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Community Lawyering for Environmental and Climate Justice


April 7, 2020
10:00 am - 4:00 pm


Washington College of Law, American University
Tenley Campus, Terrace Level
Yuma TY01 Grossman Hall (map/directions)
4300 Nebraska Ave., NW

Washington, DC



This event is free and open to the public but you must REGISTER HERE by April 3.

  • All times above are EDT.

Co-sponsored by ELI and American University Washington College of Law

Environmental justice and climate justice are two synergistic movements working to address environmental impacts in communities of color and low-income communities. While environmental justice focuses predominantly on injustices resulting from poor environmental policy and systemic racism, climate justice addresses future political and environmental impacts stemming from climate change.

This conference provides a foundation for students interested in using law to ensure that marginalized communities in the United States have access to a healthy environment, even in the face of harmful climate impacts. The Conference will convene experts in community lawyering, environmental justice policy, and climate justice to provide students with the tools to work with and for communities. Panels will focus on communication and legal strategies for addressing climate and environmental justice, equipping future lawyers will the skills to protect and empower those who bear a disproportionate environmental burden.


10:00 am – 10:15 am  Welcome and Introduction

  • Amanda Cohen Leiter, Director of the Program on Environmental and Energy Law, American University Washington College of Law (invited)

10:15 am – 11:15 am  Panel 1: Working for Communities

As experts in the law, lawyers should be on tap not on top. Legal experts working at the grassroots level will identify strategies for working for communities in a way that best suits their needs. Panelists will also discuss how to interrogate privilege, communicate effectively, and build coalitions as a community lawyer.


  • William J. Snape, Assistant Dean of Adjunct Faculty Affairs, American University Washington College of Law, Moderator
  • Gustavo Angeles, Environmental Justice Program Coordinator, Sierra Club- Virginia Chapter (invited)
  • Taylor Lilley, Environmental Justice Staff Attorney, Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Michelle Roberts, Director of Outreach, Coming Clean Inc. and Co-Coordinator, Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (invited)
  • Fred Tutman, CEO and Riverkeeper, Patuxent Riverkeeper

11:15 am – 12:15 pm  Panel 2: Advocating for Climate and Environmental Justice

Confronting climate change and environmental injustices will require the creative use of law and policy to protect the most vulnerable communities. Join experts in environmental and climate justice advocacy to discuss methods for preventing injustice.


  • Sheila Foster, Professor of Law, Professor of Public Policy, Georgetown Law, Moderator
  • Maxine Burkett, Professor of Law, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Marianne Engelman Lado, Director, Vermont Law School Environmental Justice Clinic (invited)
  • Vernice Miller-Travis, Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Equitable Development, Skeo Solutions

12:15 pm – 1:15 pm    Networking Lunch

  • Keynote Speaker: TBD

1:15 pm – 2:15 pm       Panel 3: The Power of Storytelling: Authenticity in Representation

Accomplished storytellers, policy-makers, and advocates will discuss how to communicate the stories of communities and movements in ways that inspire action and change.


2:15 pm – 2:30 pm       Networking Break

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm       Panel 4: Transactional Lawyering for Environmental Justice

Corporate transactions offer an inflection point in which environmental justice principles can be infused.  Lawyers at leading law firms will discuss how integrating the needs of communities into transactions can result in better outcomes for both communities and clients.


3:30 pm - 4:00 pm        Closing Thoughts

  • Sandy Nichols Thiam, Associate Vice President, Research & Policy, Environmental Law Institute (invited)