Coleman Burke Center for Environmental Law

Alumnus launches Center for Environmental Law with $10 million gift

Potrait of Colman Burke

Coleman Burke

Nearly a decade after endowing a professorship in honor of his law school mentor Leon Gabinet, alumnus Coleman P. Burke (LAW ’70) has committed $10 million to establish a center at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law that combines two of the driving passions of his life: the environment and the law.

The gift — the largest in the law school’s 126-year history — creates the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law. The Burke Center will dramatically expand students’ learning opportunities in environmental law, while also establishing the school as a leading intellectual hub of interdisciplinary research and thought leadership in this rapidly growing field.

“Our natural world faces increasingly critical and complex environmental challenges,” said Burke, who has spent 40 years engaged in such issues as a director of the National Audubon Society, the National Forest Foundation, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, the New York Botanical Garden and the Wildlife Conservation Society, among other leadership activities. “This center will combine the law school’s significant expertise in the subject with the university’s broader related strengths to make meaningful contributions to address them.”

Photo of Professor Jonathan Adler

Case Western Reserve law professor Jonathan H. Adler, one the country’s most innovative and frequently cited environmental law scholars, will serve as the center’s director, Law School Co-Deans Jessica Berg and Michael Scharf announced today.

"Today’s environmental problems require a willingness to work outside and across disciplinary boundaries,” Adler said. “It is our hope that this center will foster productive dialogue and analysis of these issues and prepare a new generation of environmental lawyers.”

Last year, Adler, who joined the university in 2001, was the nation’s eighth-most-cited public law scholar (excluding Constitutional law) for the preceding four years. Adler was 49 at the time of the list’s publication; the seven scholars ranked above him had an average age of 63. He is currently completing a book on environmental federalism for the 21st century for Cambridge University Press, the seventh book he has authored or edited.

“We are profoundly grateful for this transformational gift from an alumnus whose decade’s-long commitment to the environment has helped preserve and nurture some of our country’s most treasured natural and marine resources,” Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder said. “With the leadership of Professor Adler, one of our university’s most dedicated and dynamic scholars, this center will extend and expand upon the spirit of Coleman Burke’s own personal service.”

The Burke Center’s first major event takes place this fall, with a symposium centered on the upcoming 50th anniversary of the founding of Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Papers from this symposium will be published in the Case Western Reserve Law Review. The center also is planning a spring 2020 symposium on environmental health, to be co-sponsored with the school’s Law-Medicine Center — the nation’s first institute centered on the subject of health law.

The Burke Center also will support scholarships for students interested in environmental law, along with faculty positions in the area. It also will build on the school’s national leadership in experiential learning by funding environmental law externships and related opportunities around the country. Finally, the center will sponsor student research and development of additional courses in environmental law.

“This center will help prepare students to meet the environmental challenges of today,” Adler said, “as well as those that inevitably will emerge in the future.”

In addition to his service on the Audubon Society and National Forest Foundation, Burke also is a member of the Leadership Council of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. As a member of the international multidisciplinary society, the Explorers Club, he also has led two expeditions for dinosaur fossils in the Santa Cruz Province in Argentina and explored rivers in Tierra del Fuego.

Burke, of Hobe Sound, Florida, is the founder and managing partner of Waterfront NY, Bulgroup Properties and North River Company, commercial real estate companies with holdings in New York, Maine, Massachusetts, Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, California and Vermont. Before establishing Waterfront, Burke was a partner at the law firm of Burke & Burke for 13 years. He also has created the Coleman and Susan Burke Foundation, named after him and his wife of nearly four decades.

Listen to an Ideastream news story about our historic gift

Read the E&E interview about the new Center with Professor Adler

Jonathan H. Adler

Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law; Director, Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law

Jonathan H. Adler is the inaugural Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director of the Coleman P. Burke Center for Environmental Law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where he teaches courses in environmental, administrative and constitutional law.

Professor Adler is the author or editor of seven books, including Business and the Roberts Court (Oxford University Press, 2016) and Rebuilding the Ark: New Perspectives on Endangered Species Act Reform (AEI Press, 2011), and over a dozen book chapters. His articles have appeared in publications ranging from the Harvard Environmental Law Review and Yale Journal on Regulation to The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. He has testified before Congress a dozen times, and his work has been cited in the U.S. Supreme Court. A 2016 study identified Professor Adler as the most cited legal academic in administrative and environmental law under age 50.

Professor Adler is a contributing editor to National Review Online and a regular contributor to the popular legal blog, “The Volokh Conspiracy.” A regular commentator on constitutional and regulatory issues, he has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, ranging from the PBS "Newshour with Jim Lehrer" and NPR's "Talk of the Nation" to the Fox News Channel and "Entertainment Tonight."

Professor Adler is a senior fellow at the Property & Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana. He also serves on the NFIB Small Business Legal Center Advisory Board, the academic advisory board of the Cato Supreme Court Review the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, and the Environmental Law Institute’s Environmental Law Reporter and ELI Press Advisory Board. In 2018, Professor Adler was elected to membership of the American Law Institute.

In 2004, Adler received the Paul M. Bator Award, given annually by the Federalist Society for Law and Policy Studies to an academic under 40 for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and commitment to students. In 2007, the Case Western Reserve University Law Alumni Association awarded Adler their annual "Distinguished Teacher Award."

Prior to joining the faculty at Case Western Reserve, Adler clerked for the Honorable David B. Sentelle on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. From 1991 to 2000, Adler worked at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market research and advocacy group in Washington, D.C., where he directed CEI's environmental studies program. He holds a BA magna cum laude from Yale University and a JD summa cum laude from the George Mason University School of Law.