The real facts from FREE

  Dear HCN,

Jon Margolis' piece on the taking project (HCN, 8/2/99) is factually incorrect and mischaracterizes FREE's Environmental Economics and Policy Analysis seminars for federal judges.

Margolis accepts verbatim the assertions put forth by Douglas Kendall of the Community Rights Counsel. Margolis never contacted FREE regarding his story. If he had, I would have told him that contrary to his assertion, Professor Epstein has never lectured in our federal judges program. Also, I would have been happy to provide him all our past program agendas, readings, and copies of letters of evaluation from judges.

The lecturers at our program teach at some of the nation's finest schools, (e.g., Berkeley, Chicago, and Harvard). We always have presentations by representatives from such "right-wing" groups as the Environmental Defense Fund, the National Wildlife Federation, and (are you ready?) the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (now Earthjustice).

Margolis demeans the federal judiciary by implying they can be easily swayed. These are smart, mature, sophisticated men and women at the top of their profession, predisposed by training to be discerning, critical, and alert to shoddy arguments. This program has proven extremely popular with judges regardless of their political affiliation. At our most recent seminar, 14 of the 17 judges were Clinton appointees. Here's what one had to say about the experience:

"I want to emphasize that the seminar was the best that I have ever attended ... I came away with a far greater understanding than I had ... of the difficult and subtle issues our global society faces in the environmental arena ... I was delighted, although not surprised ... to find the faculty consisted of persons with a wide range of views on environmental issues and that the discussions were truly open."

We've duplicated this program for law professors. Our second seminar received 73 nominations for 17 openings. We have participants from six of the nation's top 10 law schools with environmental programs as rated by U.S. News & World Report. Our goal is to reach all of the top schools by next year.

In sum, our programs offer strongly pro-environment arguments. If Margolis and HCN cannot be bothered to fact-check their work, I invite readers to contact me directly.

Pete Geddes

Bozeman, Montana

The writer is program director of Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment.

Jon Margolis replies,

Mr. Geddes asserts only that I did not call him, and that this means that I "accept(ed) verbatim" Douglas Kendall's assertions. Right the first time, wrong the second. My facts were supported by many documents, including accounts from the Washington Post and other newspapers.

Mr. Geddes says Professor Epstein never spoke at one of FREE-sponsored seminars for federal judges, and I will take his word on that. That FREE also invites Clinton appointees and environmentalists, and that they accept, only means that FREE is cleverer than they are. As to demeaning the judiciary, I demean no one. If the evidence reveals that public officials are followers of foolishness, a reporter ought to point that out. This is America, and federal judges sit, as do the rest of us, only on their own behinds.