On November 16, 2016 three student attorneys in the Environmental Law Clinic, Catherine McGrath, Shannon Himes, and Nick Warren, participated in a zoning hearing in Prince George’s County opposing the grant of a special exception for a coal ash landfill. Each student conducted a direct examination of a witness and developed legal skills that will prove important for their future work as attorneys.
Catherine examined Fred Tutman, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, who expressed concern about the landfill’s impacts on neighboring communities and waterways. “I really valued the opportunity to help give voice to the community’s concerns about pollution and environmental justice,” said Catherine. Nick and Shannon examined experts in air pollution and community planning. Shannon reflected that “my expert has a lot of technical knowledge about air pollution and the toxicity of coal ash, which required detailed explanation.” Presenting an expert witness required a tremendous amount of practice and preparation, but as Shannon explained “I discovered I was less nervous at the hearing because of our prior preparations.” Nick examined a community planning expert. Reflecting on his experience, Nick noted that “the time for the direct examination of my witness ended up being shorter than we had planned. It was a valuable experience to learn to adjust my questions on the fly to get the most useful information out in the least amount of time.”
The student attorneys’ outstanding work for the zoning hearing exemplifies how the Environmental Law Clinic prepares law students to join the legal profession while providing invaluable representation to communities and environmental groups.