation of lawyers will play and I am looking forward to helping them become the best lawyers and justice advocates they can be.”