Monmouth University has named Randall S. Abate its inaugural Rechnitz Family Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy. In this new position, Abate will conduct research and teach courses on environmental, climate change, marine and coastal, animal, and constitutional law and policy.
Abate will serve as a tenured professor in the Political Science and Sociology Department while also being affiliated with the Urban Coast Institute (UCI). He joins the Monmouth faculty with 24 years of full-time teaching experience at six U.S. law schools, most recently from 2009-2018 at Florida A&M University College of Law in Orlando.
He will teach undergraduate level classes which he expects could draw a mix of students from science, social science, humanities, and business backgrounds. That is because climate change has become what he calls “the ultimate interdisciplinary topic,” impacting people’s lives on so many levels. He is eager to teach and mentor students who are considering law school and careers in environmental and public policy.
“Especially with what I teach, the earlier you get the message out, the better,” Abate said. “With climate change, you want to train tomorrow’s environmental leaders when they’re 18, not when they’re 24 or 25.”
Calling the opportunity at Monmouth “irresistible,” the Cheshire, Connecticut, native said he was thrilled to return to his roots in the Northeast. Prior to moving to Florida in 2006, he taught at Rutgers University School of Law (Camden), Widener University School of Law (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) and Vermont Law School, and handled environmental law matters at two firms in New York City. He obtained his juris doctorate and M.S.E.L. (environmental law and policy) degrees from Vermont Law School and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester.
Professor Abate has published five influential books, including “Climate Change Impacts on Ocean and Coastal Law: U.S. and International Perspectives” (Oxford University Press 2015). He has also written more than 30 law journal articles and book chapters on environmental and animal law topics, with a recent emphasis on climate change law and justice. He is currently working as the sole author on his sixth book project, “Climate Change and the Voiceless,” which will be published by Cambridge University Press in the summer of 2019.
“The book will address how the law is starting to consider ways to protect the vulnerable and marginalized who have no legal voice. The three categories I’m focusing on are future generations, or the unborn; animals; and natural resources,” he said. “Right now there’s a movement across all three of those domains to give them legal protections even though they can’t speak for themselves.”
Abate noted that animal law is a deep field of study that deals with how people interface with animals from societal and legal perspectives. It can encompass topics as diverse as how pets are treated by the courts in divorce proceedings, protection of marine endangered species, agriculture and food law and policy reform to promote animal protection, and veterinary malpractice.
The chair was endowed by a gift from Joan and Robert Rechnitz. Mr. Rechnitz is a professor emeritus of English and Mrs. Rechnitz a Monmouth graduate. Joan and Robert Rechnitz Hall on campus is also home to the University’s Department of Art and Design. In 2014, the Rechnitzes also made the initial donation that led to a successful $5 million challenge grant fundraising campaign to support the UCI’s Marine Science and Policy Initiative. The Initiative has since supported numerous student-faculty research projects, classroom innovation, and science and educational symposia in collaboration with Rockefeller University’s Program for the Human Environment.