Founded in 2006
Inspired by the processes and laws of the natural world that sustain all life forms, the writings of Thomas Berry and other environmental philosophers, lawyers and scientists, and the reverence and care for all of creation, the Center for Earth Jurisprudence (CEJ) was created in Fall 2006 by Sister Patricia Siemen, Esq., with initial funding from a Marie V. Gendron grant at the Schools of Law at Barry and St. Thomas Universities.
CEJ formally began its educational component with an Earth Jurisprudence Seminar offered at the Barry University School of Law in Orlando in Spring 2007. The following year the seminar was offered at St. Thomas University School of Law, Miami Gardens, as well. Hundreds of law students have enrolled in courses or seminars for credit offered by CEJ since 2007. By employing a variety of teaching methods and resources, the courses encourage students to think creatively about the responsibilities of humans toward all the members of the natural world and the need to expand legal protections for the members of the Earth community in this unprecedented era of global ecological challenges.
From 2006 to now, CEJ has maintained a focus on advancing law and policy that will reflect a true respect for nature. Advocacy comes in many forms, and the Center has been engaged in many methods. From letter writing, to writing legislation, we have been advocates for an Earth-centered perspective. CEJ is involved in local, national, and international advocacy movements, collaborating with the Florida Clean Water Campaign, Florida Conservation Voters, Florida Conservation Coalition, Sierra Club, the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, and many more.
From authoring water bills, to authoring amicus briefs, CEJ wants the message to be clear: greater consideration for nature is necessary. In 2013, CEJ authored the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, that was ultimately filed in 2014. Though the original bill we authored was altered significantly, Senate Bill 1576 was introduced and considered by the Florida legislature, in the hope that greater consideration would be awarded to Florida springs by way of the precautionary principle.
In 2016, on behalf of the Global Catholic Climate Movement and the Leadership Council of Women Religious, CEJ authored an amicus curiae brief that was filed in a federal case in Oregon in support of the constitutional climate change lawsuit brought by 21 young plaintiffs from across America.
To see full amicus brief, Brief for Global Catholic Climate Movement and Leadership Council of Women Religious as Amici Curiae Supporting Plaintiffs, Juliana v. United States, No. 6:15-cv-1517-TC (D. Or. Jan. 15, 2016).
Community Outreach, Engagement& Partnership
Since its creation, CEJ has focused on providing educational workshops and forums to shift human consciousness to understand humanity’s basic interdependence with the wider natural world; to provide a legal critique of current assumptions, values, and structures of law that are blind to this reality; and to develop alternatives building on current legal tools. CEJ has collaborated with a variety of partner organizations to host conferences addressing aspects of re-visioning law and public policy through a more Earth-centered perspective.
An introductory Earth Jurisprudence colloquium took place in April of 2007 at St. Thomas University, followed by an international workshop about the rights and responsibilities needed for adequate water law that fall. A major symposium titled “Framing an Earth Jurisprudence for a Planet in Peril” was held at Barry University School of Law in February 2008. The Barry Law Review published the findings of that symposium in its Winter 2008 issue.
CEJ has participated in conferences on the connections between Earth jurisprudence, global climate change, and global hunger and poverty, both nationally and internationally, especially with the Earth Jurisprudence Resource Center in London and with the Wild Law section of the United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA).
In February 2009, CEJ hosted the “Precautionary Principle Academy: Walking the Green Line” in both Miami and Orlando. CEJ began its annual “Future Generations” conference in Spring 2010, In organizing “Ecological Integrity: Reconnecting Humans, Health and Habitat,” with internationally renowned environmentalist, author and activist Dr. Vandana Shiva and her sister, health activist Dr. Mira Shiva. The 2nd conference continuedwith “Water Justice for All” in February 2011, featuring noted water activist, Maude Barlow. The third, in 2012 titled "True Wealth in a Green World," hosted award-winning environmental writer & documentary filmmaker Bill Belleville, director of the Sustainable Economies Law Center & pioneer in the field of Sharing Law Janelle Orsi Esq., and President & CEO of ACCION Texas Janie Barrera.
In September 2013, CEJ hosted it's 4th annual Future Generations Conference titled "Rights of Springs: Strategy for Change-Makers, featuring Natalie Greene of Fundacion Pachamama, and Mari Margil of CELDF.
In 2014, CEJ organized and hosted the 5th Annual Future Generations Conference "Public Lands, Public Waters, Public Trust," which featured Eric Freyfogle, author and Professor of Law, Mary Christina Wood, Professor of Law, and Tom Pellham, former Secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
CEJ has also demonstrated a commitment to increasing scholarship and research in the area of Earth Jurisprudence. Professor Judy Koons of Barry University School of Law, and Chair of the CEJ Advisory Board, has published several law review articles on Earth Jurisprudence, as has Professor Patrick Tolan, and our Director Emertius, Sr. Patricia Siemen.
The Center has several publications available online- including An Introduction to Earth Jurisprudence: Guiding Principles and Wild Law Possibilities, a teaching monograph in a succinct, accessible format that facilitates teaching, reflection, analysis, and discussion, available under "Earth Law" on our webpage. Our Director Emeritus, Sister Pat, has been published numerous times, most recently authoring Responding to the Great Work: The Role of Earth Jurisprudence and Wild Law in the 21st Century with Dr. Michelle Maloney in the Environmental and Earth Law Journal (2015). Her pieces are also available in several published books, like Chapter 24 titled Earth Jurisprudence in a Cosmological Perspective: Sometimes it Takes a Joker in Mary Evelyn Tucker & John Grimm's "Living Cosmology: Christian Responses to Journey of the Universe," Orbis Books, 2016.
Housed at Barry Law School
CEJ relocated to the Barry University School of Law in August 2010.