Q&A with Fox Rothschild’s Christopher Roe

March 13, 2013 – In The News

Christopher Roe is a partner and co-chairman of the environmental practice group at Fox Rothschild LLP. He represents clients in environmental matters, chemical handling and exposure, compliance, transactions and litigation, including mass tort defense. Roe is also a member of ASTM International’s Subcommittee on Real Estate Assessment and Management and serves on a subcommittee of Pennsylvania’s Cleanup Standards Science Advisory Board. Additionally, Roe is a member of the executive committee of the board of the Legal Clinic for the Disabled.

Q: What is the most challenging case you have worked on and what made it challenging?

A: One of the most challenging cases I worked on was outside my usual focus area of environmental law. It was an appeal of the suspension of in-home services under a state program to an indigent, severely paralyzed man for alleged sexual harassment of aides. We convinced an appellate court to overturn the administrative judge’s decision for denial of due process and returned to the same judge, who fixed the language of her decision.

We lost the second time in the appellate court and immediately reapplied for services based on the passage of time (five years) and good behavior. When we convinced an appellate court of the client’s right to a hearing on the new application, the agency settled and agreed to continue services. However, for six years, while this matter was pending, the client lived under constant threat of losing his ability to live in his home. Maintaining the client’s services during the legal proceedings, and achieving the final result, were among the most challenging and satisfying experiences of my career.

Q: What aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?

A: The ASTM protocol for phase I environmental site assessments is relevant to the sale of most commercial and all industrial properties. The primary target of that protocol is the identification of “recognized environmental conditions.” The presence of any recognized environmental conditions will affect the terms of sale and lending.

Unfortunately, the definition of recognized environmental condition in the protocol is confusing and contributes to wide variation in what consultants label “recognized environmental conditions.” I led a group that developed a revised definition, which is expected to be published this year. It is my hope that we are able to bring clarity to this issue when the revised definition is published.

Q: What is an important issue or case relevant to your practice area and why?

A: Vapor intrusion — the potential for chemical vapors to migrate from subsurface contamination into the indoor air of buildings — is an issue of growing importance for cleanups and brownfield redevelopment. I am involved in the revision of guidance on vapor intrusion in Pennsylvania, and our office here at Fox has made a formal request for the opportunity to review and comment on the draft guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Q: Outside your own firm, name an attorney in your field who has impressed you and explain why.

A: George Miller, now retired, led the environmental practice group at Dechert for many years and served as a judge — including chief judge — of the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board. George is the consummate gentleman litigator who balanced strong advocacy for his clients’ interests with professionalism in all of his interactions with the court, opposing counsel and litigants who appeared before him. He also was a terrific mentor to those of us who had the good fortune to work for him.1

Q: What is a mistake you made early in your career and what did you learn from it?

A: I was an editor before I became a lawyer. The first draft report from an environmental consultant I reviewed for a client I essentially rewrote to make it understandable. I’ve become much more judicious in my markups since then. Clarity is still key to me in environment-related reports and communications — especially because of the complex science and the focus on potential health risks. But I’ve learned to select consultants who understand the importance of clear writing and recognize that the words they choose are usually best.

The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.