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Climate litigation focus of lecture

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Law School Briefs

Law School Briefs is Indiana Lawyer’s section that highlights news from law schools in Indiana. While we have always covered law school news and will continue to keep up with law school websites and press releases for updates, we’ll gladly accept submissions for this section from law students, professors, alums, and others who want to share law school-related news. If you’d like to submit news or a photo from an event, please send it to Rebecca Berfanger, rberfanger@ibj.com, along with contact information for any follow up questions at least two weeks in advance of the issue date.

Civil Litigation as a Tool for Regulating Climate Change will be the topic of the 25th Annual Monsanto Lecture on Tort Law & Jurisprudence at Valparaiso University School of Law on Feb. 18.

“The conference will explore the interlinked policy, science, legal, and political questions of utilizing the American litigation system, and particularly its tort theories of liability, to regulate climate change,” according to a statement on the school’s website.

There are three major federal cases that have been filed seeking damages due to companies alleged to have caused global warming.

The United States District Court, Southern District of New York judge who handled Connecticut v. American Electric Power, Co., a public nuisance lawsuit filed by eight state attorneys general, the city of New York, and three land trusts against six electric power companies, granted summary judgment to defendants in that case. That decision was reversed by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court of the United States agreed Dec. 6 to hear this case in the spring.

Two other cases could be affected by the Connecticut case.

In Comer v. Murphy Oil USA, property owners filed a lawsuit in Mississippi against Murphy Oil USA, claiming its contribution to climate change contributed to the intensity of Hurricane Katrina. The District Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, and the 5th Circuit initially reversed. However, the full 5th Circuit agreed to hear the matter en banc but has had difficulty getting a quorum. Meanwhile, plaintiffs petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to order the 5th Circuit to reinstate the case.

Native Village of Kivalina v. ExxonMobil Corporation involved residents of an Inupiat Eskimo village in Alaska who must relocate due to global warming at a cost of $95 to $400 million. That case was dismissed by the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California and is awaiting a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The issues in these cases and other global warming concerns in litigation will be discussed by professor Daniel Farber, director of the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the University of California at Berkeley; professor Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University School of Law; professor Daniel Bodansky of the School of Sustainability and School of Law at Arizona State University; and Brent Newell, general counsel of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment in San Francisco.

The conference is $100 for practicing attorneys and professionals, $50 for employees of non-profit organizations, and there is no charge for students.

To register, contact Jo Ann Campbell at (219) 465-7829 or (888) 825-7652; fax: (219) 465-7808; or e-mail: litigation.conference@valpolaw.net.•

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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