Catherine A. O'Neill

Professor of Law



Professor O'Neill was a Ford Foundation Graduate Fellow at Harvard Law School. She came to the Northwest in 1992 as an environmental planner and air toxics coordinator for the Washington State Department of Ecology. From 1994 to1997, she was a Lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law. From 1997 to 2001, Professor O'Neill was Assistant, then Associate Professor at the University of Arizona College of Law. She joined the faculty in 2001.

Professor O’Neill’s research focuses on issues of justice in environmental law and policy; in particular, her work considers the effects of contamination and depletion of fish and other resources relied upon by tribes and their members, communities of color and low-income communities. She has worked with the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council on its Fish Consumption Report; with various tribes in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes on issues of contaminated fish and waters; and with environmental justice groups in the Southwest on air and water pollution issues. Professor O’Neill has testified before Congress on regulations governing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. She has also served as a pro bono consultant to the attorneys for the National Congress of American Indians and other tribes in litigation challenging these mercury regulations. Professor O’Neill is a Member Scholar with the Center for Progressive Reform.

Professor O’Neill has published numerous scholarly articles, including Variable Justice: Environmental Standards, Contaminated Fish, and “Acceptable” Risk to Native Peoples (Stanford Environmental Law Journal, 2000); Mercury, Risk, and Justice (Environmental Law Reporter, 2004); and No Mud Pies: Risk Avoidance as Risk Regulation (Vermont Law Review, 2007).

Major Scholarly Publications

Protecting the Tribal Harvest: The Right to Catch and Consume Fish, __ J. ENVTL. L. & LITIG. __ (forthcoming 2007).

No Mud Pies: Risk Avoidance as Risk Regulation, 31 VT. L. REV. 273 (2007).

The Perils of Risk Avoidance, 20 NAT. RES. & ENV’T. 9 (Winter, 2006).

Mercury, Risk, and Justice, 34 ENVTL. L. REP. 11070 (2004).

Risk Avoidance, Cultural Discrimination, and Environmental Justice for Indigenous Peoples, 30 Ecology L.Q. 1 (2003).

Co-author with Denis Binder, Colin Crawford, Eileen Gauna, M. Casey Jarman, Alice Kaswan, Bradford C. Mank, Clifford Rechtschaffen, and Robert R.M. Verchick, A Survey of Federal Agency Response to President Clinton’s Executive Order No. 12898 on Environmental Justice, 31 ENVTL. L. REP. 11133 (2001) . Excerpted in CLIFFORD RECHTSCHAFFEN AND EILEEN GAUNA, ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: LAW, POLICY & REGULATION (2002).

Restoration Affecting Native Resources: The Place of Native Ecological Science, 42 Ariz. L. Rev. 343 (2000). Excerpted in SIDNEY A. SHAPIRO, THOMAS MCGARITY, AND DAVID BOLLIER, SOPHISTICATED SABOTAGE: THE INTELLECTUAL GAMES USED TO SUBVERT RESPONSIBLE REGULATION (2004).

Variable Justice: Environmental Standards, Contaminated Fish, and ‘Acceptable’ Risk to Native Peoples, 19 Stan. Envtl L.J. 3 (2000), excerpted in Environmental Justice: Law, Policy & Regulation (Carolina Academic Press 2002).

Single-sex Education After United States v. Virginia, 23 J.C. & U.L. 489 (1997).

Co-author with Cass R. Sunstein, Economics and the Environment: Trading Debt and Technology for Nature, 17 COL. J. ENVTL. L. 93 (1992). Selected through peer-review process as one of the twelve best environmental and land use articles of the year and reprinted in 24 LAND USE & ENVTL L. REV. (1993). Excerpted in ANTHONY D’AMATO & KIRSTEN ENGEL, INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL LAW ANTHOLOGY (1996). Excerpted in STEPHEN M. JOHNSON, ECONOMICS, EQUITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT (2003).

Comment, Sexual Harassment Cases and the Law of Evidence: A Proposed Rule, 1989 U. CHI. LEGAL F. 21

Other Recent Publications

Co-author with Lisa Heinzerling and Rena I. Steinzor, Mercury (2006) (monograph), available at

Co-author with Member Scholars of the Center for Progressive Reform, Hurricane Katrina: An Unnatural Disaster (2005) (white paper), available at

Co-author with Eileen Gauna and Cliff Rechtschaffen, Environmental Justice (2005) (white paper), available at Excerpted in JOHN NAGLE, ET AL., THE PRACTICE AND POLICY OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW (forthcoming 2007).

Op-Ed, Clear facts about Clear Skies, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE, March 9, 2005, at B9.

Op-Ed, Try Not to Breathe, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS, July 7, 2004, available at

Consultant, Fish Consumption Workgroup, Air & Water Subcommittee of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Committee (NEJAC), Fish Consumption and Environmental Justice (2002), available at


Seattle University School of Law
Location: SLLH-455
Phone: (206) 398.4030

Curriculum Vitae


  • B.A., University of Notre Dame, 1987
  • J.D., University of Chicago Law School, 1990


  • Environmental Law
  • Environmental Justice
  • Natural Resources
  • Property