Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


Edward Van Buren

Second Advisor

Allan Gilbert



We are raised from the early days of our youth to distinguish right from wrong, evil from good. Though there are many careers that have easily distinguishable ethics from their day of creation, others require spend their entire professional careers floating in a grey area. Being a lawyer can leave you in limbo very often. The ethical battle between prosecuting people whose actions go against everything you believe in and defending someone who actions you struggle to rationalize, looking for a “nail in the coffin” or finding a way to pry it open can play a large role in how a person develops into who they are morally and ethically during their adult life. It can be extremely deviating to defend someone whose beliefs are not your own, to say someone is “not-guilty” when you know that what they have done is ethically and/or legally wrong. This thesis shows the progression of environmental litigation throughout history while navigating the ethics of either representing prosecution or defense. In Chapter one, we explore the boom of Environmental Litigation and representation in the United States over recent years using data about current peak law tracks and cases. Chapter two allows us to take a step back to understand the history of environmental law, focusing on advocacy and groundbreaking advances within the field. Defending a person whose beliefs do not align with your own can be a troubling and testing experience, something discussed within Chapter three using the discipline of professional ethics. How attorneys can become active members in the growth of environmental policy is outlined in Chapter four of the text through the discipline of environmental activism, highlighting the necessity for active involvement by able minded parties rather than third-party observation. The final chapter, Chapter five, addresses policy adjustment in order to limit grey area within litigation. This section specifically draws on current policy and how it can be transformed to be exceptional rather than adequate.

Key Terms: environmental litigation, history of law, advocacy, legal defense, professional ethics, environmental activism, policy, political evolution