Leading Chinese Lawyers at SCU recently

In the past few weeks, we’ve had some of China’s leading public interest lawyers pay visits to Santa Clara University. 

At the beginning of March, Prof. Wang Canfa of the China University of Political Science and Law paid us a visit.  In addition to his academic position, Prof. Wang is also the director of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV).  

Prof. Wang is both one of the leading legal scholars in China on the environment as well as arguably the most important legal advocate in that country working on the environment.  In 2007, Time Magazine hailed him as an environmental hero. Much of his reputation derives from his work through the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims, which he founded and still directs.  The Center litigates cases on behalf of pollution victims and has been remarkably (and uniquely) successful in recovering compensation for his clients.  In addition, his Center also engages in environmental law training for lawyers and judges. 

While at SCU, Prof. Wang met with Dean Polden and gave a guest lecture in an undergraduate environmental studies course about his work with CLAPV.  He was also accompanied by Professor Zhu Xiaoqin from Xiamen University Law School who is currently a Fulbright Scholar at Harvard Law School.   I ended up taking both of them to the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we got a wonderful tour from Dr. George Matsumoto, a scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. 

The other Chinese lawyer we had at SCU recently was Mr. Chen Guangcheng, the blind “barefoot lawyer” who created a diplomatic stand-off last spring in seeking refuge at the US Embassy.  And this all happened while Secretary Clinton was in Beijing for the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. 

Chen was at Santa Clara University to receive the Law School’s Catherine and George Alexander Prize, where he gave nice acceptance speech to a packed audience.  Chen was introduced by SCU President Father Engh.  NYU Law Professor Jerry Cohen, probably the best known American law professor focused on Chinese law issues, provided valuable background on Mr. Chen’s past. 

(From left to right:  Dean Don Polden, SCU President Father Engh, Cheng Guangcheng, Chen’s wife (Yuan Weijing))

I ended up on the Santa Clara welcoming committee for Chen, his wife Weijing, and two young children – fancy description of me, Prof. Cynthia Mertens (SCU Law’s Academic Dean), and law student Nathan picking them up at SFO to bring them to their hotel on the preceding Friday.  Interestingly, there were many people (especially Chinese) at the airport  who recognized Chen and expressed their support for his work.  I personally was struck by how unassuming he and his wife were even though they have gone through a tremendous personal ordeal in China and have gotten quite a bit of attention from the media.  But it was an honor for Santa Clara to have them come to our campus.  I understand from him that he is working on a book(in English), which should be out later this fall.

New Environmental Appeals Board Judge at EPA

Effective April 21, 2013, Randy Hill has been appointed by Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe to join EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board.  Randy is currently the Acting Director of the Office of Waste Water Management under EPA’s Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water (Nancy Stoner).  He’ll be a terrific addition to the EAB with his amazing resume of experiences as a senior manager in EPA’s major components, the Office of Water, the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, and the General Counsel Office.  I am personally excited about his new role as he has been a friend and colleague for many years (since my Justice Department days), and I know him as an experienced, thoughtful, smart, and capable lawyer.  He’ll be joining the current set of EAB judges, Kathie Stein, Catherine McCabe, and Leslye Fraser.

The EAB is an internal administrative tribunal that allows regulated entities to seek review of administrative decisions, including permits and administrative enforcement actions, by various parts of the Agency.  As the delegatee of the Administrator’s final authority on such matters, its decisions are theoreticallystill subject to the review (and reversal)  of the Administrator.  However, as a practical matter, as far as I know, that has never happened in its 20-something year history.  Thus, the EAB’s decisions are the Agency’s final word on such issues, before they might be the subject of judicial review. 

Some have described the EAB as a type of environmental court/tribunal similar to environmental courts in other countries even though it is not part of the judiciary unlike the environmental court division in Vermont’s state court system, for example.  For additional background on the EAB, see Anna Wolgast, Katie Stein, and Timothy Epp, The United States Environmental Adjudication Tribunal, Journal of Court Innovation, vol. 3, no. 1, winter 2010; and Nancy Firestone, The Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Appeals Board, Environmental Law, vol. 1, no. 1 (1994-95).

"New" Environmental Protection Minister of China

Xinhua, the Chinese government’s official news outlet, noted that the National People’s Congress, at the end of its annual session today, endorsed the new line-up of China’s Central Government ministers.    Turns out that the new Minister is also the old one — Zhou Shengxian, who has led China’s MEP since 2005.  (He had been re-nominated as part of the new set of ministers by new Premier Li Keqiang.)  For purposes of continued US-China (MEP-US EPA) environmental cooperation, that should be welcome news, since he and former Administrator Lisa Jackson had a positive and strong relationship.  However, Zhou is currently just shy of 64 and will be required to leave his post when he reaches the mandatory retirement age in a few years.