Here are a just handful of comments we have received from our clients, partners, volunteers, and clerks.
The Chesapeake Legal Alliance has helped the Chesapeake Conservancy keep our attention and our resources laser-focused on our mission, which is to conserve and restore the natural and cultural resources of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They reviewed our standard contracts, sub-awards, and other legal forms for typical pitfalls, legal standards, and to reduce organizational risk. We were extremely happy with the reviews/recommendations. They were thorough, easily understood, and had solid reasoning to back up the recommendations. It was a straightforward process that limited the possibility of wasting time or dragging it out. The Chesapeake Conservancy got a great product that we implemented and got to keep our attention and resources on our mission, the Chesapeake Bay.
Sue BuyaskasProject Manager, Chesapeake Conservancy
During the formation of the Anne Arundel Peninsula Coalition, CLA’s Ryan Kennedy and Dirk Schwenk worked with us to research the possibilities for a legislative solution to the problems of overcrowding and paralyzing traffic on peninsulas. In the end, we did not file any legislation on the topic, but their work saved our volunteers dozens of hours and was the foundation for what would become our Coalition. Their work led us to propose, and the county to establish the Peninsula Policy Development Area, a zoning overlay adopted with Plan 2040, the County’s General Development Plan, which protects the 5 peninsulas in AACo from intense commercial or residential development.
Matt MinahanPresident, MM & Associates
Running a non-profit is challenging, as we oftentimes are resource-limited. The Chesapeake Legal Alliance assisted us by connecting us with pro-bono legal assistance, which helped us overcome a challenge that we would not have been able to resource by ourselves. Both CLA and our volunteer were responsive and quickly helped connect us with invaluable legal assistance. The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is grateful for the work that CLA does and appreciates all of the support from the volunteer team of lawyers that are working to help create a cleaner Chesapeake Bay for all.
Kate FritzCEO, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
Our organization is currently working with a CLA volunteer attorney to help the Eastwick Community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to research information in connection with a land swap proposed by residents that will move residents that experience repetitive catastrophic flooding to City-owned land located at a higher elevation to keep them safe. This would be done by establishing a Community Land Trust. Mr. Esrick’s research on both the land swap and land trusts has proven to be extremely valuable in furthering the communities’ position for the City, state, and federal government to see the land swap as a viable option to flood mitigation and resilience.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything you are doing for groups like ours! We view ourselves as grassroots fighters for a livable climate and biodiversity, and you have stood right by our sides.
We at Harford County Climate Action have been deeply involved in the attempt to stop construction of nine mega-warehouses/trucking terminals at Abingdon Woods in Harford County since 2019, and the Gunpowder Riverkeeper and Chesapeake Legal Alliance have been critical to that effort. Your attorney Patrick DeArmey has helped us put together meaningful next steps, not to mention providing pro bono legal representation on our challenge to the Wetlands and Waterways Permit for the project.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for everything you are doing for groups like ours! We view ourselves as grassroots fighters for a livable climate and biodiversity, and you have stood right by our sides.
Pam Dehmer and Tracey WaitePresidents, Harford County Climate Action
Chesapeake Legal Alliance’s (CLA) excellent legal research has provided a path for moving forward in terms of establishing the legal footing for Queen Anne’s County (QAC) to ban plastic carryout bags. Perhaps most importantly, the research also established that such an ordinance can allow retailers to charge a fee for paper bags. A fee will encourage consumers to bring their own reusable bags, which is the ultimate goal of this effort. CLA was able to establish that a Code Home Rule County, such as QAC, has the right to pass an ordinance to this effect, based on the nuisance clause in Maryland code counties. We are deeply grateful to William Halnon and his team for this important work which was produced in a timely manner. Mr. Halnon’s friendly and professional demeanor has been a pleasure with which to work.
Bente CooneyFounder, Plastic Free QAC
Chesapeake Legal Alliance is one of the most effective legal representation groups we have in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays communities. I cannot stress enough how valuable their work is to Assateague Coastal Trust and to Chesapeake Waterkeepers. They lift up non-profit and community groups who need critical expertise to highlight and fight for the injustices and negative pollution events happening throughout our watersheds. Their work with us regarding our challenge of the Animal Feeding Operations General Permit was a huge game-changer in the state of Maryland. Winning this challenge has literally allowed the neighboring communities to breathe a sigh of fresh air, knowing that emissions from CAFOS that contribute to serious health disparities should be regulated by the state.
