Environmental law professor at Washington and Georgetown law schools; litigator of Indian claims and pollution cases
Interview Year: 2015
William Rodgers entered academia early in his legal career, influenced by legendary scholars including Walter Gellhorn and Herbert Wechsler at Columbia Law School. He is now the Stimson Bullitt Professor of Environmental Law at the University of Washington where he has taught for most of his career. He also was a Professor at Georgetown Law School in the seventies. Well before the burst of new federal environmental laws, he taught the state law of equitable remedies, like injunctions, many of which involved lawsuits to abate environmental nuisances. Rodgers soon became a leading author of treatises, textbooks, and articles defining and amplifying the new field of environmental law.
Rodgers always liked to combine his academic pursuits with participation in real-world cases, including a series of cases involving Indian tribes and abatement of pollution from smelters. During his years teaching at Georgetown Law School, he worked with congressional staff members, including pioneers Leon Billings and Thomas Jorling who were drafting new federal clean water legislation. His scholarly academic work on permit systems informed their development of the permit program under the 1972 legislation.
He is a staunch advocate for public participation and citizen enforcement as critical elements of effective environmental law because they can combat the extreme influence of major corporations in weakening the effectiveness of government regulatory agencies. As a distinguished scholar and seasoned litigator, he reveres the contribution of the federal courts in protecting the integrity of environmental law making it as effective as possible in achieving the protection of public health and the natural environment.