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Environmtal Law Society
Ken Alex

Can the Common Law Protect the Global Commons?

Robert Percival
Professor of Law and
Director, Environmental Law Program
University of Maryland
School of Law

Wed, Mar 22, 12:45-1:45pm
Faculty Lounge, 336N Boalt

Cosponsored with the
Institute for Legal Research

Frustrated by the U.S. government's failure to act to combat global warming and climate change, several states are seeking to use the federal common law of nuisance to require major electric utilities to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. Last year a federal district court dismissed their lawsuit on the novel ground that it raised a political question unsuited to judicial resolution. Yet early in the twentieth century, the U.S. Supreme Court used federal common law to issue its own injunctions limiting emissions of air and water pollutants and requiring cities to build sewage treatment plants and garbage incinerators. Examining this history,
Professor Percival explores why the Court has largely abandoned the federal common law of nuisance and the difficult issues raised by new efforts to employ it to protect the global commons.

Speaker Biography:

BA, 1972, Macalester College
MA, 1978, JD, 1978, Stanford University

Professor Percival joined the Maryland faculty in 1987 after serving as senior attorney for the Environmental Defense Fund. While in law school, he served as managing editor of the Stanford Law Review and was named the Nathan Abbott Scholar for graduating first in his class. Percival served as a law clerk for Judge Shirley M. Hufstedler of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White. Percival also served as a special assistant to the first U.S. Secretary of Education.

Percival is internationally recognized as a leading scholar in environmental law. He is principal author of the country’s most widely used casebook in environmental law, Environmental Regulation: Law, Science & Policy. He has written extensively on several topics, including environmental law, regulatory policy, federalism, presidential powers, and legal history. Professor Percival has taught as a visiting professor of law at Harvard Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. He served as a J. William Fulbright scholar at Comenius University Law School in Slovakia and has presented environmental workshops in several countries, including Japan, Russia, Mongolia, Iran, and Uganda. In 2002 Percival was the Natural Resource Law Institute Distinguished Visitor at Lewis & Clark College of Law and a visiting professor of law at the University of Chile where he helped establish South America’s first environmental law clinic.

Percival has served on the Board of Directors of the Environmental Law Institute and as co-chair of the steering committee of the D.C. Bar’s Section on Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Law. He is the contributing editor for Environment and Natural Resources for the Federal Circuit Bar Journal. Percival has served as a special master for the U.S. District Court of Maryland and as a member of the state of Maryland’s Environmental Restoration and Development Task Force. He also coaches the School of Law's championship softball team.


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