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 Environmental 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 federal appellate 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.
Tai has published articles in a wide range of journals, from general journals such as the Southern California Law Review and the Arizona State University Law Journal to specialty journals such as the Georgetown Environmental Law Review and Ecology Law Quarterly. They are also co-author of a casebook on international environmental law: INTERNATIONAL LAW FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, and a current editor of Administrative and Regulatory Law News.
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 also currently serves as the Associate Dean for Education and Faculty Affairs at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
Professor Tai's leisure time is spent lifting weights, boxing, reading fiction, watching horror movies, cooking obscure dishes, listening to terrible pop punk, scouring farmers' markets, and annoying a rescue iguana named Megyn Kelly.
Scholarship & Publications
Steph Tai was a panelist for "Private Ordering: How will property owners, land trusts and corporations respond to the decrease in regulation?" during Sackett v. EPA: What the Supreme Court's Decision Means for Regulation and Wetlands Conservation on Nov. 10, 2023.
Steph Tai presented "In Fairness to Future Generations of Eaters" during the PBS Wisconsin Garden and Landscape Expo on Feb. 11, 2023. Tai discussed how climate change is affecting our culinary heritage, and how legal tools can help try to address that.
Professor Steph Tai, Library Services Assistant Jay Tucker and student Jacob Lindenbaum were named to the inaugural Association of American Law Schools' Pro Bono Honor Roll. The Pro Bono Honor Roll acknowledges and highlights the pro bono work of individuals engaging in, expanding and/or supporting their law school community in providing pro bono legal services.
A paper co-authored by Steph Tai was cited in the technical support document for the new Environmental Protection Agency Waters of the United States Rule. The paper is "Advocating for Science: Amici Curiae Brief of Wetland and Water Scientists in Support of the Clean Water Rule."
Steph Tai presented "Model Environmental Supply Chain Contracts" during the UC Hastings College of Law Colloquium on April 12, 2022. The presentation is based on a forthcoming article in an American Bar Association book entitled "Contracts for Responsible and Sustainable Supply Chains: Model Clauses, Legal Analysis, and Practical Discussion."
The International Institute of Space Law (IISL) has released the case for the 2022 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Competition. IISL held an orientation webinar regarding the upcoming edition of the competition on Sept. 23, 2021. The webinar included a question and answer segment with Steph Tai, a former competition winner, to discuss how the competition has influenced their career.
Steph Tai participated in the kickoff plenary session for the 2020 ABA Administrative Law Conference, "Recognizing and Addressing Racism in Administrative Law."
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.
News & Media
Friday, Jan 5, 2024PFAS Lawsuits Involve Complex Science and Law; Steph Tai Discusses
Wisconsin Public Radio
Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023Steph Tai Comments on New Farm Bill
Spectrum News 1
Tuesday, Aug 29, 2023Steph Tai: Finding the Fun in Bureaucracy
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Wednesday, Aug 23, 2023Steph Tai Comments on Landmark Montana Climate Suit Which Rules in Favor of Youth
Wisconsin Public Radio
Tuesday, Jul 18, 20232 UW Law Projects Awarded Research Forward Grants
Friday, Jun 30, 2023Steph Tai on the Sackett v. EPA Decision: What the Justices Said and What this Means for Water
Monday, Jun 5, 2023Noncompete Rules and Epic Systems: Steph Tai Offers Insight
Tuesday, Apr 4, 2023Steph Tai Comments on How Supreme Court Decisions Can Shape Our Future Climate
EESI's The Climate Conversation Podcast
Tuesday, Mar 7, 2023Steph Tai and Tahirih Lee: Even Conservative WI Supreme Court Justices Have Scolded Daniel Kelly for Poor Judgment
Thursday, Mar 2, 2023U.S. Supreme Court Appears Poised to Reject Loan Forgiveness; Steph Tai Comments
Wednesday, Oct 5, 2022States Act to Curb Employer Overuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements; Steph Tai Comments
Monday, Aug 29, 2022Steph Tai Comments on Next Steps for Students Seeking to Improve UW's Sustainability
The Cap Times
Monday, Jul 18, 2022Steph Tai on What the Supreme Court's EPA Ruling Means for Climate Change
Monday, Jul 18, 2022Steph Tai Discusses How Supreme Court Ruling Limits Regulation of Emissions
Wisconsin Public Radio
Tuesday, Mar 29, 2022UW Law launches Wisconsin Initiative on Law and Climate Change