A Tribute to Joe Feller

by Robert Glicksman | April 16, 2013

Last week, CPR lost one its most dynamic scholars, Joe Feller, in a tragic accident. Joe was deservedly well known as a staunch and vigorous advocate on behalf of natural resource preservation, especially the public rangelands that he loved. Joe was not cut from the typical academic mold. Although he wrote frequently and with vision about subjects that included rangeland protection and water law issues, he was at least as comfortable leading environmental protection efforts in the agencies and the courts. Joe filed administrative protests and appeals, represented environmental interests in litigation in the federal courts, submitted comments on proposed agency decisions and rules, testified at public hearings and before legislative committees, and participated in collaborative problem-solving groups.  For example, he successfully litigated a path-breaking case requiring compliance with environmental laws in the renewal of grazing permits on federal public lands.  Joe’s contributions to CPR included efforts to facilitate grazing law reform, http://www.progressivereform.org/perspLivestock.cfm.  

Joe brought to these endeavors interdisciplinary skills that most legal academics lack. He earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley and was an Assistant Professor of Physics at Columbia University.  Before beginning his legal academic career, he worked in the Office of General Counsel of EPA, serving as the principal attorney for promulgation of the national ambient air quality standards for particulate matter in the 1980s. 

Those who knew Joe, however, understand that a recitation of his many notable accomplishments does not come close to ...

Kiobel Returns!

by John Knox | September 28, 2012
Remember Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, argued before the Supreme Court last term?  It’s back – the Court will hear argument again Monday – and bigger than before.  A brief recap:  For decades, Shell has extracted oil from the Niger Delta, causing extensive environmental degradation.  The government of Nigeria, with the alleged support of Shell, cracked down on protests by the local residents, the Ogoni tribe, by executing their leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others in 1995.  Members of the ...

BP Spill: Perp Walk for Underling Shouldn't Satisfy Anyone

by Rena Steinzor | April 26, 2012
With considerable media flourish, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday the first and so far only criminal charges related to the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that killed 11 workers, and did profound violence to the Gulf of Mexico and the local economies dependent up on it. One Kurt Mix, 50, an engineer involved in designing the failed “top kill” remedy, was indicted for obstruction of justice. More specifically, he's accused of deleting text messages from his phone that he ...

The Good and the Bad in the BP Settlement, and the Main Course Still Ahead

by Robert Verchick | April 23, 2012
I spent last Friday – the second anniversary of the BP Blowout – in the vast basement of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court building, shifting in my metal chair, ignoring the talk-show chatter from the flat screens, and keeping an eye on the red digit counter to know when my number was up. I'd been called for jury duty. Whether I will eventually be deployed is up to the gods, but until then I had resolved to study (with ...

Limiting the Rights of Medical Malpractice Victims: House GOP Leaders Make a Bad Idea Worse

by Sidney Shapiro | March 20, 2012
House GOP leaders may vote as early as this week on legislation that would eliminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a cost-saving measure that was established as part of the national health care reform Congress passed in 2010.  House leaders have also attached national restrictions on the right of patients to recover damages for medical malpractice (H.R. 5) to the IPAB bill, with the joint bill being called H.R. 5.  The sponsors of the bills allege that the savings ...

A New Twist in the Kiobel Case

by John Knox | March 07, 2012
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum, the case asking whether corporations can be liable in federal court for violations of international human rights law.  In the decision under review, the Second Circuit – unlike every other circuit court to consider the question – had held that they could never be liable.  So one might think that a logical way for the petitioners to begin their oral argument would be to give an ...

After Partial Settlement, Oil Spill Case on a Slow Boil

by Robert Verchick | March 05, 2012
The BP Oil Spill case settled! Well, part of it. The smaller part. But, still, we must count this a victory for U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, whose reported 72 million pages of assigned reading will inevitably be shaved down. (Does this man have an iPad?) On Friday evening the court announced that BP had reached a settlement with the steering committee that represents thousands of private plaintiffs in the case. Judge Barbier postponed the trial indefinitely while the remaining ...

The Age of Greed: Chemical Industry Fights to Suppress Dioxin Assessment

by Rena Steinzor | January 09, 2012
With a reverential nod to maverick economist Jeff Madrick, who wrote a popular book of the same name, I begin today a series of blog posts entitled “The Age of Greed” that is designed to shine a bright spotlight into the dark corners where Washington lobbyists are busy looting the protection of public health, worker and consumer safety, and the environment.  Business-as-usual efforts to stall or derail regulation won’t make it into this space.  Rather, behavior has to be demonstrably ...

In Chevron versus Ecuador, the Decisions (and the Ironies) Multiply

by John Knox | January 09, 2012
If environmental cases had their own Olympics, the dispute between Chevron and Ecuador would be a contender for multiple gold medals.  It seems to have a shot not only at winning the award for the largest damages, but also for running the longest and appearing in the most courtrooms.  To recap:  Residents of the Amazon have been trying for nearly 20 years to receive compensation for massive environmental damage Chevron’s predecessor, Texaco, allegedly caused in Ecuador in what’s been called ...

