Law School Asked by Maryland Governor to Drop Lawsuit
The legal tussle between the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law environmental clinic and Maryland lawmakers reignited this week then a harshly worded letter was sent by Gov. Martin O’Malley to Dean Phoebe Haddon. In his letter, the governor called the involvement of the clinic in the lawsuit an “ongoing injustice.”
The clinic was asked by O’Malley to stop its involvement in the lawsuit which was filed in March of 2010 against the poultry titan Perdue Farms Inc., and a poultry farm that supply chickens to the company. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of an environmental organization, alleges that the poultry farm is illegally discharging pollution into a number of waterways. The farm is owned by Alan and Kristin Hudson.
The legal action did not sit well with some legislators, who pointed out that such suit and other like it could potentially hurt the local industry. They warned they cutting $250,000 from the university’s budget unless every clinic of the law school relinquishes information about the clients they represented for the past five years.
That threat prompted a number of law school organization to claim that the lawmakers were violating the academic freedom of the university and subverting the mission of the clinic to train lawyers.
That fight ended when the Maryland House of Delegates declined to go along with the funding cut threat.
The letter of O’Malley, which was sent to Haddon on November 14, asserted that the lawsuit of the clinic is of “questionable merit,” since the Maryland Department of the Environment did not find any “strong evidence” that linked the farm to the high level of pollution in local waterways. However, the agency fined the poultry farm $4,000 for putting fertilizer composed of human waste near a drainage ditch.