Environment / Environmental Law

Ed. note: This post is by “Juggalo Law,” one of the two writers under consideration to join Morning Dockette as a Morning Docket writer. As always, we welcome your thoughts in the comments.

I have a confession to make. I don’t care at all about the environment. It’s true. Since I was in short pants, I’ve been aggressively indifferent to climate change, rainforests, oil spills and the plight of the Duck-Billed Platypus (“has feet like a duck…but it’s furry!”). This despite my parents’ solid liberal bona fides. This despite my presence at one Young Democrats meeting in 1998 (Earnest Goes to College).

And yet, guys? The Cooch is tripping. That’d be Ken Cuccinelli, the Attorney General of Virginia. Yesterday, a state judge blocked his request to subpoena documents from a college professor studying climate change. Take it away, BLT:

Cuccinelli, a Republican, said he wanted the records in order to investigate whether the researcher, Michael Mann, made false claims in connection with state grant funding. Cuccinelli is a skeptic of human causes of global warming, an area that Mann has studied at the University of Virginia and elsewhere. Mann is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.

This caps a rather newsworthy couple of weeks for The Cooch. He’s managed to raise the hackles of many an interest group in protecting the rights of Baby Jesus and all unborn critters not named Jesus. In doing so, he’s undoubtedly established himself as a rising star in conservative circles.

But what of his latest…err crusade?

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Ed. note: This is a guest post from our sister site, AltTransport. They recently interviewed Vermont Law grad Jack Jacobs, entrepreneurial founder of a firm specializing in green law.

Attorney Jack Jacobs started his career at a boutique environmental law firm in Boston, but grew frustrated that his work seemed to be about finding ways to avoid tackling environmental issues rather than protecting the environment. He went back to school to get an LLM from Portland’s Lewis and Clark Law School. (If you can’t decide whether Vermont Law School or L&C is the best law school for environmental law, you can be like Jacobs and just go to both.)

He then founded Cleantech Law Partners to deal with the specific challenges that face cleantech firms, biofuel startups, and electric vehicle makers — such as Tesla — in today’s regulatory and policy environment. With offices in California, New York, D.C., Oregon and Germany, Cleantech Law Partners works with clients engaged in renewable energy and cleantech projects — mainly incorporating new entities, finalizing contracts and lobbying for the passage of industry-specific legislation.

AltTransport spoke with Jacobs about the legal challenges facing today’s cleantech startups, and what the government can do to make life easier for them. Check out the Q and A with Jacobs, and comment, over at AltTransport.

Article II, meet Article III. Hope you enjoy the pwnage. CNN reports:

A federal judge has blocked a six-month federal moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Several dozen plaintiffs had sued the Obama administration, arguing the ban would create long-term economic harm to their businesses.

Well, think of it this way: the chances of another one of these rigs exploding and creating an environmental catastrophe that is beyond our ability to fix is like really, really small…

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BP: 'Make us!'

Obama: 'Plug the damn hole.'

Not many people are happy about the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — with the possible exceptions of (1) Elena Kagan, whose confirmation to the Supreme Court is all but guaranteed (since everyone’s too distracted to oppose her); (2) the lawyers who are getting work out of this disaster (as discussed below); and (3) whoever is behind the fake BP Twitter account, which currently has over 167,000 followers.

But today brings some news that might make some people a little less angry at BP. Even though the government probably couldn’t have forced the oil giant to set up a $20 billion fund to pay oil spill claims, for the reasons explained by Professor David Zaring, BP is setting up such a fund voluntarily. The New York Times reports:

The White House and BP agreed on Wednesday that the oil giant would create an independent $20 billion fund to pay claims arising from the worst oil spill in American history.

Bowing to pressure from the Obama administration, the company also said it would suspend paying dividends to its shareholders for the rest of the year and would compensate oil field workers for lost wages.

There are actually several legal angles to the BP drama. For example, who will administer this massive fund? And which firms are getting a piece of all the defense-side action?

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Over the past few weeks we’ve lightly touched on the fight between Maryland State Legislators and Maryland Law School. To bring you up to speed: the Perdue Chicken corporation was annoyed by a lawsuit filed with the aid of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic. So, like all good corporations, the bigwigs at Perdue reached into their back pocket and unleashed the Maryland State Senate upon the University. The spineless state politicians ostensibly did what they were told and threatened to withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars from the University unless various conditions were met, including disclosure of privileged information.

I guess it’s nice to know that the American oligarchy is still going strong.

But thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. After weeks of intense public pressure, it appears that the Maryland legislators backed down…

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Steven Donzinger has been working on behalf of Ecuadorian natives for seventeen years, representing them in a lawsuit against Chevron alleging the oil company has destroyed their rainforest. It’s a much-covered case, and Harvard Law grad Donzinger has usually been cast as the hero fighting the big bad oil company.