Fifth Circuit Mulls Katrina Flood Ruling

by Robert Verchick | November 15, 2011
    Today’s question: When are flood waters not “flood waters”? We New Orleanians have become fluent in all things subaqueous; last week three Texans sitting on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals took their turn. Yes, we’re talking about Katrina. Or, more specifically, its flood waters, which busted federal levees in fifty places, swamped 80% of New Orleans, and caused 800 deaths in the urban area. It is beyond argument that federal malfeasance played a key role. But sovereign immunity ...

National Meat Association v. Harris: More Preemption in the Supreme Court

by Bill Funk | November 04, 2011
On November 9th the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in National Meat Association v. Harris, wading once again into the mire of federal preemption. The National Meat case involves a California statute that prohibits the slaughter of non-ambulatory animals for human consumption and requires that non-ambulatory animals be immediately and humanely euthanized. A federal law, the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA), thoroughly regulates, although one could question how strictly, the process of slaughtering animals for human consumption. It also contains an express ...

Milward v. Acuity Specialty Products: How the First Circuit Opened Courthouse Doors for Wronged Parties to Present Wider Range of Scientific Evidence

by Carl Cranor | July 25, 2011
In Daubert v. Merrell-Dow Pharmaceutical,  General Electric. v. Joiner, and Kumho Tire v. Carmichael the U.S. Supreme Court sought to bring principles for reviewing expert testimony in line with the Federal Rules of Evidence. The opinions sought  to ensure that legal arguments would better comport with the pertinent science needed for the legal cases at issue. To achieve this goal the court gave trial judges a greter duty to review expert testimony for relevance and reliability before plaintiffs could bring ...

Echeverria Testifies on Eminent Domain Bill

by Matthew Freeman | April 13, 2011
CPR Member Scholar John Echeverria was on Capitol Hill yesterday, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution. His topic was a proposed bill from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to impose federal limits on state and local use of eminent domain – the authority to condemn private property so that it can be used for public purposes. The subject became particularly controversial in 2005 when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kelo vs. City of New London, ...

The BP Oil Spill: Hollow Regulation Meets Hobbled Law

by Sidney Shapiro | March 11, 2011
This coming April 20 will mark the one-year anniversary of the first day of the BP Oil Spill – a three-month polluta-polluza that eventually became the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the world. That was the night that a long series of failures finally came to a head: failures aboard the Deepwater Horizon by BP and its contractors, failures in the enforcement of regulations intended to prevent such disasters or at least limit the damage from them, ...

Williamson v. Mazda: Sound and Clear Preemption Decision

by William Buzbee | February 23, 2011
The Supreme Court today issued its much-awaited ruling in Williamson v. Mazda. Could an injured or deceased plaintiff sue under common law for damages allegedly attributable to the lack of a rear inner seat seatbelt, when the Department of Transportation (DOT) had declined to require such belts while requiring other seat belts?   The case on its face appeared much like the Court’s earlier Geier v. American Honda Motor Co decision, issued in 2000, in which the Court held that a common ...

In Williamson v. Mazda, SCOTUS Has Chance to Right Preemption Wrongs

by Bill Funk | November 01, 2010
Cross-posted from ACSblog. The Supreme Court will hear arguments on November 3 in a potentially important preemption case, Williamson v. Mazda Motor of America. In Williamson, a child was fatally injured in a collision when she was sitting in the center rear seat of a Mazda van, secured by a lap belt. The two other passengers in the vehicle, both wearing lap-shoulder belts, survived with minor injuries. The young Williamson, however, suffered severe abdominal injuries and internal bleeding because her ...

Don't Blame Tony Hayward: Why We Need Laws and Regulations That Specifically Hold Parties Liable for the Harm They Cause

by Victor Flatt | May 21, 2010
BP CEO Tony Hayward has been careful to say his company will pay for the "clean-up" from the oil spill -- meaning, not the damages. But if past disasters are any guide, the clean-up will be just a small fraction of the damages from the spill (the deaths, the damage of the oil to natural resources and the humans that depend on them, and more). Many media have commented that Hawyard is a “jerk”, but the who-pays-for-the-damages problem isn't really ...

New CPR White Paper Critiques Supreme Court’s Heightened Pleading Standard for Getting Complaints into Federal Court

by Sidney Shapiro | May 19, 2010
Cross-posted from ACSblog. The Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) today released a white paper examining "plausibility pleading"-the Supreme Court's heightened pleading standard that plaintiffs must satisfy in order to bring their claims in federal court. The paper, Plausibility Pleading: Barring the Courthouse Door to Deserving Claimants, comes after the Court's decision one year ago this week in Ashcroft v. Iqbal that this standard applies to all types of federal cases. The Court first created this standard in Twombly v. Bell ...

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