ILNews

Gift expands Maurer-linked conservation law program to McKinney students

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Nature can’t always defend itself, but a recent gift to the Conservation Law Center in Bloomington will further the work of preserving environmental resources and open doors to more students drawn to a clinical experience in conservation law.

The Indiana University Maurer School of Law recently announced a $2.5 million gift that will endow the Glenn and Donna Scolnik Clinical Chair at the center. “It’s a tremendous boost for the program, and probably most importantly, the beginning of a foundation that’s going to allow us to be able to offer this service for a long, long time,” said Executive Director and IU Maurer Professor William Weeks.

chair-clifty-creek-15col.jpg The Conservation Law Center has assisted groups protect thousands of acres of pristine Indiana properties. Among them: the Clemens Place on Clifty Creek (Photos courtesy Sycamore Land Trust/John Lawrence)

Weeks said the gift will allow a greater number of second- and third-year law students to gain experience working on real environmental matters with clients and staff lawyers at the center. It also will allow the center to serve more clients who rely on its legal help.

The center’s mission is to provide free legal service to conservation groups, improve conservation law and policy, and offer students clinical experience.

Since its founding in 2005, more than 100 interns from IU Maurer have received clinical experience, Weeks said. This year, the center also will offer internships to students at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

weeks Weeks

The center is an independent nonprofit that has maintained an affiliation with IU Maurer, but it relies on donations to carry out its work. Weeks said the gift will fully fund one of two permanent staff attorney positions at the center, which also employs two graduate fellow attorneys.

Glenn Scolnik, a graduate of the Bloomington law school who’s also on the center’s board of directors, said despite a national reputation for the quality of the Conservation Law Center’s work, “It’s always something that could have stopped” without reliable funding.

Scolnik, chairman of the private equity firm Hammond Kennedy Whitney & Co. Inc., said the gift in his and his wife’s name also will cement the center’s relationship with IU Maurer.

“These guys are as good as anybody in the country when it comes to conservation law,” Scolnik said.

Promoting stewardship

Christian Freitag, executive director of the Bloomington-based Sycamore Land Trust, said the Conservation Law Center’s work has helped safeguard about 8,000 acres of wetlands, forests, farmland and other property in southern Indiana that the trust owns or protects through conservation easements.

chair-trevlac-bluffs-1col.jpg A 57-acre Greene County site and Trevlac Bluffs Nature Preserve that features rare eastern hemlock trees. (Photos courtesy Sycamore Land Trust/Jeff Danielson)

“Among other things, they’ve allowed us to be confident in the knowledge that we are on the cutting edge of the legal side of conservation,” Freitag said of work the CLC has done for Sycamore. That’s particularly true regarding conservation easements – contracts drawn up by landowners that place permanent development restrictions on land.

“It’s the Sycamore Land Trust’s job to enforce those restrictions,” said Freitag, himself a Maurer grad. “These contracts are complicated, and it’s an emerging area of law,” even after about 50 years.

Landowners who obtain conservation easements may sell or bequeath the protected land, but the development restrictions remain. There are tax benefits for placing land in conservation, and Freitag said the complexity of enforcing the easements is due to compliance with different sets of state and federal requirements. The center’s staff keeps up to date with laws and regulations that often are in flux.

“It’s actually the only center or clinic of its kind in the country that is focused on conservation law – how do you save land, how do you save the best land, and how do you do it in a way that does that in perpetuity,” Freitag said.

freitag Freitag

Tim Maloney, senior policy director at the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the center also has helped assure conservation groups a voice in court. He pointed to a decision affirmed after multiple appeals in Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp., et al. v. Save the Valley, Inc., et al., 953 N.E.2d 511 (Ind. Ct. App. 2011).

Maloney said that case – argued in appellate courts with assistance from the CLC – had a broad impact in ruling that the Hoosier Environmental Council and other groups had standing to challenge a landfill permit. That decision, he said, established the right of associational standing in Indiana and “benefits any membership organization who may want to pursue a legal action on behalf of its members.”

Attorneys at the CLC “work with a very credible network of environmental attorneys and nonprofit groups, and I think their advice is sought out,” Maloney said. “Obviously, we have a high regard for them.”

Freitag recalled Weeks and staff at the center also assisted in an unusual situation in which a former Superfund site near Bloomington was donated to Sycamore as part of a 400-acre gift. Known as Neal’s Landfill, the site had undergone a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-supervised cleanup of carcinogenic PCBs to bring it to industrial development standards.

Nevertheless, Freitag said the gift posed a dilemma for the land trust. “Rather than running for the hills,” he said, he turned to Weeks and the staff at the center to see what could be done. “After about $60,000 worth of free legal research, we determined Sycamore Land Trust could take that land without any fear of heightened liability.”

While any development on the site must be low-impact, Freitag sees possibility. “Even if it’s just as demonstration solar panels, it’s a way to take something bad and find a way to make it positive, and we could only have done that with the center’s assistance.”

Hoosier teamwork

Scolnik and Weeks have a friendship that dates back to the early 1970s when both were members of the IU football team, though Weeks says there was a difference: “He was a star football player.”

Scolnik was a good enough receiver to set IU records at the time. He went on to play four seasons professionally – two in the National Football League and two in the Canadian Football League – after which he returned to Bloomington to earn his law degree. Weeks and Scolnik later worked together at Sommer Barnard P.C., a predecessor firm to Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

scolnik Scolnik

Scolnik said Weeks “is a brilliant lawyer, and then I saw him really sacrifice to go pursue a lifelong passion of conservation of wildlife and our ecological systems, to really pursue the mission of conservation.”

But Weeks said the work is rewarding, and typically there is more interest in internships in the clinic than can be served. In addition to the typical 10 or so IU Maurer students who intern, Weeks said opening the program to IU McKinney students likely will add another seven or so positions, and perhaps as many as 10 more in time.

“One of the things that makes this a special place to work is we really care about what we’re working on, not just as a professional matter, but as a personal matter,” Weeks said. The staff “really care about making a difference in the natural world.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

ADVERTISEMENT