The U.S.- China Partnership for Environmental Law at Vermont Law School, with the support of USAID, supported an in-depth training of senior Chinese judges in environmental adjudication and law. China Daily even picked up our event at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum in Washington, D.C., complete with photo of the judges and our program director Siu Tip Lam.

In recent years, many courts in China have established specialized courts to address the increasing severe environmental problems that often have transboundary effects. However, the judges require the knowledge of environmental law and the tools to render effective remedies. To build their capacity, the USAID supported a four-week program, from July 23 through August 16, 2012, implemented by the U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law at Vermont Law School, for twelve senior Chinese judges from eleven provinces and three instructors from China’s National Judges College (NJC). In the first two weeks, the judges attended full-day classes led by judges and professors in Vermont, including meetings with the Vermont Attorney General’s office and the Department of Environmental Conservation. The judges also travelled to the New York State Judicial Institute for a full-day of interaction with U.S. judges. In Washington D.C., the judges presented on environmental adjudication in China, learned how environmental NGOs use the U.S. legal system, and spent a day with attorneys and judges from the USEPA’s Environmental Appeals Board and the Department of Justice. The judges also met with the USEPA’s Region 9 office to discuss specific environmental cases the office has brought. The participants learned, among other things, some of the tools and techniques American judges employ for resolving differences in expert witness evidence and how they tailor court orders, including both deterrent and remedial measures, to address specific environmental violations and harm in each case. Throughout the program, participants discussed developing innovative ways to tailor some of these tools and techniques they learned in the program to be applied and used in the Chinese context. One of the instructors from the NJC will stay in the U.S. for another two months to develop an environmental adjudication curriculum that would be used for training judges at the NJC and in other judicial training programs. This four-week program was also supported by the U.S.-China Legal Cooperation Fund.