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Gift expands Maurer-linked conservation law program to McKinney students

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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.”•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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