Future Air Force Lawyer Studying Environmental Issues in VCPC

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Future Air Force Lawyer Studying Environmental Issues in VCPC

Ross Hoogstraten will help determine legal responsibility for ditch maintenance in Matthews County.

Ross Hoogstraten.

Ross Hoogstraten.

By Chris Patrick, staff writer

Ross Hoogstraten says he’s always been interested in law and credits this partly to his family. His mom works in a law firm, two of his uncles are judges, and his stepbrother is a lawyer in Virginia’s Office of the Attorney General.

On a personal level, Hoogstraten—now in his final year at William & Mary Law School and a student in the Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC)—enjoys the variety of law.

“Reading case laws for class, I learn something new from different fields every day,” he says. In the VCPC, Hoogstraten is focusing more on environmental law. He thinks the exposure to environmental issues he’s getting in the VCPC will benefit him after graduation, when he will begin working as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) for the Air Force.

Environmental and military law can overlap, as Hoogstraten learned on a recent VCPC field trip to Cheatham Annex, a Naval Base near Williamsburg, VA. During the field trip, a Judge Advocate General for the Navy pointed out that, as part of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, ships have a sailor looking out for marine mammals to prevent collisions. In the Air Force, Hoogstraten may have to deal with similar environmental issues.

As a VCPC student this semester, he will help determine legal responsibility for ditch maintenance in Matthews County. Currently, Virginia Department of Transportation takes care of the roadside ditches, clearing them out after storms. But no one is sure who is responsible for ditches on or near residential property. Because no one maintains these, they back up and cause flooding.

Determining who owns property can be convoluted, especially in Virginia where records are sometimes very old. Hoogstraten enjoys the hands-on experience.

“With the project, I get to investigate and make relationships with people in the field,” Hoogstraten says. “It’s exciting to be involved in real-life issues.”

Hoogstraten received a bachelor’s in government from the University of Virginia in 2013. He’s a native of Poquoson, VA.

An extension partner of Virginia Sea Grant, VCPC at William & Mary Law School provides policy and legal analysis to its partners on coastal resource and community issues in its mission to educate and train the future lawyers and leaders of tomorrow.