In anticipation of the official July 1 launch of Hawaiʻi’s new Environmental Court, the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa is coordinating a day-long symposium on Friday, June 26, 2015. The gathering’s goal is to educate the community about how the new court will function while also offering perspectives from international Environmental Court leaders.

The symposium is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the law school, with a pau hana event sponsored by The Outdoor Circle.

Justice Swatanter Kumar

Justice Swatanter Kumar

International jurists and scholars will speak at the symposium to commemorate the creation of Hawaiʻi’s Environmental Court. A special guest, Justice Swatanter Kumar, presiding judge of the National Green Tribunal of India, will offer a global context for the 350 environmental courts now operating in 41 countries. Hawaiʻi’s Environmental Court is only the second in the U.S.; the state of Vermont created the first.

By way of video messages, Justice Antonio Benjamin of the Brazilian Supreme Court; Justice Brian Preston, chief judge of the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales, Australia; Justice Michael Rackemann, judge of the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland, Australia; and Professor Nicholas A. Robinson of Pace University School of Law will provide insight on the implementation of Environmental Courts around the world.

The event is co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Program at the law school, the Natural Resources Section of the Hawaiʻi State Bar Association and The Outdoor Circle, with generous financial support from the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation.

Said law school Dean Avi Soifer, “Our Environmental Law Program has gained an international recognition over many years, and this helped us to convince a world leader, as Justice Kumar certainly is, to come to Hawaiʻi. It is most fitting that, with his help and the help of his colleagues, our state will now play a leading role in the United States by having a first-rate environmental court from the very start.”

Guest speakers and roundtable sessions will address these topics:

  • Creation of Hawaiʻi’s Environmental Court
  • Guiding Principles of Environmental Law and Traditional and Customary Rights
  • The Natural Resources Violations Systems of DOCARE, the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement of the Department of Land and Natural Resources
  • Preparations for Opening Day on July 1, 2015
  • Opportunities and Challenges for Hawaiʻi District and Circuit Court Cases
  • The Global Context for Hawaiʻi’s Environmental Courts

Registration for the symposium is now closed, however, the event will be recorded live by ʻŌlelo Community Media. Members of the public are encouraged to check with ʻŌlelo Community Media for availability on the day of the event.

The Environmental Court was created by the 2014 Legislature (Act 281) in recognition of Hawaiʻi’s unique and fragile environmental resources. Beginning on July 1, 2015, violations of environmental laws shall be heard by specially designated judges who will analyze violations within the context of cumulative impacts upon the environment.

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