Students in the Environmental Litigation Clinic represent real world clients

Before studying for finals, Ben Lowenthal, 3L, is first preparing for his next court appearance. A student in the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Lowenthal is working on two nationally significant cases involving Clean Water Act permitting requirements and statutory interpretation.

The Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic immerses students in an environmental law practice representing public interest groups. Working under the supervision of experienced attorneys, students bring citizen enforcement actions in state and federal courts on a variety of environmental and land use issues.

"The Clinic has allowed me to litigate nationally significant environmental and Clean Water Act cases. These are not hypothetically cases. These are real cases where clients look to you for real answers,” said Lowenthal. “Most recently, the Clinic gave me the opportunity to argue on behalf of numerous environmental NGOs before a federal district court judge for the Southern District of New York against an Assistant United States Attorney." 

Lowenthal is following a path that has yielded impressive results both in the cases the students have taken on as well as the careers they have pursued after graduation. Peter Harrison, a 2011 graduate of Pace Law School who is now an attorney with Waterkeeper Alliance, was part of a landmark case settled this fall against International Coal Company in Kentucky.

"The false reporting epidemic we uncovered in Kentucky can be considered the most far-reaching and egregious noncompliance with the Clean Water Act in the law's entire 40-year history," said Harrison.

Harrison first started working on this case at the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic.  After graduation from Pace Law, he joined Waterkeeper Alliance, one of three organizations that brought the suit, and continued the work as their staff attorney.  The case ultimately exposed more than 20,000 violations. Details of the settlement are available here.

The Clinic’s primary client is Riverkeeper, Inc., the watch dog of New York’s Hudson River. Though it is unusual to accept a case so far from New York, Harrison said the Kentucky case was unique.

"It was such an egregious violation of the Clean Water Act," Harrison said. "It was such a shocking case."

Other Pace Law graduates who have sharpened their skills at the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic include:

  • Daniel Estrin, ’93 JD, Supervising Attorney of the Environmental Litigation Clinic. Prior to joining the faculty in 2006, he was Special Counsel to Kennedy & Madonna, LLP, where his practice focused on representing environmental advocacy organizations and concerned citizens in suits against operators of factory farms. Prior to joining Kennedy & Madonna in 2001, Professor Estrin practiced for eight years in the commercial litigation department at Chadbourne & Parke LLP in New York City.
  • Lori Caramanian, ’94 JD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees USGS and the Bureau of Reclamation. Prior to her appointment, she served as Counselor to the Assistant Secretary focusing on hydropower projects, Colorado River Issues and Gulf of Mexico hypoxia concerns. She began her career as a staff attorney at Riverkeeper.
  • Marc Yaggi, ’97 JD and ’02 LLM, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance where he provides leadership for the Alliance and its member organizations around the world. Yaggi has been instrumental in expanding the Alliance’s international reach, helping to start new Waterkeeper programs around the world. Previously, he was Senior Attorney for Riverkeeper and, before that, Staff Attorney with the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C.
  • Sam Brown, ’06 JD, Assistant Regional Counsel in the Office of Regional Counsel in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s San Francisco office, where his work focuses on the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. He was formerly an Attorney-Advisor with EPA’s Office of General Counsel in Washington, D.C.
  • Robert Snow, ’06 JD, Attorney-Advisor with the U.S. Department of the Interiors Office of the Solicitor in Washington, D.C. Snow has been with the Interior since 1985 and with the Branch of Water and Power since 1995. He provides legal advice to the Secretary of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary for Water & Science, and the Commissioner of Reclamation.  
  • Michael Murphy, ’97 JD, Principal at Beveridge & Diamond, PC. Murphy has represented private clients in permit applications to federal, state, and local agencies; review under New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA); and contaminated site remediation programs. He has also represented municipal clients on matters including solid waste disposal programs, contract negotiations, and litigation matters concerning real estate, contract and takings disputes.

Photo caption: Ben Lowenthal (l) confers with supervising attorney Dan Estrin.