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Marilyn C. O’Leary, class of 1981, and the first director of the School of Law’s Utton Transboundary Resources Center (Utton Center), is returning to the law school to lead the Utton Center in its strategic planning efforts to determine how the Center can assist the University of New Mexico and the state in better understanding the legal aspects of changing resource demands and opportunities. O’Leary believes the opportunities of renewable energy development as well as the challenges of climate change are critical issues that can benefit from legal and policy attention.
"As the only law school in the State, the UNM School of Law is positioned to provide legal research and recommendations to support the economic and sustainable use of water, energy, and natural resources", O’Leary said.
O’Leary was a member of the New Mexico Public Utility Commission in the 1980s before entering private practice as a water and utility lawyer. She was previously the director of the Utton Center from 2001 to 2007.
The Utton Center was established to carry on the work of Professor Albert E. Utton, a native of Aztec, N.M. and a Rhodes Scholar from UNM, who taught water law at the School of Law and promoted what he called preventive diplomacy, encouraging stakeholders to manage water resources collaboratively and avoid litigation. The Utton Center researches and provides information to the public about water, natural resources and environmental issues, with a particular focus on New Mexico and the Southwest. It also supports collaborative natural resource management using multidisciplinary expertise and inclusive, diverse stakeholder involvement. The Center provides the publication Water Matters to the legislature at the beginning of each legislative session to assist members in understanding the complexities of New Mexico water law. The Center also includes the Joe M. Stell Ombudsman Program, whose primary purpose is to streamline the adjudication process by providing claimants with unbiased information about the multifaceted process.
The Utton Center has most recently been directed by Professor Denise Fort, who has an extensive background in environmental and natural resources law. She is leaving the law school to work on climate change and water in private practice in Santa Fe, but will continue scholarly activities through the school. "Prof. Fort has been an exceptional leader in her time with the Utton Center. She has contributed her expertise to advancing public awareness of the water issues facing this community, and we are very grateful for her strong commitment in this area", said Interim Dean Barbara Bergman.
June 20, 2013