Topeka, Kan. — Washburn University School of Law is thrilled to announce that James R. May, a preeminent scholar and advocate in environmental, constitutional and human rights law, will join the faculty this fall as the Richard S. Righter Distinguished Professor of Law. May, a native of Kansas, returns to his home state from Widener University Delaware Law School, where he served as Distinguished Professor of Law, founder of the Global Environmental Rights Institute, co-founder of the Dignity Law Institute and chief sustainability officer.

“We are honored to welcome Professor May to Washburn Law,” said Dean Jeffrey Jackson. “His exceptional expertise in environmental and constitutional law, coupled with his dedication to advancing human rights and sustainability, will significantly enhance our academic community and enrich the educational experience for our students.”

Throughout his illustrious career, May has been at the forefront of groundbreaking legal developments. He pioneered precedent-setting litigation to implement water quality standards, conserve endangered species, improve air quality and address climate change across the country. He has played a pivotal role in advancing environmental and dignity rights across the United States and globally, contributing to legal reforms nationally and around the globe.

May has published more than 20 books and 120 law articles and chapters. May’s prolific scholarship and extensive body of work has been instrumental in shaping the discourse on environmental rights and constitutional law, earning him accolades from prestigious institutions and organizations, including the American Bar Association, Sierra Club, American Canoe Association, Haub School of Law at Pace University, Widener University and the University of Kansas (KU). May is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and the American College of Environmental Lawyers.

In addition to his academic achievements, May has been a tireless advocate for environmental justice. He spearheaded the effort that led to the American Bar Association’s adoption of a resolution to advance environmental justice in 2021 and currently serves as the Special Legal Advisor to the ABA Task Force on Environmental Justice. He has been recognized by LawDragon and Martindale Hubbard as one of the world’s leading environmental lawyers.

May also holds his LL.M. in Environmental Law from Haub School of Law at Pace University, where he has been Feldshuh Fellow, Haub Visiting Scholar, and Visiting Professor.

May has deep roots in Kansas. His return to Kansas is a homecoming to his alma mater, KU where he earned his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering, where he was a Bowman Scholar. He also earned his J.D. from KU and was a National Environmental Law Moot Court Champion. He served as a Q-clearance engineer at Allied-Signal Aerospace and as an environmental compliance engineer at Black & Veatch in Kansas City. He attended middle and high school in Shawnee Mission and is licensed to practice law in Kansas. His connection to the state and his commitment to public service resonate with Washburn Law’s mission to educate the next generation of legal professionals who work to enhance the strength, integrity and dynamism of the legal community.

“I am excited to join the esteemed faculty at Washburn Law and to contribute to the school’s tradition of excellence,” said May. “I look forward to engaging with students and colleagues to advance understanding of environmental and human rights law and to foster a more just and sustainable future.”

During the next academic year, May will be teaching courses in environmental law, human dignity rights and environmental rights.

Washburn University School of Law – ABA-Accredited Since 1923
Washburn University School of Law was founded in 1903 with 41 students enrolled in the first class. Almost 120 years later, our worldwide network of more than 7,000 alumni includes nationally recognized lawyers, state and federal judges, Kansas Supreme Court Justices, politicians, television journalists and senior executives of Fortune 500 companies and national legal associations. Washburn University School of Law is dedicated to providing its students with a rigorous and comprehensive legal education, and its tradition of excellence in teaching is enhanced by its innovative Third Year Anywhere® program and seven Centers for Excellence: the Business and Transactional Law Center, the Center for Excellence in Advocacy, the Center for Law and Government, the Children and Family Law Center, the Intellectual Property and Technology Law Center, the International and Comparative Law Center, and the Oil and Gas Law Center. In July 2023, the School of Law moved to Robert J. Dole Hall, a state-of-the-art facility named after the former Senator and Washburn Law alumnus. For more information about Washburn Law, visit


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