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From Activist to Academic, Meet Professor Bradford Mank

When Bradford Mank, the James B. Helmer, Jr. Professor of Law, entered law school, he planned to practice criminal or employment law.  But life had other plans for him, as he now focuses his work on environmental issues that impact society.

Following graduation from Yale Law School, Mank served as a law clerk for Justice David M. Shea of the Connecticut Supreme Court. He then returned home to Hartford, Connecticut to work at local firm Murtha, Cullina, Righter and Pinney.  While he anticipated working in the labor and employment field, there were no cases or clients in those areas at the firm at that time.  Instead, he was assigned cases dealing with environmental law, which was an exploding field at the time.  He found it very interesting. In fact, Mank later went to work for the Connecticut Attorney General, again focusing his efforts on environmental law.

Intersection of Academia and the Law

After several years with the Attorney General’s office, he decided to turn his focus to academia. Thus, in 1991 he joined UC Law and began teaching environmental law and property. (Later, he taught administrative law as well, which he still teaches today.)  Because of his interest in the environment, he sought out opportunities to participate in environmental law-related activities in the legal and local communities.  He has published numerous articles and book chapters on environmental justice, regulatory reform, and statutory interpretation. In 2001, in fact, he wrote an amicus brief for a case in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that attempted to use 42 USC §1983 to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. 

Mank has had the opportunity to bring his knowledge and skills to the local community by working on various projects with the City of Cincinnati.  He has served on the Environmental Advisory Council since 2002; he has been the chairperson of the council since 2005 and will remain in that position until 2010.  Mank also worked with students from the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice to draft and pass legislation relating to air nuisances in 2004.  The city has since used that legislation to regulate air nuisances and issue fines to violators.

For four years Mank also participated in a task force dedicated to establishing an Environmental Justice Ordinance in the city.  His efforts paid off in June of this year when the ordinance passed by a narrow 5-4 margin.  The ordinance, the first of its kind in Cincinnati, provides for regulation at the municipal level. It also established a review process about businesses and the harm they may/may not cause in the neighborhoods in which they are building.  The ordinance was vigorously challenged, particularly by the Chamber of Commerce, but it ultimately passed.

Mank has also done a substantial amount of work in the area of recycling. He is currently part of an initiative to get bigger, wheeled carts to replace the current small recycling bins the city currently provides.  These carts, which would be similar to the garbage carts currently provided, would have chips imbedded that would record participation.  That participation would then be rewarded with coupons from local businesses.  The concept behind this is to provide incentives to recycle while at the same time reducing the amount of garbage. Mank stated that the city currently recycles about 10% of its waste, but the mayor wants to raise that to 30%.  The hope is that this program will help raise that number.

It All Began At Harvard

Professor Mank began his collegiate education at Harvard University, majoring in history.  While there, he was very involved in the issue of the university’s divestiture of its investments in companies that work in South Africa and support the apartheid regime that was still in place at that time. Very vocal in his opposition, Mank led protests against the university’s continued investment in those companies. Though not evident at the time, his protests made an impact as  Harvard did eventually divest itself of involvement in those companies in response to the efforts of students like Mank.

While in school Mank also worked part-time at a labor union.  Following graduation from Harvard, Mank went on to Yale Law School. “I was more focused on school during my time at Yale, because I wanted to do well,” Mank said, “but I was still somewhat involved in divestiture work there as well.”

Living the Cincinnati Life

Prior to coming to the Queen City, Mank had never visited the area. However, he has found that he enjoys the city and all it has to offer. In fact, he and his wife are active participants in the cultural life of Cincinnati. His wife sings in the May Festival Choir, and the two of them enjoy many different musical and theatrical performances in the city.  In particular, they visit the orchestra and the opera frequently.  Mank also has a son who began his studies in engineering at Ohio State University this summer.

Mank currently teaches Environmental Law and Administrative Law.  He noted that enrollment in Environmental Law, which had dropped off during many of the years of President George H.W. Bush’s administration, is beginning to climb again.  He attributed this to the fact that students are aware of post-graduate job potential, and take the classes they believe could lead to jobs in the future.  Mank hopes that President Obama will bring environmental law back to the forefront so that the field will continue to grow.