Since his first year on the bench in Memphis, Judge Larry Evans Potter has been helping create judicial systems to deal with environmental issues, earning him the title of “The Father of Environmental Courts.”
Potter will bring that passion to West Virginia University on Friday, Feb. 26, as he will be featured in a presentation entitled “Trash to Treasure.” The event is hosted by the College of Law and will be held in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom at 7 p.m.
Potter’s appearance is sponsored by the Monongalia County Solid Waste Authority, the WVU Political Science Department, the College of Law’s Environmental Law Society, WVU WE CAN, WV Institute for Public Affairs and Monongalia County Litter Control.
In 1991, Potter helped write a law that created a countywide Environmental Court with injunctive authority to strongly deal with environmental problems confronting Memphis and Shelby County, TN. The efforts were a dramatic success, and by year-end, the Tennessee State Legislature established the Shelby County Environmental Court, making it the nation’s first countywide court of this type.
Judge Potter travels and consults frequently, working with many major American cities helping establish Environmental Courts. A popular speaker at regional and national conferences, Potter has a unique ability to share his vision and has been widely considered among his peers to be the “Father of Environmental Courts” in America.
Potter received his Juris Doctorate degree in 1977. He has served as an assistant city public defender, chief public defender, assistant city prosecutor and assistant city attorney.
Potter has lived in Memphis for 30 years where he is a well-known leader and considered a judicial innovator. Recently introduced as a “treasure of our city,” he was appointed a City Court judge in 1982 at the age of 35, becoming one of the youngest judges to ever serve. He was elected to his first full term in 1983 and since then, has been overwhelmingly re-elected to four additional terms, serving the city and county court systems for more than 25 years.
During this first year on the bench, Potter helped administratively create the Memphis Environmental Court. According to Keep America Beautiful, this was the first environmental court in Tennessee and the third in the United States. Today there are more than 100 such courts with seven in Tennessee. Many of the concepts that are now standard to this type of court in America were designed and developed under his leadership.
In 2006, Potter received the Iron Eyes Cody Award, the most prestigious lifetime achievement award in raising public awareness and growing environmental compliance into the judicial system of America. He received the Memphis Rotary Club’s 2007 Bobby Dunavant Public Servant Award recognizing distinguished work by public servants of the citizens of Memphis and Shelby County. Most recently, the 2009 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards recognized Potter with the Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement Award for his creation of the first Environmental Court in Tennessee and the work he has continued to do since it began.
CONTACT: Amy Dawson, Environmental Law Society