Environmental Court Report
Judge Potter meets with representatives from Richardson School of Law, The Outdoor Circle and Keep Hawaiian Islands Beautiful
By: Alexandra Avery
The University of Hawai‘i William S. Richardson School of Law, in cooperation with Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful conducted a workshop on the Hawai‘i Environmental Court, with a special focus on “O‘ahu Litter, Illegal Dumping and Community Environment Enforcement”. The Special Guest Speaker was Judge Larry Potter, Shelby County Tennessee Environmental Court Longest Serving U.S. Environmental Jurist. Judge Potter is respectfully referred to as the father of U.S. Environmental Courts. His encouraging lecture offered tips and strategies for building environmental cases. He leads by example in his inspiring words on advocacy and stewardship.
Cecile Carson, Senior Vice President of Litter and Affiliate Relations, Keep America Beautiful, addressed the question of Why does litter (e.g. marine debris), illegal dumping, and community appearance matter, from a national viewpoint. She shared many talking points on the importance of enforcement, behavior change and litter’s environmental, economic and social Impacts. Chris Woolaway and Jordan Muratsuchi of Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful reported on the work they have achieved with the City and County, which was commented on by Michael O”Keefe, City and County of Honolulu Enforcement Officer. Cecile stressed the importance of clarifying and updating Refuse Ordinances along with their proper enforcement through further collaboration.
Another topic looked at is the growing concern with wildfire impact. Hawai‘i wildfire management was addressed by Pablo Beimler, Community Outreach Coordinator, Hawai’i Wildfire Management Organization. Statewide, there are an average of 200 wildfires daily. Although not all of these are started with illegal dumping and camp-fires, the increase in arson related fires is alarming.
The Hawai’i Environmental Court recognizes that changing offending behavior can be achieved through alternative sentencing involving education classes and community service. Community service groups can become a part of this solution by providing service projects. Assigned to the Environmental Court are twenty two Hawaii Judges. The Court’s purpose is to ensure the fair, consistent, and effective resolution of cases involving the environment. The Court has a broad jurisdiction covering land, air and water, including terrestrial and marine life. The state motto recognizes that the lives of people depends on how the environment is treated.
The Outdoor Circle representative and Friend of The Hawai’i Environmental Court, past president Alexandra Avery also attended the first Annual Environmental Court Review. Hosted at the Supreme Court, a panel of distinguished speakers included Hawaii Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Wilson, Environmental Court Judges Jeannette Castagnetti and Lono J. Lee, and William S. Richardson School of Law Associate Dean Denise Antolini in an overview and discussion of key developments regarding Hawaii’s Environmental Court since its inception. The first case involved sugar cane burning on Maui, which challenged an individuals right to clean air. The cane burning led to increasing concerns about health hazards from smoke and ash. The case was settled and cane burning ceased in December 2016.The most common infraction during the first year was fishing violations to our overfished waters. From July 2015 to may 2016, more than 1,600 cases have been filed in the state’s Environmental Court. State park, boating and ocean recreation violations, along with aquatic resources and those relating to forestry and wildlife.
Alexandra recently shared her insights on our Environmental Court and her experience at India’s National GreenTribunal at the Annual Laulima Leadership Conference, hosted by TOC partner Keep Hawaiian Islands Beautiful. She joins the Friends of Hawaii Environmental Court in working to promote understanding of the E-Court function. Look for a downloadable brochure soon be available on the website below.
Environmental Court Website:
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