Wyatt Sassman ’13 wins Tennessee Bar Association’s environmental law writing competition

Wyatt Sassman Wyatt Sassman, Class of 2013, has been awarded first place in the Tennessee Bar Association Environmental Law Section’s 2013 Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award Writing Competition for his article “Administrative Compliance Orders and Due Process After Sackett.”

Sassman’s paper is based on an analysis of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Sackett v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which gave Michael and Chantell Sackett the right to challenge an EPA order that they had built their new home on a wetland before the agency enforced the order with penalties.

The Sacketts successfully argued that inability to immediately challenge the order violated their due process rights, though such claims routinely had been rejected by lower courts.

Sassman argued that by reversing decades of court rulings, the Supreme Court “stuck a wrench in a much larger enforcement scheme” as administrative compliance orders “are one of EPA’s most utilized enforcement tools” not only in wetlands cases but in a wide range of environmental laws. After looking at federal precedent, congressional intent and the constitutional foundations of administrative law, Sassman concluded that administrative orders do not violate due process rights and federal agencies should be free to use them without judicial interference. In the article, he urges policy makers to recognize the broader impact of the court’s decision and take steps necessary to restore the traditional role of administrative orders.

The writing competition, sponsored by the TBA Environmental Law Section, is a juried competition for the best legal writing on a topic of Tennessee or federal environmental law and is open to law students enrolled in a Tennessee law school. It is held each year as a way to promote a dialogue on important environmental issues and to strengthen relationships among environmental law professors, students and practitioners in the state. Entries are judged by a panel of environmental law practitioners, members of the judiciary and/or professors selected by the section.

Sassman received a $1,200 cash award, and his article will be published in an upcoming issue of the section’s newsletter.

The competition is named for Jon E. Hastings, a founding member of the section who practiced in the Nashville office of Boult Cummings Connors & Berry until his death of cancer at age 45.