“CLA’s excellent legal research on the express powers of municipalities and charter counties was a game-changer for local efforts to enact ordinances that would reduce plastic pollution and incentivize use of reusable shopping bags. The most effective policy would ban provision of plastic carryout bags at the point of sale, and require retailers to charge a minimum amount for paper bags. But local lawmakers were concerned that they may lack the authority to require retailers to charge for carryout bags. CLA’s research confirmed that municipalities and charter counties do have this authority. As a result of this work, local ordinances that had been put on hold are now back in play. Profound thanks to Will Halnon for prioritizing this work that will advance local efforts to control plastic pollution and single-use waste!”
Martha AinsworthMaryland Sierra Club Chapter Zero Waste Team
“The list of things [Patrick DeArmey has] done for which I’m grateful is long. Where would we be without the help and guidance [he has] given to me and to Save Abingdon Woods through these last 3 years? [He has] gone above and beyond what I could have hoped for. We wouldn’t have been able to hold off the development this long without [his] hard work.”
Tracey WaitePresident, Harford County Climate Action
“Chesapeake Legal Alliance has assisted The Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) and other local watershed groups with outstanding pro bono legal support. Many of our issues require detailed legal review and interpretation. We are so very appreciative of this incredible organization for their efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay by working with watershed groups to help them resolve environmental permitting, regulatory, and land use issues.”
Jim FosterAnacostia Watershed Society
“Having spent twenty-five years working in leadership positions with various organizations for the restoration of Chesapeake Bay, I believe that there is no more important new initiative than the package of services that the Chesapeake Legal Alliance provides. CLA provides professional skills that are lacking, and beyond the reach, of most nonprofit organizations. While I will always support efforts for environmental education and hands-on restoration projects, true conservation progress over the next decade will most likely come at the negotiating table and in the courtroom.”
Richard LeaderScenic Rivers Land Trust
“American Chestnut Land Trust is extremely grateful for the assistance provided by the Chesapeake Legal Alliance. We applaud their efforts to contribute to important cases impacting the Chesapeake Bay. It is so important that small land conservation organizations like ACLT and environmental organizations throughout the watershed have a place that they can turn to for legal assistance. The need is great and their contribution is significant.”
Karen H. EdgecombeAmerican Chestnut Land Trust
“A CLA volunteer, successfully sued MDE for their denial of a permit for the Pines Community to replace a broken bulkhead with a living shoreline; The judge was so offended by MDE’s arbitrary and capricious actions that she ordered them to issue the permit within 45 days, which they did. This is a classic example of the value of CLA volunteer attorneys. The community would not have pursued the permit after the denial if [the attorney] had not agreed to represent them for free. The permit would never have been issued, and the old bulkhead would have been replaced with a new bulkhead. No living shoreline to add wetlands to Chase Creek and the Severn River.”
Fred KellySevern Riverkeeper
“Thanks so much for your efforts at securing us pro bono legal aid with such powerful attorneys. You gave us added determination to fight for Bluff Point and protect such sensitive environmental property and the Bay. The Citizens to Protect Bluff Point thank you for all that you are doing and have done to enable citizens groups to have a better chance in being taken seriously and be successful in our fight to protect properties like Bluff Point. Thank you so much for your help. We wish your organization continued success in getting pro bono legal aid for citizens. It does make a difference.”
Ida HallCitizens to Protect Bluff Point
“It is a new day where Citizens are organized and shine a flashlight on the misdeeds and inappropriate relationships between elected officials and developers with inappropriate projects. We will hold our elected officials and the regulators they oversee accountable, to enforce the environmental laws we have, and to save the important lands we have left. Thanks to Chesapeake Legal Alliance for empowering our communities!”
