Tulane law clinic receives recognition second to Clinton

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 11, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / January 11, 1999

NEW ORLEANS – In this case, coming in second place to President Clinton might have been a good idea.

The Tulane Environmental Law Clinic is a runner-up for the National Law Journal’s “1998 Lawyer of the Year Award.” The National Law Journal isheadquartered in New York.

Clinton won top honors for having the greatest impact, positive or negative, on the law or law profession during the past year. The clinicearned its award for its positive contribution to the law through its representation of residents of Convent and Romeville in their successful opposition to the proposed Shintech plastics plant.

This is the first law school clinic to be so honored.

“Obviously, we’re flattered to be recognized but saddened that certain public officials in Louisiana don’t (recognize us) for the work we do,” professor Robert Kuehn, clinic director, observed.

The clinic began providing legal assistance to the St. James Parishresidents in mid-1996 after Shintech sought state permits to construct a polyvinyl chloride plant in a neighborhood consisting of an 84 percent African-American population, said to be already highly polluted from existing industry.

Clinic students succeeded in having Shintech’s original state-issued air permits revoked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and triggeredan environmental-justice investigation by the EPA.

In June, the Louisiana Supreme Court imposed unprecedented restrictions on how law clinics function after pressure from Gov. Mike Foster.The Association of American Law Schools has referred to the new rules as “the most restrictive student practice rule in the nation.”Kuehn commented on the award: “We are pleased that this national publication, as well as lawyers and judges across the country, recognize the important contribution that the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic makes to the availability of legal services to those in need.”In April, the clinic received a 1998 Certificate of Environmental Achievement award from Renew America and, in 1990, the clinic was honored by then-Gov. Buddy Roemer with the Governor’s ConservationOrganization of the Year award.

The top honors for 1996 went to independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

“This year, they held their noses and gave it to Clinton,” Kuehn said.

In the National Law Journal, it was stated of Clinton: “He has created a body of law on privilege and the presidency that will haunt and hamstring his successors, a polarizing impeachment process and the prospect of a distracting months-long Senate ouster trial.”

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