$1 Million Cy Pres Award to Miami Law Will Support Environmental Law Efforts

$1 Million Cy Pres Award to Miami Law Will Support Environmental Law Efforts

By Catharine Skipp

$1 Million Cy Pres Award to Miami Law Will Support Environmental Law Efforts

By Catharine Skipp
The award grew out of a settlement in a consumer class-action lawsuit.

The University of Miami School of Law recently received a $1 million cy pres award as part of the distribution of a settlement fund relating to fuel economy for gasoline-powered vehicles.

The School of Law will use the funds to support the work of the Environmental Justice Clinic and the Environmental Law Program

Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court Northern District of California accepted the class plaintiffs' proposal to distribute the remaining settlement funds for environmental remediation on May 16, 2022.

Miami Law's expanding environmental law efforts

The Environmental Justice Clinic advocates for and empowers marginalized communities by combining civil rights, environmental, poverty, and public health law with community lawyering principles. Miami Law's Environmental Law Program is unique due to its South Florida location, enabling the focus on the prism of issues affecting the environment — from maritime to real estate to land use to the cruise industry to environmental law to law of the sea. The program also offers unique intersectionality with other University of Miami graduate programs in marine affairs, land use, architecture, and business. 

"Our environmental justice clinic works directly in our South Florida communities to battle environmental harms," said Professor Jessica Owley, director of the environmental law program. "This award will let us continue our fights to secure a healthy environment.

"The environmental degradation and climate change are some of the most pressing problems facing the world today," Owley said. "This award will help us continue to prepare our students for careers that will make a difference while also helping our local communities."

Cy pres funds explained

Courts have long recognized the concept of cy pres distributions. It allows for distributions of remaining funds in settlement class actions when direct distributions to class members are not feasible — either because class members cannot be reasonably identified or because distribution would involve such small amounts that, because of the administrative costs involved, such distribution would not be economically viable.

The term cy pres comes from the Norman-French phrase Cy Pres comme possible, meaning "as near as possible," requiring the parties to identify a recipient whose interests reasonably approximate those pursued by the class.

"We are proud to receive this cy pres award." said David Yellen, dean of Miami Law. "We are grateful to Judge Breyer for recognizing Miami Law's environmental law and justice advocacy and engagement."

More on studying environmental law at Miami Law