“For several years, this stellar organization has provided top-notch, timely, and thoughtful legal support and policy guidance for the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition (MCAC). CLA has helped MCAC and our 23 partners further our mission to improve Maryland waterways and protect public health by reducing pollution and increasing transparency and accountability, from agriculture and other associated sources of water degradation. Over the past year, CLA’s talented staff and Board have played critical roles on such priority MCAC issues as nutrient pollution trading, funding for nutrient management enforcement at the Maryland Departments of the Environment and Agriculture, and air and water quality concerns around industrial agriculture or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). MCAC’s achievements in slowing down the original, flawed nutrient trading regulations and getting final improvements that will do more to protect water quality were in huge part thanks to CLA’s work. Similarly, their legal, policy, and public outreach work around enforcement funding helped to secure $200,000 in set-aside funding for enforcement again this year – and they continue to help our coalition track whether or not Maryland will actually use these funds.”
Dawn StoltzfusCoordinator, Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition
“Due to the efforts of CLA to provide us with expert legal representation, our organization has become a stronger voice for sensitive wetlands and waterways impacted by the Columbia Natural Gasline project in both Harford and Baltimore counties. These waterways include streams that are designated as drinking water supply streams for 1.5 million people in the Baltimore-metro area and that also support wild and native trout. Without CLA’s support, the Gunpowder RIVERKEEPER® would not have had equal footing in the motions, memos and oral arguments to be able to challenge the weak Maryland Department of the Environment Wetlands and Waterways Permit and have the permit remanded back to the agency by court order.”
Theaux M. Le GardeurGunpowder RIVERKEEPER®
CLA volunteer lawyers are largely responsible for preventing the destruction of Parkside Preserve’s forest. ANPF is now confident that future requests for forest destruction will receive a high standard of review and that citizens’ concerns will be heard.
A. Scott MobleyAnnapolis Neck Peninsula Federation
“Will [Halnon] took our community passion against this proposed development and distilled it down to a fact-based legal brief which tells a convincing story, one we hope and expect the MDE to weigh heavily as they assess the appropriateness of the applicant’s permit. Our community is deeply appreciative of Will’s and the CLA’s support to date.”
Bob ZilligLong Point Communications Team
“Angela Haren was an absolute hero, and the success of this (not easy) bill to this point sits very decidedly on her shoulders. She was tenacious, smart, compelling, strategic, and unflagging in her efforts. Others, including Evan [Isaacson] – who is also extraordinary, of course – were also involved and important to the success (passing legislation is always a team effort), but there is absolutely no question in anyone’s mind that it was Angela that brought it home. This bill was *hard,* and required every bit of finesse, persistence, patience, and sheer brilliance that Angela brought to the table.”
Kristen Harbeson,Maryland League of Conservation Voters
“The City of Annapolis had always rubber-stamped forest conservation plans required by the Maryland Forest Conservation Act (FCA) for all developments on parcels of approximately one acre and above. The Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation (ANPF) was committed to protecting natural resources because living by the Chesapeake Bay, we see the ugly consequences of destruction. We needed to challenge the standard practices, the status quo, and the well-funded developers. We needed to wake everyone up to the need to implement the laws. We turned to Chesapeake Legal Alliance (CLA) who connected us with lawyers who researched our legal issues and represented us in our legal battles. With their help, we not only were able to save local forests but also revealed deficiencies in the City’s FCA implementing an ordinance that was amended to provide much greater protections for forests. Our eight-year fight to save a local forest would not have happened, much less been successful, without CLA.
Anastasia HopkinsonSave Your Annapolis Neck
“The South River Federation has engaged CLA for assistance with several projects, ranging from obtaining permits for large-scale restoration projects to litigation resulting in cleanup of the largest remaining tire dump in the state. The network of excellent attorneys CLA has established routinely provides outstanding representation to organizations dedicated to saving the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.”
Kate FritzSouth River Federation
“As a solo practitioner; I’m grateful for the help of CLA Staff who located a local attorney that verified my legal theory and approach to local administrative agency procedural rules. CLA is a great partner and I encourage more lawyers to take on pro-bono matters through the organization to help protect the Chesapeake Bay.”
Abigail BenjaminSolo Practitioner
“Assateague Coastal Trust, a small non-profit environmental advocacy organization located on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, has limited resources and capacity, so being able to take advantage of the legal resources afforded by Chesapeake Legal Alliance has been a great benefit to us. CLA has assisted ACT with our submission of public comments to MDE on NPDES permits by providing legal interns and volunteer attorneys to assist in the research and the drafting of the comments, and has also provided the assistance of their volunteer attorneys in putting pressure on local government agencies to clarify county actions and substantiate permit determinations. Our mission to protect and preserve the coastal watershed has been enhanced by the services provided through Chesapeake Legal Alliance.”
