Hellbender Journal Autumn 2002
Pitt Upholds Academic
By Rachel Martin
In May 2001, the Environmental Law Clinic at the
University of Pittsburgh came under attack by state legislators
for taking on "controversial" cases. Tom Buchele, Director
of the Law Clinic, is currently representing the Allegheny Defense
Project and five other conservation groups in a lawsuit against
the East Side timber sale in the Allegheny National Forest. He is
representing the groups on his own time, apart from the Environmental
Law Clinic. Nevertheless, he was attacked by Allegheny National
Forest-area state senator Joseph Scarnati for his role in the suit.
He's since taken on several suits through the Law Clinic for which
he and the Law Clinic have come under fire, even though the clinic
receives no state funding.
In June 2001, State Senator Scarnati (R-Brockway)
pushed through a rider on the appropriations to the University of
Pittsburgh specifying that the Environmental Law Clinic was not
to receive state funding. In the fall, the University assessed the
Law Clinic $62,000 for overhead and administrative costs, claiming
that this was only a fraction of the clinic's indirect administrative
costs equal to tax money support. Since the University receives
only 20% of its funding from the state, this would make the overall
indirect administrative costs over $300,000, a figure that Pitt
law school professor Bill Luneburg stated "defies logic."
"The Chancellor should have known Professor Buchele
wasn't going to go after litter bugs," said Robert Silber,
a spokesman for Clean Water Action at a November 2001 "Rally
for the Allegheny and Environmental Law Clinic." Tom Buchele
is representing Clean Water Action in a lawsuit to prevent the Allegheny
River from being dredged for gravel that would be used for highway
"The Environmental Law Clinic provides an extremely
valuable service to the community. All citizens should have access
to legal representation, and the Law Clinic provides this representation
to those who could not otherwise afford it," said Jim Kleissler
on behalf of the Allegheny Defense Project.
"The importance of the Environmental Law Clinic
is evidenced by a recent report which lists the Allegheny National
Forest as the #1 most endangered national forest in the country.
This report demonstrates the importance of the lawsuits that Tom
Buchele has taken," said Susan Curry, Eastern Field Coordinator
for the National Forest Protection Alliance, the group that produced
the report detailing the Ten Most Endangered National Forests in
A public outpouring of support for Professor Buchele
and the Pitt Environmental Law Clinic followed the announcement
that the University planned to assess fees that would have bankrupted
the clinic. This support included multiple editorials in the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, an editorial by the Warren Times-Observer,
and a finding by the University of Pittsburgh Faculty Senate that
the fee charges equated to an abridgement of academic freedom.
The University of Pittsburgh announced in March that
they would continue to house the Law Clinic. The University has
stated that they will cover the Law Clinic's overhead and administrative
costs will be covered entirely through private funds.
Please send letters of thanks to:
Dean David Herring
University of Pittsburgh Law School
3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
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