Environmental leader and advocate David Mears JD/MELP’91 will direct the nation’s top-ranked Environmental Law Center (ELC), Vermont Law School President and Dean Tom McHenry announced today. Mears, who has a long history of practicing and teaching environmental law, will begin work as the ELC director this week after a period of transition following his service as VLS vice dean for faculty. Mears succeeds ELC Director Melissa Scanlan, who will continue as director of the school’s New Economy Law Center, which she cofounded in 2015.
“David and Melissa have demonstrated exemplary leadership in their roles, building upon the commitment to environmental quality and environmental justice that are hallmarks of our environmental law program,” McHenry said. “Thanks to their guidance and inspired thinking, Vermont Law School continues its reputation for excellence as we develop the next generation of leaders who will use the power of the law to effect meaningful change in environmental, energy, and food and agriculture law and policy—locally and globally. As we look to the future, David is uniquely positioned to expand the reach of the Environmental Law Center and respond to the critical environmental challenges we face in the 21st century.”
“It is my honor to help shape the next generation of environmental problem-solvers at a world-class environmental law and policy program,” Mears said. “As I think about our goals for the future, I find inspiration in the Vermont Law School motto, ‘law for the community and the world.’ We must prepare our graduates to work at the local, national and international levels, and also to work across disciplines—law, policy, economics, and the sciences, including social science—to advance environmental law and policy. This is especially true with regard to climate change, the greatest single threat humanity has ever faced.”
As the former director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic (ENRLC) at VLS, Mears helped students hone their lawyering skills while assisting nonprofit organizations and individuals with environmental problems and conservation projects. Mears returned to VLS in August 2015 after serving four years as commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. Previously he taught at VLS from 2005 to 2011. During that time, he also taught as a Fulbright Scholar at Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou, China.
Mears has held a number of positions in state and federal government, including positions in Texas as enforcement coordinator in the Texas Water Commission, assistant attorney general in the Texas Office of Attorney General, and senior attorney for water quality with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. He left Texas to serve as the energy and environmental policy director with the Texas Office for State-Federal Relations in Washington, DC, then served both as a trial attorney and counselor for state and local affairs with the United States Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division. Following his time at the Department of Justice, Mears was appointed senior assistant attorney general and chief of the Ecology Division in the Washington Office of the Attorney General. He earned a juris doctor and Master of Environmental Law and Policy (MELP) at VLS and a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering technology at Cornell University.
VLS established the Environmental Law Center in 1978 and offers more than 64 courses related to the environment and environmental law, more than any other law school in the United States. The school’s environmental clinics include the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, Energy Clinic, and Food and Agriculture Clinic. The VLS Summer Session, which offers 35 classes taught by 41 faculty members, attracts scholars, lawyers, journalists, and environmental advocates from around the world. US News & World Report ranks VLS No 1 in the nation for environmental law in its “Best Law Schools for 2018.” In the last 27 years, VLS has ranked No 1 in environmental law 19 times and No 2 eight times.
For more information about environmental programs at Vermont Law School, including degrees and clinical training, visit the Environmental Law Center online at vermontlaw.edu/ELC.
Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, is home to the nation’s largest and deepest environmental law program. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; three Master’s Degrees—Master of Environmental Law and Policy, Master of Energy Regulation and Law, and Master of Food and Agriculture Law and Policy; and four post-JD degrees —LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, LLM in Environmental Law, and LLM in Food and Agriculture Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, South Royalton Legal Clinic, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, Energy Clinic, Food and Agriculture Clinic, and Center for Applied Human Rights.