Kathy PhillipsAssateague Coastal Trust
“Over the past several years, the Chesapeake Bay Commission has worked closely with CLA on several projects. Each project’s success is directly attributable to [its Community Legal Education] Center’s work. As an example, in 2019 the Community Legal Education Center analyzed the structures of government decision-making among our three member states. The hypothesis was that understanding the unique governmental structure and processes in each state would translate into compassion and improved collaborative problem-solving. The result exceeded our expectations. Presented by Molly Brown, the analysis clearly illustrated that the path to successful policymaking must be different in each state, allowing the issues to emerge at different paces, scales, and levels of political structure and complexity. The influence of the CLA’s work was so strong that the CBC asked the Education Center to provide the same presentation again in 2021 to its new members. CBC also worked with the Center to offer the presentation to the public. Three of the Commission’s legislative leaders joined the CLA to co-host a virtual panel discussion entitled ‘Embracing our Differences: How the Structures of our State Governments Influence Policy Making…’ This presentation is now recommended viewing for all new CBC members and is posted on the Commission’s website. This was the presentation that members shared with the new Bay Program Director and Region III Administrator, proclaiming it “necessary viewing.” In forty years, it was among the most impactful presentations ever presented. Our work with CLA has ranged from public meeting protocols to climate resiliency, from strategic procurement and extended producer responsibility, and more. CLA’s information is reliable, timely, accurate, and objective. We continue to explore work together as it makes both of our organizations stronger and the Chesapeake Bay and its communities better.”
Ann Pesiri SwansonExecutive Director, Chesapeake Bay Commission
“The Chesapeake Legal Alliance (CLA) has been a strong partner and an invaluable asset to ShoreRivers and our four Riverkeeper programs over the last year. CLA has come to our aid on legal issues where the other side has well-paid legal staff and we need to find pro-bono legal expertise to help us stop pollution and protect our waterways. This has been true with NPDES permit reviews, direct legal challenges, interpreting COMAR regulations, and providing pro bono attorneys from their network for legal research to help us on a range of projects including permit reviews for agricultural operations and processing facilities. A CLA attorney also helped us with the corporate documents we needed to complete our recent merger. Currently, we have been working with CLA to interpret COMAR regulations that the Department of Natural Resources is interpreting incorrectly. Hopefully, this will result in submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) maps being redrawn to provide 20 to 30 % more geographical protection for rebounding SAV. We are also working with CLA to develop educational tools to help our local governments better enforce existing stormwater management laws. CLA is the best legal instrument we have!”
“Chesapeake Legal Alliance has been an amazing resource for the Choose Clean Water Coalition and its members. Their volunteer attorneys helped us analyze and comment on technical documents, providing knowledge and expertise that we would not otherwise have. They also connected us with an attorney that was an expert on lobbying regulations to help our members understand the general rules related to lobbying by 501(c)(3) organizations. Their assistance to the Choose Clean Water Coalition has been invaluable.”
Jill WitkowskiChoose Clean Water Coalition
“We are thankful to have CLA as a major resource for our policy and legal battles. CLA volunteer attorneys have helped us strengthen the conditions and enforceability of NPDES permits for industrial processing facilities throughout the Choptank, Miles, and Wye River watersheds. We collaborated with CLA to create a citizens’ guide to participating in the NPDES permit process. CLA is one of the best tools we have to fight for the protection of clean water in the Chesapeake Bay, and while the future of the political climate around the Bay is unknown, we’re ready to fight!”
“For over 40 years I have been sailing and kayaking on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. During the last 10 of them, as a member of the Chesapeake Legal Alliance’s board and part of its network of environmental lawyers, I have handled a variety of projects relating to the protection and restoration of the Bay and its watershed. This is exciting and rewarding stuff – putting the law to work to protect a national treasure – and I plan to keep at it as long as I can pick up a pen and raise my voice.”
Ridgway HallRetired Founding Partner of Crowell & Moring
“When I was hanging a shingle just after law school, I wanted a way to build experience and fight the good fight for my beloved Chesapeake Bay. Chesapeake Legal Alliance offered the perfect avenue to meet both goals. Of the pro bono matters I handled through CLA, one, in particular, enabled me to cut through burdensome bureaucratic red tape to install a living shoreline on my home river, the Severn, and build a network in the environmental community in Annapolis, which helped me land a job as your South RIVERKEEPER years later. The impact CLA has for clean water and the legal profession can not be overstated.”
