PUBLISHED:September 13, 2009

Environmental law news briefs

Duke Law awards first environmental law certificates
Three LLM graduates in the Class of 2010 were the first to obtain Duke Law’s new certificate in environmental law.

Ismael Barrios, Max Larrain, and Clemens Schmied completed a specific track of courses and research to earn the certificate, which was developed last year to provide international students an opportunity to specialize in a quickly growing area of international law. Barrios, Larrain, and Schmied trained as lawyers in Peru, Chile, and Austria, respectively, before studying at Duke.

“Duke’s strength in environmental law is very attractive to international students,” said Jennifer Maher, assistant dean for international studies, a fact confirmed by the certificate recipients.

“I knew that Duke Law School had an excellent reputation in environmental law before I came to Durham,” said Schmied. “The fact that I could be one of the first to receive the environmental law certificate was one of [the reasons] I chose to go to this wonderful law school.”

“Especially in the seminars, the discussions reflected different types of concerns, and law students could take advantage of a really deep technical view from various areas,” said Barrios, a construction-industry lawyer who added that environmental law is an expanding field in Peru. “It [also] is of great help that the faculty members have both an outstanding academic perspective and past practical experience.”

The certificate program requires a combination of courses that include Environmental Law and Readings in Environmental Law, a course for certificate program students focusing on important readings in the field. During two semesters, students must take a total of nine credits in environmental law, in addition to 15 credits through the standard LLM curriculum, and complete a substantial research project in a related field.

Recent grad writes prize-winning paper on “clean coal”
Jonathan Skinner ’10 received the Public Justice Foundation’s Roscoe Hogan Environmental Law Essay prize for his paper, "Myths of Clean Coal’s Future: The Story of Methylmercury." He wrote the paper as an independent study project under the supervision of James Salzman, Duke’s Samuel Fox Mordecai Professor of Law at the Law School and Nicholas Institute Professor of Environmental Policy.

Skinner’s paper drew in part from research he undertook while enrolled in Duke’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic. Along with others students, Skinner helped write an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court on mountaintop removal mining and its impacts on water quality. He also researched the conversion of elemental mercury to methylmercury in North Carolina’s coastal waters while with the clinic.

Patrick Duggan JD/MA ’10 enters DOJ Honors Program
Patrick Duggan JD/MA ’10 was accepted into the Department of Justice’s highly competitive Honors Program and will join the Environment and Natural Resources Division in late September. Duggan worked as an environmental consultant before pursing a dual JD and Master’s in Environmental Policy at Duke.

“I came to law school specifically to study environmental law,” Duggan said. “Being accepted into this program validated my decision to come to here.”

The Honors Program is the only means of entry to the DOJ for new law graduates. According to its website, the program selects employees based on academic achievement, participation in a journal or moot court competitions, legal aid and clinical experience, summer or part-time legal employment, and other factors — specialized academic studies or academic degrees, work experience, and extracurricular activities — related to the work of the department.

“Duke is small and if you really have a passion for something, you can own it,” said Duggan, who led the Environmental Law Society for two years, served as student liaison to the Energy Subcommittee of Duke’s university-wide Sustainability Committee, and served as editor in chief of the Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum.

In addition, Duggan participated in the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic for a year, gaining experience he believes was critical to his acceptance into the program.