For more than 20 years, WVU Law professor Patrick McGinley has been a regular visitor to Ukraine, helping the embattled country build and maintain a democracy.
McGinley, who teaches environmental law and environmental justice, says his trips to the former Soviet republic have had a deep influence on his teaching, service and scholarship.
“We need only look to the experiences of Ukraine to realize how easily democracy can slip away from us if we do not hew to the rule of law,” he said. “I try to emphasize in my work and in my teaching that judges, lawyers and law students each have an important role to play in insuring that all of us adhere to the highest ethical, professional and moral standards.”
McGinley’s involvement with Ukraine dates to the mid-1990s, when WVU established a partnership with Donetsk National University following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The relationship between the two universities, since discontinued, was initially established to encourage the growth of democracy and the rule of law.
“It was in Donetsk that I first gained insight into the character, culture and aspirations of the people of Ukraine,” McGinley said.
In 1996, following his first trip to Donetsk, McGinley was asked by the American Bar Association to serve as a presenter and facilitator at a public advocacy workshop for lawyers and judges.
At that workshop, McGinley met and became close friends with the late Svitlana Kravchenko, a law professor at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv in western Ukraine. Her husband was John Bonine, a renowned environmental law professor at the University of Oregon.
An international expert on human rights and environmental law, Kravchenko founded Environment People Law in 1994. Based in Lviv, EPL has grown into a top public interest law organization in the Ukraine, protecting the environment and human rights while providing clinical experiences for law students.
McGinley serves on the EPL board and says the organization’s success has not been an easy path given the Ukraine’s political and economic turmoil over the last 20 years.
“They have built a body of legal and scientific expertise regarding environmental law, regulation and science,” McGinley said. “I have observed from a distance and up-close during my trips to Ukraine the deep commitment of EPL to the rule of law and a creation of a just society.” Kravchenko passed away suddenly in 2012. When EPL invited McGinley to speak at an international symposium held in her honor last fall, he made the trip to Lviv in spite of the Ukraine’s ongoing conflict with separatists.
At the symposium, which included legal scholars, judges and lawyers from 17 countries, McGinley gave a presentation on human rights and the environment. He also gave a lecture on human rights and the environment in the U.S. to law students at Ivan Franko National University.
Back home in Morgantown, McGinley keeps in touch with his Ukrainian colleagues and follows news about the war, which now stretches from the Crimea and the Russian-dominated Donetsk-Donbas in the east to Kyiv and Lviv in the West.
“It is my fervent hope that the friends and colleagues I know and have worked with will find a road to peace and democracy,” he said. “For my part, I will continue to work with and support EPL as a way of offering some small measure of support during Ukraine’s struggle for democracy.”