Karl S. Coplan

  • Professor of Law Emeritus
  • Director, Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic
Contact assistant to schedule an appointment
Assistant: Jennifer Ruhle
Preston 404-L
(914) 422-4343


BA, Middlebury College
JD, Columbia University School of Law

For media inquiries, contact:

Rachael Silva
Assistant Dean for External Affairs
(914) 422-4354

Professor Karl S. Coplan has been a Professor and Associate Professor of Law at Pace Law School and director of Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic since 1994. Prior to joining the Pace faculty, he practiced land use and environmental litigation for eight years with the New York City firm of Berle, Kass & Case. As the principal outside counsel for Riverkeeper, Inc., Professor Coplan and the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic have brought numerous lawsuits enforcing the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws.  These cases include Catskill Mountains Chapter, Trout Unlimited v. City of New York, in which the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that the transfer of polluted, silt-laden water from one watershed to another required a permit pursuant to the federal Clean Water Act.  Professor Coplan has also participated in litigation and Clean Water Act permitting proceedings involving several Hudson River power plants, including the proposed Bowline 3 power plant, and the Lovett, Roseton, Danskammer, and Athens plants.

In addition to directing the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Professor Coplan teaches courses in Environmental Law and Constitutional Law.  He is recently the author of the chapter on Citizen Suits in Environmental Litigation, Law and Strategy (ABA, Cary Perlman, Ed.)  and the chapter on Takings Law in Handbook on Constitutional Environmental Law (ABA, James May, Ed., forthcoming 2010).

Before entering private practice, Professor Coplan clerked for The Honorable Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States, and The Honorable Leonard I. Garth, Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.   Professor Coplan received his J.D. degree from Columbia Law School in 1984 and his B.A. degree from Middlebury College in 1980.




"Citizen Litigants Citizen Regulators: Four Cases Where Citizen Suits Drove Development of Clean Water Law," 25 Colorado Natural Resources, Energy & Environmental Law Review 61 (2014).

"Climate Change, Political Truth, and the Marketplace of Ideas," Utah L. Rev. 545 (2012).

"The Takings Clause and Environmental Law," in Principles of Constitutional Environmental Law (James R. May ed., 2011).

"Legal Realism, Innate Morality, and the Structural Role of the Supreme Court in the U.S. Constitutional Democracy," 86 Tul. L. Rev.181(2011).

"Public Trust Limits on Greenhouse Gas Trading Schemes: A Sustainable Middle Ground?" 35 Colum. J. Envt’l L. 287 (2010).

"Ideological Plaintiffs, Administrative Lawmaking, Standing and the Petition Clause" 61 Maine Law Review 2 (2009).

"The Externalities of Nuclear Power: First, Assume We Have a Can Opener. . .," 35 Ecology Law Currents 17 (2008).

"The Intercivilizational Inequities of Nuclear Power Weighed Against the Intergenerational Inequities of Carbon Based Energy," 17 Fordham Environmental Law Review 227 (2006).

"Is Voting Necessary? Organizational Standing and Non-Voting Members of Environmental Advocacy Organizations," 14 Southeastern Environmental Law Journal 1 (2005).

"Of Zombie Permits and Greenwash Renewal Strategies: Ten Years of New York's So-Called "Environmental Benefit Permitting Strategy,"" 22 Pace Environmental Law Review 1 (2005).

"Is Citizen Suit Notice Jurisdictional and Why Should It Matter?" 10 Widener Law Symposium 49 (2003).

"Direct Environmental Standing for Chartered Conservation Corporations" at 12 Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum 183 (2000).

"Refracting the Spectrum of Clean Water Act Standing in Light of Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife," 22 Columbia Journal of Environmental Law  169 (1997).

"State DOT Issues Proposed Regulations for Employee Commute Options," Environmental Law in New York (Matthew Bender), February 1994, at 17.

"Local Law Office Requirements Should Be Abolished" (Report of the Committee on Professional Responsibility), The Record of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, April 1993, at 312.

"Balancing the Duty to Investigate Litigation Claims against the Ban on Communicating with an Adverse 'Corporate' Party After Niesig" (Report of the Committee on Professional Responsibility), The Record of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, May 1992, at 406. 

"Protecting Minority Communities with Environmental, Civil Rights Claims," New York Law Journal, August 20, 1991, at 1.


"Citizen Suit Litigation." Environmental Litigation, Law and Strategy. (Cary Perlman, Ed.) American Bar Association, 2009.

"Citizen Suits." Environmental Law Practice Guide. (M. Gerrard, Ed.)  Matthew Bender, 1998.

"Current Issues in Clean Water Act Litigation." In Environmental Litigation (ALI-ABA Course of Study, June 24, 1996) SA85/3 ALI-ABA 1033. Philadelphia, Pa.: ALI-ABA, 1996.

"Private Enforcement of Federal Pollution Control Laws - The Citizen Suit Provisions." In Environmental Litigation (ALI-ABA Course of Study, June 24, 1996) SA85/3 ALI-ABA 1033. Philadelphia, Pa.: ALI-ABA, 1996.