This has been another busy week. On Monday and Tuesday I served as a judge for a mock murder trial held at the China University of Finance and Economics (CUFE). The trial was the brainchild of Fulbright professor Ann Murphy from Gonzaga University School of Law who has been teaching at CUFE throughout the current academic year. The trial was the Phil Spector murder case and the Chinese students did a fabulous job. The jury, which consisted of students from three Chinese law schools, including some of my students from CUPL, returned a verdict of acquittal. CUFE’s moot courtroom was impressive. Two of the members of the defense team - Song Ci and Zhang Jinrong - will be studying at the University of Maryland School of Law next year as part of our exchange program with CUFE.
My CUPL environmental law students are busy preparing their short documentary films. On Sunday June 1 China’s ban on free distribution of plastic bags by grocery stores took effect and the group preparing the film about it sprang into action. They requested permission to film inside a Beijing grocery store, but were told that the manager had to get approval from the central office which was closed on Sunday. So the students camped outside the store and interviewed shoppers as they emerged to get their reactions to the new law.
On Wednesday June 4 I gave a guest lecture at CUPL to Alan Lepp's seminar on the American judiciary. I spoke about my experience as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White. The lecture gave me a rare chance to tell old war stories and to revisit some great experiences from decades ago. In preparation for the lecture I went on Westlaw to look up some of the opinions I had helped draft, which brought back memories from long ago. I tried to give the students a sense of how the Court has changed over the years, and yet how many traditions remain nearly the same today.
On June 5 China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) released its 2007 Report on the State of the Environment in China to coincide with World Environment Day. The MEP reported progress in some areas, but worrisome conditions in others. The report prompted an unusually candid editorial in the China Daily stressing the urgency of even stronger measures to protect the environment. According to the editorial, the good news was that sulphur dioxide emissions in China declined by 4.7% as the percentage of coal-fired powerplants with technology to reduce sulphur emissions increased to 48% from 12% in 2005. The percentage of cities with wastewater treatment increased from 52 to 60%. “Yet, pollution in major waterways such as the Yangtze, Yellow and Huaihe rivers is still serious and shows no sign of major improvement. So is the case with the pollution in the country’s major lakes. What is even more worrisome is the finding in the report about the deteriorating biology and environmental pollution in rural areas.” Make Growth Greener, China Daily, June 5, 2008, at p. 8. The actual report has not yet been posted on the MEP’s website.
On Sunday June 8 I participated in a fascinating Environmental Law Teaching and Research Roundtable organized by the Environmental and Natural Resources Research Institute of CUPL and Vermont Law School (VLS). Tseming Yang, Mark Latham and Jingjing Liu represented VLS at the roundtable. The program was financed by Vermont’s AID grant to promote collaborative work on environmental law with Chinese law schools. I made a presentation on trends in environmental law teaching in the United States. It gave me a chance to revisit a project I pursued long ago that gathered data on the teaching of environmental law in U.S. law schools. The data wI gathered were published in the April 1993 issue of Environment magazine. The roundtable included all of the top environmental law professors in northern China as well as many newcomers to the Chinese environmental academy. This is a group that clearly gets along well and is keenly interested in collaborating, despite sometimes fierce competition among their law schools. The roundtable lasted all day and included some fascinating and frank exchanges about the state of environmental law teaching and research in China. Considerable dissatisfaction was expressed about the state of teaching materials pertaining to Chinese environmental law.
Tomorrow is a national holiday in China - the Dragon Boat Festival. It is a newly-minted holiday as part of the Chinese government’s plan to replace the week-long “Golden Week” holiday during the first week in May with several single-day holidays. Despite the holiday, my Environmental Law students are insisting that we have class since the end of the semester is near.