The law school, former students, colleagues, clients and Dean Tobin celebrated Jane's remarkable career and her contributions to the law school as an alumn, lawyer and professional. Jane Barrett steps down after ten years as the Director of the award-winning Environmental Law Clinic, which operates as the largest pro bono environmental law firm in the state. The Clinic has flourished under Prof. Barrett’s leadership, preventing industrial pollution in Maryland’s waterways, enforcing the state’s regulations to protect the Chesapeake Bay, and litigating on behalf of communities threatened by environmental injustice. In recognition of the Clinic’s work under Prof. Barrett’s leadership, the ABA awarded it the Distinguished Achievement Award by unanimous vote for its “high standards and dedication to training a new generation of environmental lawyers.” Prof. Barrett also received the Clinical Legal Education Association Outstanding Advocate Award in May 2010.
A 1976 alumna of Maryland Carey Law, Prof. Barrett spent over 20 years working in public service at federal and state agencies, and a dozen years in private practice in DC before joining our faculty. It was considered quite a coup when Prof. Bob Percival, the founder of the Environmental Law Program, persuaded Prof. Barrett to trade her private practice as chair of the White Collar, Internal and Government Investigations Group at Blank Rome, LLP to lead our clinic. Prof. Percival lauded Prof. Barrett in the Baltimore Sun, noting that “[i]t would be difficult finding anyone with more experience with all aspects of environmental law.”
Prof. Barrett’s tenure has been marked by cutting edge impact litigation, and the Clinic under her leadership has been at the forefront of advancing environmental justice in Maryland. Clinic clients and students have reaped the rewards of her expertise. In addition to working with clients to comment on countless permits, Clinic students were able to research and draft pleadings, prepare for and participate in depositions, and argue their cases in federal and state trial courts as well as the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Beginning in 2008, the Clinic began working with residents of Cedar Heights, a small, mostly African-American community in Prince George’s County, in their fight to prevent the permitting and construction of a concrete batching plant immediately adjacent to their neighborhood. The construction of this facility would have compounded the existing environmental problems confronting the neighborhood, including impacts from a blacktop plant and two sand and gravel operations. Prof. Barrett and her students took the case all the way to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. Although the Court ruled in 2013 to uphold the County’s decision to approve the batching plant, the facility has not been built, and the litigation and public outcry focused the attention of state and local officials on the residents’ concerns. The Clinic continued to work with the Cedar Heights and Fairmount Height communities to address other environmental issues throughout Prof. Barrett’s tenure.
When CSX Transportation sought to build a transfer station in the blue-collar Baltimore City community of Morrell Park in 2013, residents called upon the Environmental Law Clinic to intervene. Despite initial support from the Governor and Mayor for the project, Prof. Barrett and her students used their advocacy and leadership skills to turn up the pressure on the community’s representatives—and to uncover the crucial fact that CSX had never completed an environmental impact statement. After the state pulled all funding from the project and terminated their agreement with CSX, the project was abandoned.
The widely publicized Assateague Coastkeeper v. Hudson Farm case, although a loss at the trial level, highlighted the problems of agricultural pollution in Maryland and triggered renewed dialogue between the agricultural industry and NGOs within the state.
The Clinic also focused on combating pollution from three coal ash disposal sites in the State. Starting with a state action filed in 2009, this effort culminated in representation of the Defenders of Wildlife, Chesapeake Action Network, the Patuxent Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club as interveners in a citizen suit filed by the State of Maryland. This lawsuit resulted in a consent decree requiring the facilities to clean up widespread ground and surface water pollutions at three sites and to address fugitive coal ash emissions.
Prof. Barrett was celebrated earlier this month by her students, colleagues, clients, and Dean Tobin, who heralded the career of this remarkable lawyer and alum who we’ve had the privilege of working alongside. While her presence and leadership will be deeply missed, her lasting impact will resonate with the students and communities she touched for years to come.