The intersection of environmental and constitutional law was the subject of the 2011 H. Albert Young Lecture, a biannual event that is a highlight at Widener Law.
Delaware-campus Professor James R. May
, the H. Albert Young Fellow in Constitutional Law, delivered the lecture in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel duPont on Wednesday, April 6 before a crowd of about 80 people.
May was named the H. Albert Young Fellow in 2009 and the term runs through this June. The Young lecture is typically delivered as the faculty member’s fellowship draws to a close.
His remarks, “Is the Constitution Failing Nature?” prompted him to conclude with the following observation: “Absolutely, positively, perhaps.”
While none of the Constitution’s 7,369 words address nature specifically, the document has had a profound effect on it, May said. From 2005 to 2010 two-thirds of federal court cases involving nature have turned on constitutional issues.
“Not only does the Constitution shape nature, but nature shapes the Constitution,” May said.
Since the late William Rehnquist joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971, the court has invalidated nearly every state law governing its natural resources when it is thought to unduly burden interstate commerce, May said, often with only Rehnquist in dissent – under the so-called dormant commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. Still, he noted five states have added amendments to their state Constitutions ensuring a right to environmental quality as a civil right. Those states include Hawaii, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Montana.
The H. Albert Young Fellowship in Constitutional Law was endowed in 1998 by the Young Foundation of Wilmington, Del. in honor of the late H. Albert Young, a highly respected attorney and former Delaware attorney general. The fellowship enables a Widener University School of Law professor to conduct and publish research in the area of Delaware or U.S. constitutional law.
May credited the fellowship for allowing him to write the forthcoming book, Principles of Constitutional Environmental Law
, to be published by the American Bar Association and the Environmental Law Institute.
Law Dean Linda L. Ammons
announced at the lecture that Professor Erin Daly
, associate dean for faculty research and development on the Delaware campus, will succeed May in holding the fellowship. Her term begins July 1.