Kyle Robisch ’14 wins 2015 Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing

May 12, 2015

Kyle Robisch '14Kyle Robisch ’14 has won a Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing for his Note, “Getting to the (Non)Point: Private Governance as a Solution to Nonpoint Source Pollution,” published in the Vanderbilt Law Review in 2014.

Robisch is one of 10 recent law graduates nationwide to receive a prestigious Burton Award for papers written as students in 2015. The awards are sponsored by the Burton Foundation, which established an awards program in 1999 to reward “great achievements in law” ranging from legal writing to publications to legal reforms. Robisch’s Note was recognized in the category that honors law students for writing that uses plain, clear and concise language to address complex legal concepts. Award winners will be honored at the Burton Awards Sixteenth Annual Awards Program and Gala, held at the Library of Congress, on June 15.

Written under the guidance of Daniel Daniels Allen Professor of Law Michael Vandenbergh, who nominated the piece for this award, Robisch’s Note addresses the fact that the Clean Water Act—the country’s major set of regulations to protect the fresh water supply—does not effectively address nonpoint source water pollution, a catchall category Robisch describes as encompassing “any source of pollution that does not meet the legal definition of ‘point source’ in…the Clean Water Act.” Robisch proposes two potential private governance solutions to fill this regulatory gap: the creation of a private organization that would act ‘as a clearinghouse for private companies whose production processes generate substantial nonpoint source pollution” and what he terms a “hybrid solution” in which the Environmental Protection Agency would act as the clearinghouse. He ultimately concludes that “Supplementing public regulations with private governance schemes is a low-risk, high-reward approach to ameliorating nonpoint source pollution.”

“Kyle’s article is an important contribution to our thinking about the potential for private responses to environmental problems,” said Michael Vandenbergh, David Daniels Allen Professor of Law, who co-directs Vanderbilt’s Energy, Environment and Land Use Program. “His initiative, independence and insights on this project were impressive.”

Robisch also won first prize in two 2014 competitions: the American Bar Association’s Section of Environment, Energy and Resources 2014 Student Writing Competition on Public Land and Policy for his paper, “The NEPA Implied Exemption Doctrine: How a Novel and Creeping Common Law Exemption Threatens to Undermine the National Environmental Policy Act’s Application to Public Lands and Civil Works,” and the California Bar Association’s Criminal Law Student Writing Competition for his paper, “Keeping the Peace and the Constitution: Balancing Community Caregiving Searches and the Fourth Amendment.”

Robisch is currently serving two-year clerkship with Judge G. Kendall Sharp of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, after which he plans to join Venable in Washington, D.C., as an associate.


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