But it looks like Donzinger’s legal team may have done something a little dastardly.

From the Wall Street Journal:

In 2004, the plaintiffs hired Mr. Calmbacher, a Georgia-based biologist and environmental scientist, to help oversee soil and water tests in Ecuador.

Reports signed by Mr. Calmbacher, which were submitted to an Ecuadorean court in 2005, showed high levels of toxins at two sites and estimated the contamination would cost more than $40 million to clean up at these sites alone.

Gibson Dunn lawyers representing Chevron Corp. discovered a typo in those reports: the spelling of Charles Calmbacher’s name. When Gibson lawyer Andrea Neuman (who looks a little like Kristin Davis with short hair) deposed him, she discovered the toxin reports were a bit polluted…

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law firm swag treasure chest.jpgOur inaugural Law Firm Swag Contest was about quality rather than quantity. We had just four entries, but they were goodies.
Eschewing trinkets and baubles, K&L Gates took the high road, urging recruits to change their world through an innovative website. Perkins Coie went green, arranging for trees to be planted in honor of interviewees. And who doesn’t like a customized iPod, the swag doled out by Dobrowski LLP, the Texas litigation boutique?
But in the end, dear readers, you voted with your feet. Following in the footsteps of the “Sex and the City” gals, or maybe Imelda Marcos, you made it all about the shoes. The customized Nike footwear doled out by Mayer Brown scored a runaway victory, with over 55 percent of the 2,100 votes.
Props to the person in the Mayer recruiting office who came up with the brilliant idea for this Niketown summer associate event. If you’re looking for new running shoes — or, for that matter, the opportunity to do appellate litigation in New York — then sprint in the direction of Mayer Brown!
Earlier: Law Firm Swag Contest: The Finalists
ATL Contest: Best Law Firm Swag of 2009

law firm swag treasure chest.jpgPerhaps it’s a sign of the times. We received a whopping four (4) entries in our inaugural law firm swag contest. Is law firm swag, like subsidized soda or staff attorney programs, another casualty of the recession?
But if we cancel the contest, then the terrorists win. So, onward!
We realize, of course, that not everyone approves of swag. See, e.g., this comment:

This is fairly disgusting…. I find this article particularly untimely, given that most law students are struggling to find good jobs, and many practicing attorneys are struggling just to keep the jobs they have.

Jeez, commenter 58 — lighten up! Considering that we cover law firm layoffs in excruciating detail, to the point where many accuse us of doomsaying and fearmongering, we are aware of the tough job market. But, even in the Great Recession, some people are still getting offers — along with a little swag to sweeten the pot. So what’s wrong with some fun to balance out the gloom?
In defense of law firm schwag, here’s a trend worth noting: “going green.” Firms are trying to be environmentally conscious in their swag selections, as well as more socially responsible in general. This may make schwag less “disgusting” to its critics.
A second theme of swag this year: customization. In this age of individualism and/or narcissism, firms are letting swag recipients have a say in what gets given away. Just as firms are moving away from lockstep in terms of pay and promotion, so too are they allowing for greater tailoring in terms of swag.
Check out the finalists, and vote for the best law firm swag, after the jump.

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paper documents paperless office stack file folders.jpgBack when we worked at a law firm, one partner was obsessed with the concept of the “paperless office.” He wanted to have as many documents as possible scanned and stored electronically, in order to eliminate any unnecessary use of paper. It was a bit OCD of him, and his jihad against paper was viewed with mild amusement around the firm.
Perhaps this partner was ahead of his time. Back in 2006, law firms were described as the “last frontier in going paperless.” But now the trend is moving strongly in the direction of a paperless world. These days it seems that everyone wants to go commando.

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rain forest law firm.JPGThe Texas based law firm of Haynes and Boone moved their Dallas operations into a new “green” office today. Despite the laudable initiative, some lawyers and many support staffers have complained about the new “confines.” Apparently, personal space is at a premium in the new space. Administrative assistants are particularly annoyed, as they will be moved out of cubicles into an open floor plan, “fishbowl” situation.

In addition to the lack of privacy, Haynes and Boone issued new policies regarding how secretaries use the personal space they still have. Most of the new rules meet an accepted standard of “petty.”:

2. There will be a sufficient number of small plants that Gensler will place in appropriate areas around our floors. You may have one 8-inch potted plant in your office or on your desk–none on the ledges.

3. Please do not put any objects or plants on ledges or the tops of your cabinets. Two framed pictures and a small candy dish may be placed on your desk, but no beanie babies on desks.

You’re moving into new environmentally friendly offices, but you’re going to regulate the number and types of plants employees are allowed to have? That’s not directly contradictory, but it’s certainly annoying.

Additional regulations after the jump.

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