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Environmental, civil justice attorney to present SIU Law’s Lesar Lecture

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Environmental and civil justice attorney Jan Schlichtmann

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Noted environmental and civil justice attorney Jan Schlichtmann will share what he learned from representing families in one of the nation’s earliest environmental and public health lawsuits at the SIU School of Law later this month.

Schlichtmann’s presentation, “Confessions of an Environmental Warrior: What I learned from the Civil Action odyssey on behalf of the Woburn families,” is the law school’s 2022 Hiram H. Lesar Distinguished Lecture. The free, public presentation is at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 in the Lesar Law Building Auditorium. This is the 25th lecture, and the second for 2022, in the series established to honor founding Dean Hiram H. Lesar. A reception starts the festivities at 5 p.m. in the law school’s formal lounge.

The event is free, and open the public.

Schlichtmann will discuss the 1982 case that involved groundwater contamination from toxic chemicals into the public water supply in Woburn, Massachusetts, and the lessons learned that he applied later in subsequent cases. The Woburn case, settled for $8 million, brought together leading experts in science, medicine and engineering in a then novel multidisciplinary approach in unraveling complex interactions between industrial activities and public health.

Dale Aschemann, a former colleague of Schlichtmann’s and currently assistant professor and director of the law school’s Veterans Legal Assistance Program, said Schlichtmann’s speech will recognize “the existence of power, the nature of power in our system, and inequality that flows from it.”

“With that recognition in mind, Jan speaks of the critical – indispensable – role that lawyers play as both leaders and servants in our society. That while lawyers must be advocates for their clients, they must remain mindful that ‘winning at all cost’ is ultimately counter-productive for our legal system and society,” Aschemann said. “At the end of the day, it’s a clarion call for lawyers to bend toward reason and facts over passion and prejudice and, ultimately, to redouble their efforts to conduct themselves with honor and decency.”

The campus’ focus on environmental and sustainability issues is part of the university’s Imagine2030 strategic plan.

Editor’s note: Schlichtmann is pronounced Schlickt-man.


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