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Erin Ryan

Associate Professor of Law

Erin Ryan teaches environmental and natural resources law, property and land use, water law, negotiation, and federalism.  She has presented at academic and administrative venues in the United States, Europe, and Asia, including the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, the U.S.D.A. Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets, and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.  She has advised National Sea Grant multilevel governance studies involving Chesapeake Bay and consulted with multiple institutions on developing sustainability programs.  She has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, the London Financial Times, the PBS Newshour and Christian Science Monitor’s “Patchwork Nation” project, and on National Public Radio.  She is the author of many scholarly works, including Federalism and the Tug of War Within (Oxford, 2012). 

Professor Ryan is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and a Hewlett Fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Research Project.  She clerked for Chief Judge James R. Browning of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before practicing environmental, land use, and local government law in San Francisco.  She began her academic career at the College of William & Mary in 2004, and she joined the faculty at the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in 2011.  Ryan spent 2011-12 as a Fulbright Scholar in China, during which she taught American law, studied Chinese governance, and lectured throughout Asia.   

Prior to law school, she served as a U.S. Forest Service ranger on the Mono Lake District of the Inyo National Forest, east of Yosemite National Park.  She graduated from Harvard College with a degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations and received a Master’s degree in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University. 


Specialty Areas & Course Descriptions

Academic Credentials

  • B.A. 1991 Harvard-Radcliffe College, cum laude
  • M.A. 1994 Wesleyan University
  • J.D. 2001 Harvard Law School, cum laude



Law Review Articles, Essays, and Book Chapters

  • Breathing Air with Heft: Environmental Regulation and Public Health in Urban China , forthcoming, 2013 (article describing environmental challenges in China and illuminating some of the cultural gaps that American and Chinese partners will inevitably encounter as we work together to solve global environmental challenges).
  • The Elaborate Paper Tiger: Environmental Enforcement and the Rule of Law in China , 24 Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum __ (forthcoming, 2014) (article reviewing how enforcement hurdles have undermined the success of Chinese environmental law and proposing a modest but politically feasible reform measure).
  • The Spending Power and Environmental Law After Sebelius , 85 U. Colorado L. Rev. __ (forthcoming, 2014) (article analyzing the Supreme Court’s new spending power doctrine and its impact on spending power-based programs of cooperative federalism in environmental law) (expanding the below Issue Brief for the American Constitution Society).
  • Negotiating Federalism Past the Zero-Sum Game, ”  38 Administrative and Regulatory Law News 4, Fall 2012, (invited essay reviewing how state-federal bargaining will be impacted by the Supreme Court’s spending power analysis in its 2012 Affordable Care Act decision) (also reprinting Spending Power Bargaining After Sebelius).
  • The Once and Future Challenges of American Federalism , in Alberto López Basaguren and Leire Escajedo San-Epifanio, eds., THE WAYS OF FEDERALISM IN WESTERN COUNTRIES AND THE HORIZONS OF TERRITORIAL AUTONOMY IN SPAIN, Vol. 1 (Springer, 2013) (book chapter analyzing current federalism controversies in the United States through the FEDERALISM AND THE TUG OF WAR WITHIN framework of analysis).
  • Negotiating Federalism , 52 B.C.L. REV. 1 (2011) (article exploring the role of state-federal bargaining in allocating authority, shepherding collaboration, and interpreting federalism in contexts of jurisdictional overlap). Cited by Professor Lawrence Solum on the Legal Theory Blog on April 7, 2010.
  • Intergovernmental Bargaining and Climate Federalism , United Nations Institute for Training and Research research paper, September, 2010 (web-published essay applying the negotiated federalism model in the specific context of multilevel climate governance), extrapolated from Negotiating Federalism.
  • How the New Federalism Failed Katrina Victims , in Robin Malloy & John Lovett, eds., LAW AND RECOVERY FROM DISASTER: HURRICANE KATRINA (Ashgate Press, 2009) (book chapter addressing the relationship between federalism and the Katrina aftermath), drawn from Federalism and the Tug of War Within, 66 Md. L. Rev. 503 (2007). Cited on the Legal Theory Blog (7/12/10), Law Matters Blog (7/12/10), and Poverty Law Blog (7/23/10).
  • Federalism and the Tug of War Within: Seeking Checks and Balance in the Interjurisdictional Gray Area , 66 Maryland L. Rev. 503 (2007) (article exploring how tension between underlying federalism principles shaped the progression of federalism theory over the 20th century, culminating in the New Federalism’s difficulty accounting for interjurisdictional problems). Excerpted in STONE, SEIDMANN, SUNSTEIN, TUSHNET, & KARLAN, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW (Aspen, 6th ed., 2009) and FARBER, CHEN, & VERCHICK, DISASTER LAW AND POLICY (Aspen, 2010). Cited in the 2010 HARVARD LAW REVIEW “Foreword,” Heather Gerken, Federalism All the Way Down, 124 HARV. L. REV. 4, 20-21, nn. 50 & 58 (as scholarship developing the kinds of “new conceptual tools” needed in the federalism discourse).
  • Building the Emotionally Learned Negotiator , 22 NEGOTIATION J. 209 (2006) (invited essay reviewing three recent books on emotion in negotiation, situating each work within a proposed theory of practice for learned negotiators). Quoted on second edition jacket of FISHER & SHAPIRO, BEYOND REASON (Viking, 2005).
  • The Discourse Beneath: Emotional Epistemology in Legal Deliberation and Negotiation , 10 HARV. NEGOT. L. REV. 231 (2005) (article exploring how the cognitive processing of emotionally resonant data facilitates inductive reasoning and how the subterranean exchange of emotional information between participants facilitates negotiation). Excerpted in BROOKS & MADDEN, RELATIONSHIP-CENTERED LAWYERING: SOCIAL SCIENCE THEORY FOR TRANSFORMING LEGAL PRACTICE (Carolina Academic Press, 2009).

