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Barry and St. Thomas University law schools announce jointly-created Center for Earth Jurisprudence

MIAMI, Florida- June 26, 2006 --Thanks to a $1 million grant from the estate of Marie V. Gendron to the Sisters of St. Dominic of Adrian, Michigan, Barry and St. Thomas Universities-home to the only Catholic law schools in Florida-have jointly created the nation's first Center for Earth Jurisprudence.

In a dual announcement made by BU President Sister Linda Bevilacqua, OP, PhD, and STU President Rev. Monsignor Franklyn M. Casale, the two leaders of Catholic higher education in South Florida will combine to co-sponsor and collaborate on this first-of-its-kind effort. Based out of St. Thomas University's Miami Gardens campus, the center will look at law and governance from an earth-centered-rather than a human-centered-perspective.

"This landmark collaboration will enable both of our Law Schools to uniquely prepare their students for the unprecedented ecological legal challenges they will face in the coming years," said Msgr. Casale. "It is my great honor to share in this partnership that not only provides a much needed place for social, moral and philosophical dialogue on environmental issues but also strengthen the overall mission of Catholic higher education in the State of Florida."

Earth jurisprudence is premised on the concept that law and governance is meant to protect the well-being of the health and integral functioning of the planet so that all components of the earth community live in healthy ecosystems and maintain sustained diversity of the natural world. Using an interdisciplinary approach, part of the mission of the center, therefore, will be research into developing a philosophy and practice of law that is responsive to ecological and ethical imperatives related to a deteriorating state of planetary systems in the 21st century.

The new center will be directed by Sister Patricia Siemen, OP, JD, and will open its doors in Fall 2006. While located at St. Thomas, it will have a virtual office at the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Programming initiatives will occur jointly between the two campuses.

"The work of this center will be unique within legal education in the United States," Siemen stated. "Given the rapidly deteriorating state of health of the planet, this center will provide visionary research that sparks new ways of thinking about law and governance that understands that the human community is a part of the seamless Earth community. The sacredness of the entire natural world will be a foundational principle for the center as well as Catholic social teaching on ecology and care for the 'commons.' The center will further the 2004 Adrian Dominican Congregational Vision to 'seek truth, make peace, reverence life,' and discover what it means to 'live right relationships with Earth community.'

"We now have the exceptional opportunity to respond to a critical need to rethink the very legal foundations that currently restrict an understanding of what it means to live in an interdependent 'biosphere' (rather than a solely human-centered planet)," BU's Bevilacqua added. "This approach will drive the legal analysis and advocacy needed by attorneys engaged in legal practice in the future, particularly the governance and social policies that impact the integrity of all creation."

Linda Bevilacqua, OP

Rev. Msgr. Franklyn Casale

Pat Siemen, OP

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