Sheila Foster is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Albert A. Walsh Professor of Real Estate, Land Use, and Property Lawat Fordham University School of Law in New York City. She is also the Co-Director of the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics at Fordham.
Professor Foster has taught several courses, including Environmental Law II (covering the treatment of toxic substances and hazardous wastes), Environmental Justice, Tort Law, Anti-discrimination Law, and Race and American Law.
Professor Foster has provided legal advice and expertise to a number of grassroots environmental justice organizations in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. For example, she was part of the litigation team suing on behalf of a community group in Camden, New Jersey claiming environmental racism in the placement of a cement recycling plant in their heavily polluted neighborhood. That case, South Camden Citizens in Action vs. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection was appealed to the United States Supreme Court in 2002. She currently represents another community group, West Harlem Environmental Action, in its pending administrative complaint against the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City. That case involves challenging the disproportionate health and environmental impacts arising from the location of six of eight of Manhattan's public bus depots in Harlem, a heavily polluted low-income community.
Professor Foster began her legal career in 1988 at the San Francisco firm of Morrison & Foerster where she represented a variety of clients in a wide range of litigation matters. In 1990, she left to pursue a teaching career and accepted a lecture position at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. Simultaneously, while teaching, she also advised and assisted in conducting studies of marketplace discrimination for various local agencies attempting to re-examine their Minority and Woman Business affirmative action programs after a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision rendered those programs constitutionally suspect. These studies were crucial to many agencies' ability to re-construct, and hence retain, their affirmative action contracting programs in a constitutionally permissible fashion.
Professor Foster's primary scholarly focus is dedicated to exploring the intersection of civil rights and environmental law, in a field called "environmental justice." The movement for environmental justice has called attention to the widespread inequitable distribution of a variety of environmental hazards (hazardous wastes, air pollution, lead, etc.) on low-income and minority communities. Professor Foster's scholarship carefully delineates the role of environmental regulation in both producing and alleviating this inequitable distribution. Professor Foster is the author of numerous publications on environmental justice in top law journals as well as chapters in various books on the subject. She is also the co-author of an ABA book, The Law of Environmental Justice: Theories and Procedures to Address Disproportionate Risks (2008) and a chapter entitled “The Racial Subject in Legal Theory,” in The Oxford Handbook of Law and Politics (2008).
Professor Foster serves on the Environmental Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association.
Fordham School of Law New York, NY
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