Other Publications

  • Spending Power Bargaining After Sebelius,” OUP Blog, July 3, 2012 (essay commenting on the spending power implications of Chief Justice Robert’s opinion in the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act decision). Available at (Versions of the same essay were published on the AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY BLOG and the ENVIRONMENTAL LAW PROFS BLOG later that month.)
  • Health Care Reform and Federalism’s Tug of War Within,” REGBLOG, AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY BLOG, June 21, 2012 (essay explaining the battle over the Affordable Care Act in terms of the classic American federalism debates, and proposing a better way of analyzing this and all federalism issues). Available at (Republished on OXFORD BLOG, June 28.)
  • Beyond I-Got-Mine-Jack Health Care,” versions published in the VIRGINIAN-PILOT (VA), September 21, 2009 at 9; the STAR LEDGER (NJ), September 22, 2009 at 13, and as a guest blog on the American Constitution Society at William & Mary School of Law, September 23, 2009 (op-ed urging those who warn that health care reform will lead to rationing not to forsake the victims of the rationing we already have). Available at
  • Breaking Ground on the New Green Deal,” AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY AT WILLIAM & MARY SCHOOL OF LAW, Guest Blog, February 14, 2009 (op-ed urging reluctant members of Congress to act on stimulus proposals to invest in a renewable energy economy). Available at Republished October 1, 2009, by the Hampton Roads Partnership Blog.
  • A Swing State Voter’s Epiphany,” CHICAGO TRIBUNE, November 6, 2008, at C-43 (op-ed forecasting redemption for the fractured American electorate based on deep election-day kindnesses in politically divided southeastern Virginia). Republished November 7, 2008, by the Hampton Roads Partnership Blog at:
  • Protecting Even ‘Incendiary’ Speech from Censorship,” CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, March 18, 2005 (letter to the editor arguing that “the answer to disquieting speech is more speech” in response to controversy over Professor Ward Churchill’s post-9/11 remarks). Available at
  • New Housing Laws Favor Developers,” WESTERN CITY, Vol. LXXXIX, No. 3 (March 2003), at 14 (article critiquing incentives for localities by new limits on judicial discretion in applying land use fee-shifting statutes). Quoted at length in the California State Senate’s June 23, 2003 Bill Analysis for proposed SB 619, a bill seeking substantial reform of the state’s affordable housing laws to expedite the development of affordable housing in California. (Bill Analysis available at
  • Commentary: Vedanta Society of Southern Cal. v. California Quartet (limiting “private attorney general” fee-shifting under California Environmental Quality Act), 2003 CAL. ENVTL. L. REPORTER 16 (Jan. 2003).
  • Commentary: Environmental Defense Center v. EPA (affirming in part and remanding in part EPA’s Clean Water Act stormwater regulations), 2003 CAL. ENVTL. L. REPORTER 122 (March 2003).
  • The Once and Future Farm: Keeping Farms in Vermont,” CONSERVATION MATTERS, Vol. VI, No. 3 (Fall 1999), at 32 (article contrasting environmentally unsound “factory” farming practices with stewardship approach of small farms, and proposing an economically sustainable intergenerational transfer program to forestall further decline).
  • The Worcester Report, The Better Homes Foundation, 1992 (monograph analyzing MA housing crisis).
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Erin Ryan’s office is located in room 221 of Legal Research Center.


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Erin Ryan Associate Professor of Law

Lewis & Clark Law School 10015 S.W. Terwilliger Boulevard MSC 51 Portland OR 97219 USA

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