Friday, February 17, 2017

Elliott to Give Talk on Emerging Trends in Legal Scholarship

E. Donald Elliott, Professor (Adjunct) of Law, will lead a discussion on two emerging trends in legal scholarship, “Alternative Histories of Law” and “Domestic Comparative Law,” on March 8 at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C.

Alternative histories have become popular in recent years in other fields; for example, several authors have imagined what would have happened if the South had won the civil war. Professor Elliott maintains that similar techniques of imaginative reconstruction are a particularly promising technique for critical analysis in law. He argues the doctrine of precedent (or what Ronald Dworin calls “narrative consistency”) constrains subsequent developments in law in understandable ways. Elliott will illustrate the concept by exploring how standing law would be different today if the Douglas dissent had prevailed in Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972).

In Domestic Comparative Law, an unsolved problem or area of law that is not working well is analyzed by analogy to another structurally similar legal issue that the law is handling relatively well. Elliott will illustrate this approach by referring to the work of two of his students proposing to reduce methane emissions from abandoned natural gas wells by importing techniques used to address abandoned hazardous waste sites and coal mines. Another example is Elliott’s own recent article proposing term limits for senior federal bureaucrats.

Elliott maintains that these two techniques hold promise in making legal scholarship more practical and less divorced from solving practical legal problems, which has been a frequent criticism in recent years.

E. Donald Elliott is Professor (Adjunct) of Law at Yale Law School and a leading academic scholar, as well as practitioner, in the fields of administrative and environmental law. He is "one of the most well-known, well-regarded environmental law professors in the nation," according to John Cruden, former President of the Environmental Law Institute, and now Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Department of Justice. Elliott has been on the Yale Law faculty since 1981 and currently teaches courses in environmental law, energy law, administrative law, and civil procedure. He is also senior of counsel in the Washington D.C. office of Covington & Burling LLP, and co-chair of the firm's Environmental Practice Group. From 2003 until he joined Covington in 2013, he was a partner in Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP, chairing the firm’s worldwide Environment, Health and Safety Department.