Rising 3L in NYC to Protect Communities Experiencing Environmental Injustice

UC Hastings student Arturo Reyes ’19 contributes to the #summergig series with a Q&A about working at Earthjustice in New York City.

Where are you from?

I am from Oxnard, California.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I always thought I wanted to become an immigration attorney, but that changed when I enrolled in Professor David Takacs’s Environmental Law course.

What are three words that describe you?

Methodical. Traveler. Passionate.

What inspired you go to law school?

As a gay Latino living in an underserved city, I witnessed first-hand the inequalities that Latino gay people and immigrants faced in my community.

Why did you choose UC Hastings?

The UC Hastings faculty are known to be there for their students. As a rising 3L, I realize that is the truth. I have met so many wonderful professors who have gone out of their way to provide me with advice on post-grad employment and how to succeed in law school.

Are you focusing on any type of law and why?

Throughout my childhood and young adult years, my family and I lived in areas surrounded by agricultural lands replete with toxic pesticides. Many in my community and I were not aware of the environmental injustice that surrounded us. It is my goal to fight environmental pollution in minority and immigrant communities throughout the United States.

What have been some of your highlights at UC Hastings?

In addition to participating in the environmental law clinic and serving on the Raza Law Students Association Executive Board, I really enjoyed working as teaching assistant in a legal writing and research course. I also appreciated the plethora of courses offered at UC Hastings, such as Women’s Health & the Law and Wrongful Conviction writing seminars.

What are you doing this summer?

I decided I wanted to learn more about environmental law and was thrilled to accept a position at Earthjustice in New York City. As a law clerk, I support Earthjustice attorneys and help hold those who violate our nation’s environmental laws accountable for their actions.

How did you hear of and get to participate in this opportunity?

Before law school, I worked for the New York City Mayor’s Office and noticed the environmental issues that people of color face. My time in New York motivated me to return to New York City and help these communities. Additionally, I enrolled in courses at UC Hastings taught by Professors Paul Cort and Stacey Geis who are both attorneys at Earthjustice. Earthjustice is the perfect summer internship. 

What’s the absolute best part of your summer gig?

The best part of my summer job is that I get to help protect communities experiencing environmental injustice. Additionally, I was able to return to one of my favorite cities in the world – New York City.

What did you hope to learn through this experience?

I interned at Earthjustice because I wanted to work with individuals who strive to keep the government accountable when it violates environmental laws. I also knew that I would be able to improve my writing and research skills.

What was enriching about this experience to you?

I am fortunate to have worked on active litigation and draft motions that were ultimately filed in a New York Supreme Court.

How has what you learned in the classroom prepared you for this opportunity?

Professor Joseph Creitz’s Legal Writing and Research course allowed me to improve my writing skills that allowed me to thrive at Earthjustice this summer. The attorneys at Earthjustice provided me with great feedback that helped me enhance my writing and legal skills.

Did you learn something about this type of law or practice that people wouldn’t really know about unless they had this experience?

I learned that environmental regulations in this nation do not adequately protect vulnerable communities from environmental issues. This experience has motivated me to fill that gap by litigating in order to serve those whose voice is not considered.

Would you recommend this experience to a friend and why?

I would recommend this opportunity to all my friends. Specifically, I would encourage people of color to enter the environmental law field because we can prioritize the fair treatment of all people from different races, ethnicities, and incomes with the laws, regulations, and policies that affect their environment. There is a lack of diversity in the environmental field and that needs to change.

For those outside San Francisco. Do you miss San Francisco and UC Hastings?

I graduated from UC Berkeley and enrolled at UC Hastings because I love the Bay Area, but New York City also has a place in my heart.

What are your plans for the fall semester?

I will be working at the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office part-time in order to gain courtroom experience. Criminal law is another passion of mine and I would like to hone my oral advocacy skills by working with attorneys who work hard to protect our communities.

What are your goals for after law school?

I would like to work at an environmental law organization, such as Earthjustice or work at a District Attorney’s office that prosecutes violations of state environmental laws, including those that govern water pollution and hazardous waste.

Now, what do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be an attorney that advocates for vulnerable communities that experience environmental injustice and protects them by ensuring that our government and industry abide by our country’s environmental laws.