Professor of Law
J.D., Georgetown University Law Center
Ph.D., Tufts University
B.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Steph Tai's scholarly research examines the interactions between environmental and health sciences and administrative law. These include the consideration of scientific expertise and environmental justice concerns by administrative and judicial systems, and as well as the role of scientific dialogues in food systems regulation, and the ways in which private governance incorporates scientific research. Professor Tai was an adjunct law professor at Georgetown from 2002-2005 and a visiting professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law during the 2005-06 academic year. Teaching interests include administrative law, environmental law, food systems law, environmental justice, risk regulation, contracts (especially private governance and supply chains!), and comparative Asian environmental law.
Raised in the South by two chemists, Professor Tai decided to combine their chemistry background with a legal education to improve the use of science in environmental protection. At Georgetown, Professor Tai was the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review and a member of the Georgetown Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Team.
After graduating from Georgetown, Professor Tai worked as the editor-in-chief of the International Review for Environemental Strategies, a publication by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Japan. Professor Tai has also served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Ronald Lee Gilman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Professor Tai then worked as an appellate attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, briefing and arguing cases involving a range of issues, from the protection of endangered cave species in Texas to the issuance of dredge and fill permits under the Clean Water Act. From 2013-2014, Professor Tai served as a U.S. Supreme Court Fellow as a researcher in the Federal Judicial Center.
Professor Tai actively represents amici in federal circuit court and Supreme Court cases. During the summer before joining the Wisconsin Law School faculty, Professor Tai teamed up with several other law professors to work on two Supreme Court amicus briefs: one for a group of legislators in Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy Corp., No. 05-0848, and another for a group of scientists in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 05-1120. Professor Tai still continues this work, representing commercial fishers in Entergy Corp. v. Environmental Protection Agency, Nos. 07-588, 07-589, 07-597; organic farmers in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475; former senior environmental agency officials in Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Nos. 11-338, 11-347; and prominent climate scientists in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, D.C. Cir. Nos. 15-1363 et al. Their Supreme Court amicus brief in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, co-authored with Royal Gardner from Stetson University College of Law et al. and written on behalf of numerous professional aquatic science societies, was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its majority opinion.
Professor Tai's leisure time is spent lifting weights, boxing, reading fiction, listening to terrible pop punk, scouring farmers' markets, and annoying a rescue iguana named Megyn Kelly.
Scholarship & Publications
Steph Tai was a panelist at the Forward in Energy Forum, hosted in October by the Wisconsin Energy Institute. Forum speakers discussed the plans, policies and agendas of the two major presidential candidates.
Steph Tai presented "Racism and Informal Agency Adjudicatory Decisions, or, Is Racism Arbitrary and Capricious?" at the Online Symposium on Racism and Administrative Law, sponsored by the Yale Journal on Regulation.
Works by Olivia McCarthy '20 and Jacob Mohr '19 have been accepted for publication in the Drake Journal of Agricultural Law. Their research was part of Steph Tai's Contracts II class. McCarthy's essay is entitled "Moving the Family Farm into the Future: The Role of Dairy Contracts in Sustaining the Family Farm," and Mohr's article is entitled "High Damages or Mere Refunds? Unconscionability and Failure of Essential Purpose in Contracts for Defective Hemp Seed."
Steph Tai co-presented "Clean Water Webinar: Lessons Learned from the Supreme Court's Maui Decision" in May 2020. The webinar was sponsored by Center for Progressive Reform, of which Tai is a member scholar.
Steph Tai's amicus brief (co-authored with Royal Gardner, Erin Okuno, Kathleen Gardner, and Christopher Greer) was cited by the Supreme Court in its April 2020 County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (PDF) decision. The brief was written in support of the respondents, who prevailed in the ruling.
Steph Tai presented "A Scaffolding Approach to Environmental Justice" (co-written with Jayesh Patel) at the 2020 Detroit Mercy Law Review Symposium titled "Race, Class and Environmental Justice." The article is forthcoming in the Detroit Mercy Law Review.
