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Sturm College of Law recognizes late instructor with clinical scholar position

DU’s Sturm College of Law is remembering late law instructor Erik Bluemel by naming a new international scholar program in his honor.

Bluemel, who taught environmental and indigenous peoples law, died May 6 as a result of injuries suffered in an early morning bicycle crash a day earlier in Denver. He was 32.

Michael Harris, director of the Environmental Law Clinic and a friend of Bluemel’s, says his former colleague was instrumental in supporting a scholarly program for foreign students working towards master’s of law (LLM) degree in environmental fields.

While the law clinic affords many student lawyers the opportunity to practice in U.S. courts under a professor’s guidance, those opportunities are limited for students studying issues affecting other countries.

With the establishment of the Erik B. Bluemel Environmental Law Clinic-LLM International Scholar position, the law school recognizes promising students seeking to engage in clinical legal work abroad.

Harris says the program was developed by the clinic and the LLM program in natural resources and environmental law. Each year, a scholar from the LLM program will be selected to assist an international organization working on environmental or human rights issues.

“Erik’s passion was not only clinical education, but also indigenous people’s rights around the world,” Harris says. “Erik was such a budding scholar and so well liked and so dedicated to his work, this is an appropriate way to honor his memory.”

“Environmental law was one of Erik’s loves and he contributed so much to this field in his short time here,” Interim Dean Martin Katz says. “This is a wonderful way to remember him.”

The inaugural scholar is Leandra Zanqueta (LLM ’10), a native of Brazil who is researching international legal strategies regarding the impact of so-called “mega dam” projects in Latin America. The giant dams and resulting reservoirs often displace entire villages. Harris says when her work is finished, it is expected that Zanqueta will publish her findings in legal journals. She starts the program this fall.

Harris says the position is currently unfunded, but he and supporters hope to raise money to provide a stipend and research expenses for students named to the program.

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