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Environmental Court to open next week

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Starting July 1, legal cases pertaining to certain environmental and public health laws will be heard by a special Environmental Court established by the 2014 Legislature.

The Outdoor Circle, which strongly advocated for the new court, contends it will improve state enforcement of environmental statutes.

“Chronic illegal dumping, improper harvesting of natural resources and contamination of streams and near-shore waters are common experiences in the Hawaiian islands,” the group says on its website. “Establishment of the Environmental Court signals Hawaii’s renewed commitment and focus on protecting the environment.”

Under the new system, violations of environmental laws will be heard by specially designated judges who will analyze alleged violations within the context of cumulative impacts upon the environment.

On Friday, the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of law will present a daylong symposium on how the court will function, and share experiences from similar courts in other countries.

Justice Swatanter Kumar, presiding judge of the National Green Tribunal of India, will offer a global context for the 350 environmental courts now operating in 41 countries. Hawaii’s Environmental Court is only the second in the United States, after Vermont’s. Speaking via video will be jurists from Brazil and Australia.

The symposium is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the law school, with a pau hana event sponsored by the Outdoor Circle.

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