Jesse IliffExecutive Director, Severn River Association
“I very much enjoy all of the CLA matters I have handled. These cases involve issues of serious importance to the community I live in, which I would probably not come across in my day-to-day practice. The support of CLA staff has been superb, and a crucial aspect of each project I’ve handled. Improved access to legal resources for the individuals and communities affected by environmental issues will be increasingly important in our future. My hope is to continue to assist CLA in pursuit of this goal and the CLA mission.”
Ryan KennedySolo Practitioner
The Chesapeake Legal Alliance provided me with an exceptional opportunity to hone my legal skills while also working on important environmental issues. The CLA attorneys communicate well, are enthusiastic advocates, and have in-depth experience working with the Clean Water Act. During my time at the CLA I was assigned to work on various projects and cases while also attending staff and coalition meetings. Each workday I felt as if I was contributing to a worthy mission while also gaining important legal experience. I recommend working for the Chesapeake Legal Alliance to any law student looking for practical experience on environmental issues.
My time working at CLA was rewarding, valuable, and educational! The workplace was both friendly and collaborative. The attorneys were very passionate about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and they welcomed my co-clerks and I with open arms. The team encouraged us to take an active role, ask questions, and participate in the cases they were working on in a wide variety of ways. CLA really gave me an opportunity to engage in the ins and outs of advocacy-based environmental litigation and grow as a budding lawyer. I highly recommend this position to anyone interested in non-profit work and the Clean Water Act.
My clerkship with CLA was an eye-opening and impactful experience! I learned a lot about litigation and client-facing work. I also had the opportunity to work with several different attorneys and two of my fellow Carey law students on various projects, allowing me to not only expand my understanding of environmental law issues in the Chesapeake Bay watershed but also providing me with glimpses of collaborative legal work. The attorneys were very passionate and willing to incorporate us law clerks into ongoing and emerging projects and cases. My experience with CLA opened my eyes to the possibilities of working with environmental nonprofits and I would recommend working with the organization to any law student interested in environmental law, whether within the watershed or elsewhere.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience as a law clerk for CLA this summer! The attorneys were extremely receptive of the personal goals I had set out to achieve during my clerkship, and because of that I was able to take on work and other responsibilities that aligned with those goals. My clerkship was a great introduction to what working for a not-for-profit organization is like, and similar to Boebin, my experience at CLA has solidified my interest in working for an environmental not-for-profit upon graduating Maryland Carey Law.
CLA was the best first legal externship experience I could ask for. Every attorney was eager to invite Annie and I to meetings and webinars, show us the inner workings of the legal profession in a nonprofit setting, and insight on the tasks they assigned us with. My experience with CLA has solidified my interest in working with environmental nonprofits upon graduating law school.
Boebin ParkJ.D. Candidate, 2023, Vermont Law School
My clerkship with the Chesapeake Legal Alliance was a wonderful experience! I gained valuable insight into litigation, and I even worked on policy-related projects. I was also able to strengthen my research and writing skills, which afforded me the opportunity to share my work product with partner organizations. The attorneys at Chesapeake Legal Alliance are very enthusiastic, and they always encourage law clerks to get involved. I recommend any law student to clerk with the Chesapeake Legal Alliance, especially if they are passionate about working in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Chesapeake Legal Alliance is a truly special place to work and learn. Though one semester is a short time to acclimate to a new team and work environment, the attorneys at CLA welcomed me as a colleague and valued team member from day one, an experience that is difficult to find as a law student. I was trusted to attend important negotiations, offer my opinions and thoughts on open cases, talk with clients, and draft time-sensitive filings.
Even with that responsibility, I also had incredible mentorship from every attorney I worked with. Though they are all very busy, each made time for me throughout the semester to look over my work, talk through a potential project, or get me up to speed on a case. I never felt nervous about reaching out to get support because CLA has created a culture of teamwork and camaraderie.
Working at CLA reinvigorated my passion for environmental law, and showed me what truly exceptional attorneys in this field look like. Without a doubt, my time at CLA will be one of my fondest memories from law school.