Widener Environmental Help Line

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Welcome to the webpage for the Widener University School of Law’s Environmental Help Line.  Operated by Widener’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic—thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club—the Help Line seeks to empower Pennsylvania citizens by helping them respond to environmental problems or issues confronting them.  In many cases, the Help Line will provide legal knowledge and guidance so that citizens (or groups of citizens) can advocate for themselves.  In other cases, the Clinic will represent the citizens and/or their group in pursuing appropriate legal recourse.  In addition, the Help Line seeks to create over time an archive of non-privileged legal analyses provided to other Help Line users so that legal information and analysis can be leveraged for even greater effect.

 How Does The Help Line Work?

 The Help Line allows Pennsylvania citizens to seek the Clinic’s help by contacting the Clinic in one of two ways:

             *          A Toll Free telephone line:  1-888-953-6853

             *          A Web-based Request for Help Form

 In either case, the citizen will provide basic contact information (name, phone number, available times) for Clinic follow up on the environmental problem for which the citizen seeks assistance.

 Within two business days, a Student Attorney or other representative of the Clinic will contact the citizen by phone and conduct an interview to get a more detailed description of the citizen’s problem.  The types of information sought through this interview are the information necessary for the Clinic to make a reasoned judgment as to whether it can provide assistance to the citizen, such as:

*          The nature of the environmental problem (to help assess whether the matter meets Clinic criteria for suitable representations);

*          The persons and governmental agencies involved (to help assess whether the Clinic might have a conflict of interest preventing it from taking on the representation);

 *          The timing of when action is needed (to help assess whether the Clinic would have sufficient time to provide meaningful assistance);

           *          The factual details of the citizen’s particular problem; and

           *          What the citizen seeks as a resolution to the problem and from the Clinic.

 NOTE:  These interviews will be treated as privileged and kept confidential by the Clinic whether or not the Clinic ultimately agrees to represent the citizen.

 After the interview, the Clinic will make an assessment about whether it will agree to represent the citizen and take on the matter.  THE CLINIC DOES NOT REPRESENT THE CLIENT UNLESS AND UNTIL IT AGREES TO ACCEPT THE REPRESENTATION.  The Clinic will make that decision and inform the client within five business days of the interview.

 The Clinic’s work on a Help Line project will fall into one of two categories:  Advice and Preparation for Self-Representation or Direct Representation.

 Advice and Preparation for Self-Representation

 This category of work envisions the Clinic providing assistance to a citizen who will ultimately advocate for himself or herself in an upcoming proceeding.  Such a citizen might need an understanding of basic legal principles that might apply to his or her issue or what legal options may be available.  In this category, the Clinic will research and provide legal guidance to assist the citizen in preparing for his or her own advocacy.  The typical goal (subject to discussion and mutual agreement between the Clinic and the citizen) is to generate a written legal analysis for the citizen-client.

 Direct Representation

 This category of work envisions the Clinic providing direct representation of the citizen in a legal proceeding (whether it is a hearing, administrative appeal, or court proceeding).  In this situation, the Clinic would act as the citizen’s attorney via a pro bono representation, appearing and advocating directly for the citizen in the proceedings.

 

 Whether in the Advice and Preparation or Direct Representation category, all Clinic representations arising out of the Help Line will involve regular communication and guidance to clients as appropriate to the case or situation.   Finally, when appropriate and agreed to by the Client, non-privileged summaries of the legal analyses used will be placed in the Help Line Archive so that other citizens can utilize them in other situations, thereby leveraging the Help Line’s impact on environmental issues in Pennsylvania.

 Need Help?  Call 1-888-953-6853 or fill out a Request for Help Form today.

 Questions?  Explore the Clinic’s other pages on this website or contact Clinic Director Ken Kristl (302-477-2053 or ktkristl@widener.edu) to learn more.

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