Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Lecture on Environmental Law

Lecture in the Moot Court Room

Katrina Fischer KuhKatrina Fischer Kuh
Haub Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law

November 13, 2017
"Against the Will of the People for the Good of Humankind: The Counter-Majoritarian Difficulty and the Role of Courts in an Environmental Democracy"


Modern environmental challenges continue to surface questions about the appropriate role for the judiciary.  Should courts use common law doctrines, such as the public trust doctrine and public nuisance, to engage issues of governmental and private obligations relating to greenhouse gas emissions, the need to adapt to climate change, and redress for climate harms?  Should states adopt constitutional environmental rights that invite greater judicial involvement in defining environmental rights and responsibilities?  How emboldened should courts be when reviewing presidential efforts to push forward or pull back environmental protection under existing statutes?  Beliefs about the source, scope and limits of judicial claims to democratic legitimacy inform assessments of the appropriate judicial role in all of these contexts.  Surveying the shared features of environmental decisionmaking across these contexts—including the imperative to value the interests of future generations, underlying scientific complexity, and the influence of cognitive biases and heuristics—suggests courts can and should embrace a robust institutional role in engaging environmental debates to support a healthy environmental democracy.​


Katrina Fischer Kuh joined the Elisabeth Haub School of Law faculty as the Haub Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law in 2017.  She was previously on the faculty at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, where she was a Professor of Law and served as an Associate Dean of Intellectual Life.  Professor Kuh’s scholarship focuses on climate change and sustainability and she has taught Environmental Law, International Environmental Law, Global Climate Change and U.S. Law, Administrative Law and Torts.  She is the co-editor of The Law of Adaptation to Climate Change: United States and International Aspects and Co-Chair of the International Bar Association Working Group on the Legal Aspects of Climate Change Adaptation.

Before entering academia, Professor Kuh worked in the environmental and litigation practice groups in the New York office of Arnold & Porter LLP and served as an advisor on natural resource policy in the United States Senate.  She received her undergraduate and law degrees from Yale and served as a law clerk to Judge Charles S. Haight of the District Court for the Southern District of New York and Judge Diana Gribbon Motz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.


Marc YaggiWednesday, October 26, 2016
Marc Yaggi
Executive Director, Waterkeeper Alliance
"Power of Possibility: Birth of a Movement, Rebirth of Our Waterways"

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Richard BlumenthalOctober 13, 2015
Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator for Connecticut

"Environmental Enforcement – Giving the Law Teeth"

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Antonio A. Oposa Jr.October 1, 2014
Antonio A. Oposa Jr.
2014 Distinguished International Environmental Scholar-in-Residence, Elisabeth Haub School of Law
"Shooting Stars and Dancing Fish"

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             >> View lecture slides

September 25, 2013
Jason Czarnezki
Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Distinguished Professor of Environmental Law, Elisabeth Haub School of Law
“New York City Rules! Regulatory Tools and the Environment”

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January 29, 2013
Patricia Salkin
Dean, Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
“The Executive and the Environment: A Look at the Last Five Governors in New York”

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October 27, 2011
John C. Cruden
President, Environmental Law Institute
“Making the Polluter Pay: Environmental Enforcement in the Modern Era”

October 18, 2010
Jim Salzman
Professor of Law, Professor of Environmental Policy at Duke University
"What is the Emperor Wearing? A Critical Look at the Potential of Ecosystem Services for Environmental Protection"

October 8, 2009
Suedeen G. Kelly
Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
"Renewables and Smart Grid: Is This Where We are Headed?"

October 1, 2008
Peter Lehner
Executive Director, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
"Environment, Law, and Nonprofits: How NGOs Shape Our Laws, Health, and Communities"

October 19, 2007
John P. Cahill '85 '92
Of Counsel, Chadbourne & Parke LLP
"Environmental Law in New York State: The Past as Prologue to the Future"

October 30, 2006
Theodore W. Kheel
Of Counsel, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP;
President and CEO, Nurture Nature Foundation
"Resolving the Conflict between Environmental Protection and Economic Development"

November 17, 2005
Malcolm Grant, CBE, MA, LLD, HonMRTPI, HonRICS  
President and Provost, University College London (UCL)
"Reconciling Science and Public Engagement in Environmental Policy Making: European Attitudes toward Releasing Genetically Modified Organisms"

November 8, 2004
Daniel C. Esty
Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy, Yale Law School
"Bringing Administrative Law to Bear in Global Environmental Governance"

October 27, 2003
Bharat H. Desai, PhD
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
"The Future of International Environmental Governance: Johannesburg and Beyond"

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September 25, 2002
Juan Mayr Maldonado
Former Minister of the Environment, Republic of Colombia
"The Role of Ethics in the Construction of a Culture for Sustainable Development"

September 20, 2001
Jacqueline Lang Weaver
A. A. White Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center
"The Federal Government As a Useful Enemy: Perspectives on the Bush Energy/Environment Agenda from the Texas Oil Fields"

September 21, 2000
Carol Rose
Gordon Bradford Tweedy Professor of Law and Organization, Yale Law School
"Selling the Common Heritage? Commerce, Property and the Protection of the Environment"



The Elisabeth Haub School of Law established the Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Lecture on Environmental Law to expand the its programs of research, education, professional and scholarly activity and publications in environmental law, a field for which the Haub School has received national and international recognition. The Kerlin endowment funds a named professorship on Environmental Law at Haub. Professor Nicholas A. Robinson, founder of the Haub School's environmental programs, was named the first Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Distinguished Professor in 1999 and Professor Jason J. Czarnezki was designated as the second Kerlin Distinguished Professor in 2013.

Mr. Kerlin, of counsel to Shearman & Sterling in New York City, was a distinguished lawyer. He was a founder and chairman of the Riverdale Community Planning Association, an organization that spearheaded the rezoning of the entire West Bronx to preserve the greenbelt area of that section of New York City. He was also a leader in protecting the natural environment of the Hudson River and its greenbelt area. Mr. Kerlin was the founding chairman of Wave Hill, the outstanding public garden and cultural institution in Riverdale, New York. Mrs. Kerlin, a long-time trustee of the Bank Street College of Education, was responsible for creating and supporting environmental and educational programs at Wave Hill for teachers and public school students.

Mr. Gilbert Kerlin passed away at the age of 94 in 2004; his wife of 60 years, Sarah, died in 2001. The Gilbert and Sarah Kerlin Lecture on Environmental Law continues in their honor.