Polluters Seek To Shut Down Law Clinics
Columnist Jim Gill of the New Orleans Times-Picayune writes, a Senate committee will consider a bill filed on behalf of oil and chemical companies that “want the freedom to poison our air and water without further interference from the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic.” And, “The sight of powerful industries running to the Legislature seeking protection from a bunch of law students is pretty pathetic anyway. But it is most flattering for Tulane.” The timing of this bill “could not be more exquisite for legislators to consider watering down environmental protection.”
Although the bill was conceived as revenge against Tulane, its effect extends to every university law clinic in the state. Students at the clinics provide free legal services to the poor across the legal spectrum. Yet because Tulane has provoked the ire of polluting industries, all the other clinics would be forced to close, or operate under severe constraints.
It would forbid clinics to “file a petition, motion or suit” against any government agency or to seek monetary damages for any client. Clinics, except in criminal cases, would not be allowed to raise “state constitutional challenges in state or federal court.”
That doesn’t leave much the clinics could do on behalf of citizens unable to afford lawyers, and the bill may be more vindictive than its sponsor, Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, intended. He says he plans to soften it some, so amendments will presumably be offered this morning.
Whatever they are, they won’t be enough, because the bill’s avowed purpose will still be to hamstring the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic. As James Gill correctly opines, “the bill deserves to be junked not just for the benefit of the clinic’s students and their impoverished clients but for anyone else who doubts that economic development requires anti-pollution laws to be ignored.”
Surely any bill filed to promote dirty air should be defeated, but Dan Borne, president of the Louisiana Chemical Industry, sees Tulane as the public enemy. Its “wanton disregard for the economic well-being of the state” has cost millions by scaring investors away, he says.
Well, perhaps we can do without investments conditioned on a right to pollute. Filthy air and water no doubt scare some investors away in any case.
The sight of powerful industries running to the Legislature seeking protection from a bunch of law students is pretty pathetic anyway. But it is most flattering for Tulane.
Nobody would be objecting if its efforts had not proved effective. And those efforts would not have proved effective if it had not demonstrated the sins of industry and the derelictions of state and federal regulators.
Kudos to James Gill for exposing the chemical industry’s arrogant display of power.