Riverkeeper establishes litigation clinic to protect Chattahoochee

Students at the law school soon will be able to use their legal skills to help keep Georgia's Chattahoochee River clean. The Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Fund Inc. (Riverkeeper), a non-profit environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the Chattahoochee River, has established an environmental litigation clinic at the law school and began working with students this semester.

According to Don Chenevert of the firm Lord, Bissell & Brook, who co-directs the clinic, law students "investigate alleged polluters of the Chattahoochee River and assist in preparing a litigation strategy." Several alleged polluters have been targeted as defendants for litigation under the federal Clean Water Act and other environmental statutes. Under the citizen suit provisions of the Clean Water Act, Riverkeeper must inform the companies, municipalities or corporations in question 60 days before the clinic files suit against the alleged polluter. Riverkeeper then handles the defense of any discoveries and sees them through to completion.

"Students will be involved in each step of the process," Chenevert said. "Under the third-year practice rule, third-year law students are allowed to appear on behalf of their clients in court. We hope to provide our interns with opportunities to develop their oral and written legal skills. Riverkeeper wants not only to use students as advocates, but also train them and instill a desire to pursue environmental work after graduation."

The four law students selected to participate in the spring semester 1996 clinic are third-year student Dan Kiefer and second-year students Andy Thompson, Steve Kuppenheimer and Shelley Rachanow. Thompson and Kuppenheimer served as volunteer legal interns with Riverkeeper last summer.

"We put our students in a variety of public interest settings," said Jan Pratt, clinical director at the law school. Emory also participates in clinics with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Center for Law and Public Interest.

"We want to show students that there is good work in the environmental/public interest law arena," said Dave Moore, Riverkeeper general counsel and co-director of the clinic. "We hope to encourage more young lawyers to practice environmental law and show them the rewards of representing citizens and protecting the environment."

Riverkeeper's environmental litigation clinic is modeled after Pace University School of Law's clinic directed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Karl Coplan.

-- Danielle Service

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