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Environmental Crimes Exposed

January 15, 2009- Building on its reputation for top environmental and criminal law scholarship, the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law will examine environmental crimes and how to discourage them.

The college will host a daylong symposium, “Environmental Criminal Prosecution: Essential Tool or Government Overreaching?” on Thursday, January 22, 2009 in the Sutherland Moot Court Room. The event is organized by the Wallace Stegner Center for Land, Resources and the Environment, and consists of six free presentations by top practitioners and renowned scholars in the field of environmental crime.

“This symposium will evaluate the use of criminal sanctions as a means of obtaining compliance with environmental laws and regulations,” says Robert Adler, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. 

Although the focus of the symposium is on environmental crimes, Adler predicts the program will interest anyone concerned about prosecutions of white-collar crimes.

Environmental crime encompasses a huge swath of legal issues, which have confronted the judicial system for decades and will likely continue to hold a prominent place of public concern for decades to come. 

In November, President George Bush pardoned Leslie O. Collier, a Missouri farmer convicted in 1996 for the environmental crime of illegally poisoning three bald eagles. In other instances, prosecutors have targeted manufacturers for systemic dumping of toxic waste and one-time offenders dumping paint solvents in storm sewers.  Environmental crimes often cross international borders, such as in trade of endangered species. 

Adler says the environmental crime symposium will include a history of using criminal sanctions to enforce environmental laws and assessments of the key legal and ethical issues that arose in those prosecutions.  It will also include discussions of compliance strategies for businesses, and the potential to redress environmental harm through international criminal sanctions.  The symposium will close with a group discussion of the legitimacy of using criminal sanctions to address environmental problems.

The symposium will begin with a presentation by Ray W. Mushal, a top federal official at the U.S. Department of Justice, about corporate environmental compliance. Mushal’s presentation will be followed by prominent corporate defense attorney Carol E. Dinkins, a partner at Vinson & Elkins, LLP and the firm’s environmental section leader. Michael M. O’Hear, from Marquette University Law School, will discuss the punishment “gap” in environmental crime sentencing after United States v. Booker. 

On prosecutions, Susan F. Mandiberg, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, will discuss “intent” issues in environmental cases, while Paul Kamenar, senior executive counsel for the Washington Legal Foundation, will address overzealous prosecution of environmental crime. David Uhlmann, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, will discuss criminal enforcement within an environmental regulatory scheme. 

The symposium fulfills up to 7.0 hours of CLE credit.  A donation of $75 is requested, but not required.