Blue Devil of the Week: Practicing Law to Protect the Environment

Shannon Arata teaches and works on cases in Duke’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

Shannon Arata, at the far end of the table, meets with law and graduate students who work as a legal case team.
Shannon Arata, at the far end of the table, meets with law and graduate students who work as a legal case team.

“As part of the clinic, I teach government organization and administrative law in North Carolina, which I think is interesting, and I also work with law and graduate students on case teams. Students come in with very different experiences. Some people come in straight out of undergrad. Some people have previous work experience.  A lot of our cases involve complicated legal theories and technical scientific information, so trying to make our cases make sense to everyone can be a challenge.

I received my J.D. here at Duke, and my whole focus was environmental law. As a student, you come in and immediately dive right in with your case representing a nonprofit client. Sometimes cases are brand-new and sometimes they’ve been going on for a number of years. The ones I was assigned in 2012, I’m still working on. For one of those cases, the clinic represents the Yadkin Riverkeeper, an organization working to protect the Yadkin Pee Dee River Basin. The case involves litigation to determine who owns part of the Yadkin River bed and advocating for the remediation of a former aluminum smelter site. Another case has to do with fracking, and we filed a lawsuit on behalf of Clean Water for North Carolina and other individual co-plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of the N.C. Oil and Gas Commission’s power to decide whether local government fracking ordinances are preempted by state law.”

Shannon Arata
Staff attorney, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic
4 years working at Duke (graduated from the Duke Law School in 2013)

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