Three articles written by students in Steph Tai's Contracts II class have been accepted for publication: Benjamin Eastman's "Amtrak and Freight Railroads: How Property Rights and Statuatory Mandates Control the Contractual Agreements Between Parties" in the Journal of Transportation Law, Logistics and Policy; Nicholas Enger's "Offers You Cannot Refuse: Post Hire Noncompete Agreement Insertions and Procedural Unconscionability Doctrine" in the Wisconsin Law Review; and Kris Turner's "Creating Contracts in a Vacuum: Space Mining and the Creation of Future Contract Law" in Natural Resources Journal.
Steph Tai participated on a panel addressing environmental justice beyond the Rust Belt's urban core for a symposium titled, "The Green New Deal and Exurban Policy: Combating Suburban Inertia, Agribusiness Dominance, and the Erosion of Tribal Sovereignty." The symposium was held at the University of Dayton in January 2020.
Steph Tai presented "Farming Away from Home: Exploring State Support for Refugee Farmers" at the January 2020 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS).
Steph Tai discussed their article, "Legalizing the Meaning of Meat," during the lunchtime talk at the 2019 Conference on Food Law and Policy, held at Georgia State University College of Law in December.
Steph Tai presented their article, "In Fairness to Future Generations of Eaters," at Georgetown Environmental Law Review's symposium, "Modernizing International Environmental Law: Honoring the Work of Professor Edith Brown Weiss." The article will be published in a forthcoming edition of the Law Review.
Steph Tai was a panel participant in "Scientists in Public Service: Running for Office as a STEM Candidate at Sigma Xi's 2019 Annual Meeting & Student Research Conference, held in Madison in November 2019.
An amicus brief written by Steph Tai was referenced by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer during oral argument (PDF) in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund (see page 44). The brief was written for aquatic scientists and scientific societies on behalf of the respondents.
News & Media
Friday, Oct 9, 2020Steph Tai discusses the impact of the amicus brief in a recent Supreme Court clean water case
Monday, Sep 28, 2020Steph Tai discusses what's at stake in the 2020 election regarding environmental and energy justice issues
Wisconsin Public Radio
Tuesday, Jul 21, 2020Trump administration weakens major environmental act; Steph Tai comments
Wisconsin Public Radio
Wednesday, Dec 18, 2019Steph Tai: Competition, not consumer confusion, is behind industry's push for meat labeling laws
Georgia State University News
Wednesday, Oct 16, 2019Lawmakers propose changes to nut milk, plant-based meat labels; Steph Tai weighs in
Friday, Oct 11, 2019Steph Tai discusses proposed restrictions on meat and dairy labeling
Monday, Jun 3, 2019Trump administration restricts federal climate change reporting; Steph Tai comments
Wisconsin Public Radio
Monday, Sep 17, 2018Steph Tai discusses Monsanto's appeal of $289 million glyphosate verdict
Tuesday, Sep 11, 2018Steph Tai discusses Trump administration's plan to weaken methane air pollution rules
Wisconsin Public Radio
Thursday, Aug 16, 2018Steph Tai outlines changes in EPA's approach to using science in policy making
State Bar of Wisconsin News
Wednesday, Jul 25, 2018Steph Tai: America needs independent judges
Tuesday, May 15, 2018Steph Tai submits amicus brief in Clean Water Rule suspension case
Society of Wetland Scientists News
Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018Steph Tai discusses the Trump administration's move to permit off-shore drilling in federally protected waters
Wisconsin Public Radio
Thursday, Nov 16, 2017How unprecedented is President Trump's politicization of science? Steph Tai weighs in
- Administrative Law
- Environmental Law
- Law and Science
- Natural Resources Law
Recently Taught Courses
- Administrative Law (744)
- Appellate Advocacy (moot board & coaches) (815)
- Appellate Advocacy (moot court competitors) (815)
- Appellate Advocacy (moot court-Environmental Law (ELS)) (815)
- Appellate Advocacy (moot court-Heffernan) (815)
- Appellate Advocacy- Moot Court (Heffernan Competition) (815)
- Clinical Program: Midwestern Environmental Advocates Externship (854)
- Contracts II (721)
- Intro to Environmental Law (848)
- SP Environmental Law: Food Systems Law and the Environment (988)