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  • Description

    This CLE course will present lawyers with the fundamentals of creating legally enforceable rights for ecosystems, which is an emerging area of environmental law which elevates protections to a level comparable with human civil rights laws. The course will explain the legal theory behind “rights of nature” laws and will also examine the anatomy of laws that have already been adopted by US municipal governments.

    Case studies on the enforcement of rights of nature laws as well as of international judicial and legal developments surrounding rights of nature concepts will be addressed. A presenters’ panel on the myriad challenges involved in drafting and enforcing rights of nature laws will conclude the presentation.

  • Instructor Bio

    Thomas Linzey

    Thomas Linzey serves as senior legal counsel for the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (CDER), a nonprofit organization committed to globally advancing environmental rights. He is widely recognized as the founder of the contemporary “community rights” and “rights of nature” movements, which have resulted in the adoption of several hundred municipal laws across the United States.

    In 2008, he assisted the Ecuadorian constitutional assembly to draft rights of nature provisions for the new Ecuadorian constitution, and his work has been featured in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Mother Jones, Forbes, and the Nation magazine. In 2018, Linzey was named as one of the top 400 environmentalists of the last 200 years.


    Daniel Brannen

    Dan Brannen is a lawyer in private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since 2001 he has devoted much of his career to developing, litigating, and consulting on the legal bases for ending the constitutional rights of corporations and for securing fundamental rights of local self-government and nature. Dan currently works on such matters with the Center for Democratic and Environmental Rights (CDER) and the Virginia Network for Democracy and Environmental Rights (VNDER).

    Along with Thomas Linzey, he is co-author of “A Phoenix from the Ashes: Resurrecting a Constitutional Right of Local, Community Self-Government in the Name of Environmental Sustainability,” 8 Ariz. J. Envtl. L. & Pol’y 1 (2017). Dan studied law at George Washington University (J.D. 1993).


    Melissa Martin

    Melissa Martin, a Florida attorney currently living in Oregon, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and served as a commissioned U.S. Marine Corps Officer, retiring as a Staff Judge Advocate in 2014. She earned her law degree from Barry University School of Law. Active in clean water advocacy and conservation, in 2016 Mel helped defeat a pro-fracking bill in Florida, and helped to lead a countywide coalition which successfully instituted a sales tax to support restoration projects for the Indian River Lagoon.

    She has also served as an Adjunct Law Professor, teaching Water Pollution Law and Environmental Ethics at Barry University.


    Nayeli Maxson Velazquez

    Nayeli Maxson Velazquez is a California attorney who served as the Executive Director and CEO of the Alliance for Community Development of the San Francisco Bay Area, a community organization founded to increase equitable access to capital for local, diverse entrepreneurs and visionaries.

    She served as Vice Chair of the City of Oakland’s Ethics Commission, and earned her law degree at U.C. Hastings College of Law. She has worked for elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels, and recently served as the Regional Organizing Director for the Warren for President campaign.