Professor Robin Craig takes the mystery out of ocean, water law for judges, lawmakers
By Matthew Kredell
With climate litigation becoming more complicated, the influential Environmental Law Institute turned to USC Gould School of Law Professor Robin Craig
to educate judges and lawmakers as part of the institute’s Climate Judiciary Project.
Craig is also serving on the Capitol Hill Ocean Week Advisory Committee (CHOW), appointed by the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation to engage in outreach to and education of members of Congress regarding important ocean legal issues during CHOW June 7-9.
“It’s nice to have organizations with that kind of national scope reaching out to me,” Craig says.
The Climate Judiciary Project provides judges the tools they need to effectively adjudicate the thousands of climate cases sweeping the federal and state courts across the country, she says.
“The project is aimed at making judges a little less apprehensive about these cases and giving them an idea of the full range of legal possibilities they might face in climate cases and how to handle their complexities,” says Craig, who was hired by the State of Utah to train state judges on water law. “I think we can make a real difference and it’s an important service that the Environmental Law Institute is trying to provide.”
Craig is also contributing a chapter on procedural and case management issues that may come up in climate change litigation for a handbook for judges being assembled by ELI.
“The main point of my chapter is that there are a lot of procedural complications that come up in climate change litigation,” Craig says. “The same kind of issues come up in toxic tort litigation, and there’s a rich set of literature on how to manage these highly complicated cases.”
Craig is also serving remotely on the CHOW Advisory Committee, helping to craft the agenda to engage lawmakers and their legislative staffers in dialogue and debate on issues impacting oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes, and to propose innovative policies and partnerships to address these issues.
“The goal is to do a retrospective of where we’ve been but also provide information to members of Capitol Hill and the public on gaps in laws, areas that need to be better addressed, what climate change is doing to the ocean, marine spatial planning, and recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to ocean resources,” Craig says. “There’s a whole host of issues that we’ll bring to the attention of legislators who are in a position to make changes to better protect the ocean.”
This year’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week marks the 50th anniversary of many important environmental statutes enacted in 1972. These include the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Water Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“I wanted to make time to be a part of this because it’s a way of educating people on Capitol Hill who, quite frankly, have other pressing priorities and very rarely, unless from a coastal state, think about larger coastal issues,” Craig says.