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J.D., Columbus School of Law, Catholic University

B.A., The College of Notre Dame of Maryland


District of Columbia

U.S. District Court: District of Columbia

U.S. Court of Appeals: District of Columbia Circuit, Third Circuit, Fourth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit

U.S. Supreme Court 



Carolyn Smith Pravlik


(202) 204-8475

Carolyn Smith Pravlik joined the firm as an associate in 1981 after being fired by Ronald Reagan’s environmentally hostile Secretary of the Interior, James Watt.  Since 1982, Ms. Pravlik has spearheaded the firm’s citizen suit practice.  The firm has litigated over 100 citizen suits under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Representative Cases

Ms. Pravlik was the primary author of the briefs filed before the Supreme Court in Friends of the Earth v. Laidlaw Envtl. Services (TOC), Inc., 528 U.S. 167 (2000), the landmark decision holding that citizens have standing to pursue violations of the Clean Water Act.  She and Mr. Terris represented Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club and CLEAN before the district court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court in that case.  Ms. Pravlik’s work has resulted in a number of decisions of first impression under the Clean Water Act: 

(1) the first decision awarding summary judgment on liability issues (SPIRG v. Monsanto Co., 600 F. Supp. 1479 (D.N.J. 1985)); 

(2) the first decision upholding the constitutionality of the citizen suit provisions of the Act (SPIRG v. Monsanto Co., 600 F. Supp. 1474 (D.N.J. 1985)); 

(3) the first decisions imposing the then statutory maximum civil penalty of $10,000 per violation (SPIRG v. Monsanto Co., 29 ERC 1988 (D.N.J. 1988), SPIRG v. Hercules, Inc., 29 ERC 1417 (D.N.J. 1989), PIRG v. Powell Duffryn Terminals, Inc., 720 F. Supp. 1158 (1989), affirmed, 913 F.2d 64 (3d Cir. 1990); and 

(4) the first decision requiring a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) to apply for an NPDES permit (ACA v. Murphy Farms, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21402 (E.D.N.C. Dec. 22, 1998),
appeal dismissed in part and remanded in part, 210 F.3d 360 (4th Cir. 2000)(Table, text reported at 2000 WL 328027, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 5460, 50 ERC 1632)(subsequent decisions: No. 7:98-CV-4 (Doc. No. 355)(E.D.N.C. Apr. 3, 2002), affirmed in part and remanded in part, 326 F.3d 505 (4th Cir. 2003); No. 7:98-CV-4 (Doc. Nos. 407, 408 (E.D.N.C. June 17, 2004), affirmed, 412 F.3d 536 (4th Cir. 2005)). 

Ms. Pravlik is frequently invited to speak at seminars addressing the topic of citizen suits.