Opposing Counsel, Others Praise IEC Students’ Appearance before State Commission

It’s not every day that attorneys go out of their way to tell opposing counsel that they have done “a really nice job,” but that’s exactly what happened to three Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic (IEC) students this spring.

Third-year law student Giles Howard and second-year law students Tamara Slater and Sydney Tonsfeldt were appearing before the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) at a hearing concerning Ameren Missouri’s request for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. For the past few years, the IEC has been representing the Sierra Club and the grassroots Labadie Environmental Organization. The groups are seeking to prevent Ameren Missouri from building a coal waste landfill at the company’s Labadie Power Plant in Franklin County, Missouri. The site is in the Missouri River flood plain. 

Howard was especially committed to the case. The hearing had been scheduled for the fall, when he was originally an IEC student, but when it was moved to the spring he signed up for an advanced clinic so he could continue working on the case. When he had finished his opening statement on behalf of the clinic’s clients, including answering questions, several of the other parties’ attorneys told IEC Co-director and Senior Lecturer in Law Maxine Lipeles that Giles had been “great.” Giles was also quoted in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the hearings.

Tonsfeldt worked with Howard on the case throughout the spring semester, while Slater worked on two matters involving factory farms before joining the Ameren case team. Liz Hubertz, lecturer in law and IEC attorney, also worked with Lipeles in supervising the students and representing the clients. At the close of the three-day hearing, one of the commissioners complimented Lipeles on the students’ performance. Similar praise came from one of Ameren Missouri’s lawyers. “It must be fun working with these students. They did a really nice job,” he said. 

The Labadie Plant began operating in 1970 and obtained its original Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity for the plant's construction in 1966. Last year, Ameren Missouri applied for a new certificate to extend its boundaries to include the area that would be used for the landfill. The hearing, which took place in Jefferson City, was before an administrative law judge as well as the four commissioners. Ameren Missouri, the PSC Staff, the PSC’s Office of Public Counsel, and the IEC’s clients were the parties. 

“All of the students worked very hard to prepare for their witness cross-examinations and the opening statement, including 10 days of practice sessions,” Lipeles says. “They also thoroughly reviewed the extensive record and got up to speed on a case that commenced a year before their clinic participation.”

Working on the case in prior semesters were third-year law student Elizabeth EschbachLauren Grady, JD '13; and Daniel Hinkle, JD '13.  

“In directing the case, Liz and Maxine provided me with an opportunity I did not think I'd have for years: the chance to represent clients before a tribunal,” Howard says. “As clinic students, we were lucky to have instructors who were so dedicated not just to the clients’ needs but also to our growth as law students.”

After graduating, Howard will work at Goldstein and Price LC in St. Louis. Tonsfeldt will spend the summer between her second and third years of law school working at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, in Chicago, while Slater has a fellowship at The Hague.

 By Timothy J. Fox, Spring 2014