Greenprint for a Climate Justice Clinic: law schools' most significant access to justice challenge
AbstractSeeking climate justice is not straightforward. Larger private law firm engagement with climate defence is often conflicted out because the short-term profit interests of their large corporate clients often dominate the thinking of both lawyer and client. Even those few private lawyers who do want to take action are intimidated by the need for considerable funding for disbursements and likely defendant arguments about the supposed need for security for costs. So far, no one in Australia has been able to locate a wealthy benefactor, foundation or not-for-profit prepared to meet these costs.Some law schools are nevertheless in a position to fill this access to justice void and assist in the effort to combat climate change by designing and developing a climate defence or climate justice clinic. There are potential causes of action in the areas of nuisance, negligence and public trust, as well as specific statutory and general regulatory arguments that can be developed in some jurisdictions.This paper discusses and proposes a greenprint for such a clinic, not just to assist access to justice and climate defence, but to play a part in strengthening the political and social consciousness of the law students who pass through it. The discussion draws on the clinic design principles set out in Australian Clinical Legal Education and proposes a specific partnership model that leverages existing private lawyer goodwill and harnesses law school alumni beneficence.
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