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Professor Gerald Torres

Gerald Torres has taken an unusual route to becoming one of academia's leading civil rights advocates. As a youth, Torres, who is currently Vice Provost at the University of Texas at Austin, thought civil rights attorneys were heroes and dreamed of joining their ranks. The Yale Law School graduate joined the highly regarded Children's Defense Fund as a staff attorney in 1977 and took on three cases involving civil rights violations of institutionalized children. However, Torres' love of nature led him to accept a graduate fellowship at the University of Michigan Law School where he studied with Joe Sax, an early pioneer of environmental law.

As a graduate fellow, Torres took on teaching and administrative responsibilities. In teaching, Torres found his calling. He became an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 1980 and taught courses in property and environmental law. A stint at the University of Minnesota Law School followed where he added real estate transactions to courses in property and environmental law. As Director of the Agricultural Law and Policy Institute, Torres co-authored a book, Farming and Groundwater: An Introduction (1988), with two colleagues. Visiting professorships over the next several years took Torres to the Vermont Law School, Harvard Law School and the University of Texas Law School. He joined the UT faculty in 1992, attracted by its reputation of having graduated more Mexican American lawyers than any other law school in the country.

Torres took time out from his teaching responsibilities to serve as Counsel to the Attorney General on environmental matters and Indian affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice. There he established the Office of Tribal Justice to coordinate Indian issues within the Department and across the government.

Torres' commitment to civil rights issues has never been far from his endeavors and is intimately connected to his concerns for environmental justice. Torres is highly sought after for speaking engagements and participates frequently on panels and workshops. He has written prolifically on issues of identity, race and justice. Among the articles Torres has penned are contributions to Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge (Richard Delgado, ed. 1995); After Identity: A Reader in Law and Culture (Karen Engle and Dan Danielson, eds. 1995); The Politics of Law (D. Kairys, ed. 1998); and Borderless Borders: U.S. Latinos, Latin Americans, and the Paradox of Interdependence (Frank Bonilla, Edwin Melendez, Rebecca Morales, and Maria de los Angeles Torres, eds., 1998). Torres has published numerous articles in law journals and has delivered scholarly papers on "Race, Poverty and the Environment," "The Emerging Doctrine of Environmental Equity," "The Impact of American Legal and Political Culture on the Construction of Hispanic Identity," and more. With Harvard Law School professor, Lani Guinier, Torres co-authored, THE MINERS CANARY: Rethinking Race and Power, to be published in 2001 by Harvard University Press.

 

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