ANNAPOLIS — A Maryland legislator wants to transfer funding from an embattled University of Maryland environmental law clinic to create a similar program for farmers as retribution for the clinic’s attempt to sue a chicken farm over water pollution.
The budget amendment proposal from state Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, is spurred by the clinic’s representation of the Waterkeeper Alliance Inc., which is suing Hudson Farm, a Worcester County chicken farm that supplies Perdue. The plaintiff claims the family-owned farm is polluting a nearby waterway.
The move would transfer $500,000 from the law clinic’s lobby shop to establish an agricultural law clinic at the University of Baltimore School of Law. The entire Senate Budget and Taxation Committee would have to consider it.
Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, who supported Colburn’s plan, said it was unclear how much backing the amendment would get from the entire General Assembly.
Lawmakers and Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, have criticized the clinic at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law for pursuing the lawsuit and creating financial burden for Alan and Kristin Hudson, who own the farm.
“It certainly is a direct rebuke to the school and the way they handled this whole thing,” Brinkley said.
The fund transfer targets the salaries of three lobbyists and the money they spend to rent office space.
Under Colburn’s budget amendment, the clinic at UB would assist farmers “with estates and trusts issues, compliance with environmental laws, and other matters necessary to preserve family farms.”
Colburn has also introduced legislation that would require the environmental law clinic to reimburse the Hudsons for their legal expenses. That bill was heard by the Budget and Taxation Committee in February, but has not been voted on.
Last week, a federal judge denied cross-motions for summary judgment in the case, allowing it to proceed to a mid-April bench trial.