Monopolies, Competition and the Regulation of Public Utilities
J.D. Practicum 1019
| 4 credit hours
The law of public utility regulation supports and disciplines the nation's electricity, gas, telecommunications and water industries. Regulatory lawyers operate at the intersection of multiple professions (economics, finance, accounting, management, engineering and politics); jurisdictions (50 states and several federal agencies); and ideologies (e.g., private vs. public ownership, government intervention vs. "free market"). Regardless of the industry or era, public utility regulation has three common elements: its mission (to align corporate behavior with the public interest), its body of law (ranging from state law on monopoly franchises to federal constitutional protection of shareholder investment), and its flexibility (accommodating monopolistic and competitive market structures).
Today's policymakers are stretching utility law to address frontier problems, such as climate change (Should we require utilities and their customers to reduce and "green" energy production and consumption?); universal service (Should we bring broadband to every home?); homeland security (How vulnerable is utility infrastructure?); and privacy (Can regulators induces changes in personal energy consumption without expose personal consumption data?). A constant is state-federal tension over jurisdiction (e.g., Which aspects of utility service are "national," requiring uniformity; and which are "local," warranting state experimentation?).
In the seminar component, students will learn the substantive and procedural ingredients for effective regulatory lawyering. The seminar component will cover (a) the backbone law (state and federal enabling statutes, constitutional law, antitrust law, contract and tort law, administrative law); and (b) the array of formal and informal procedures (notices of inquiry, rulemakings, contested cases, deliberative decisionmaking, appellate review) available to decisionmakers and parties seeking to influence them. The experiential component will place each student within a state or federal regulatory agency, where he or she will address in real time such frontier topics as utility investments in "smart grid," broadband, nuclear plants or multi-state transmission lines; regional coordination of renewable energy policies; and cross-regional mergers. Student papers will address the lawyer's role in (a) integrating multiple professional disciplines; (b) maneuvering within multiple jurisdictions and fora; and (c) assessing and improving regulators' performance.
Prerequisites: Students must complete the required first-year program prior to enrolling in this course (part-time and interdivisional transfer students may enroll prior to completing Criminal Justice, Property, or their first-year elective). Recommended: Administrative law.
Students may not concurrently enroll in this practicum course and a clinic or another practicum course. Students may concurrently enroll in this practicum course and an externship.
This is a 4 credit course. 2 credits will be awarded for the 2-hour weekly seminar and 2 credits for approximately 10 hours of supervised work per week, for a minimum of 11 weeks. Both the seminar portion and the supervised work will be graded. (Note: Students’ work on the final paper – which students will submit to the client – will count toward the 10 hours per week obligation. Further, the 10 hours per week is an average, not a precise weekly requirement, and some weeks the hours may be slightly more or less.)
Students who enroll in this course will be automatically enrolled in both the seminar and practicum components and may not take either component separately. A student wishing to withdraw from the course will be withdrawn from both the seminar and field work components.
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