Stephen E. Roady

Professor of the Practice of Law


Steve Roady holds a joint appointment as a professor of the practice of law at Duke Law School and as a faculty fellow in the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. Prior to his appointment, he devoted more than three decades to litigation and administrative advocacy focused on enforcing the public health and environmental protections contained in federal statutes enacted in the United States between 1970 and 1990. Most recently, he managed the oceans program at Earthjustice (the public interest law firm known formerly as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund). His work has helped protect air and water quality, mountains and streams, and ocean and coastal resources. 

During the course of his career, Roady has litigated and provided advice and counseling in both federal court and agency proceedings on separate matters arising under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), the Magnuson-Roadyns Fishery Conservation and Management Act (“MSA”), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (known as the “Superfund” statute), and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”). Several of his federal court cases set precedents. They expanded the duty to consider environmental impacts under NEPA. They buttressed public access to information under the Clean Air Act. They imposed clear duties on the federal government to manage fishing in a sustainable manner under the MSA. And they protected the Missouri River from significant and unauthorized water withdrawals.

Roady also worked in the Congress and has had extensive involvement in administrative proceedings. He was the principal staff member for the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works drafting the permitting and enforcement provisions of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. He represented a consortium of environmental organizations in negotiations with the Council on Environmental Quality as it formulated a new national ocean policy in 2009. Since 2010, he has assisted various Pacific Small Island Developing States as they work in the international legal community to protect against sea level rise and ocean acidification.

During 2001 and 2002, Roady served as the first president of Oceana, an international, nonprofit, non-government organization dedicated to protecting life in the sea. Under his tenure, Oceana grew from four staffers to 40 and established a framework for protecting the oceans from pollution and overfishing.

Between 1998 and 2001, Roady started and led the Ocean Law Project, which established precedents under both NEPA and the MSA requiring the government to better protect the ocean ecosystem.

Roady is a graduate of Davidson College (A.B. 1971) and Duke Law School (J.D. 1976).

He has been teaching a course on ocean and coastal law and policy at Duke Law School and at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment since 2003. He received a Professor of the Year Award from the Duke School of the Environment in 2008, and that same year was named a Public Interest Fellow by Harvard Law School.

Roady has been a visiting professor at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii and a professorial lecturer at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In 2013, he provided separate briefings for members of the Irish and German governments on lessons learned in this country with respect to sustainable fishery management.

Roady’s most recent writings focus on ocean stewardship duties under the Public Trust Doctrine, including a chapter in Ocean and Coastal Law and Policy (2d ed. 2015). Other published work includes articles explaining key federal statutes and doctrines that protect ocean life and articles that detail the legislative history of permitting and enforcement provisions of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.