On Thursday, February 8, 2024, CURE’s Legal Director, Hudson Kingston, was honored as a 2023 Minnesota Attorney of the Year, awarded by Minnesota Lawyer magazine. Hudson is being recognized as part of the legal team that represented the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) in their David-and-Goliath struggle against the City of Minneapolis. EPNI sued the City to stop the demolition of the Roof Depot site in the East Phillips neighborhood and to halt the construction of a sprawling industrial city works facility.
Hudson, who joined CURE in August 2023, has spent his career working at the interface of public health, environmental protection, consumer protection, and corporate and government accountability. His background in environmental law was a key addition to the EPNI legal team, led by Elizabeth Royal, which sought to halt the City’s plans to bring more chronic pollution to one of Minnesota’s most economically- and pollution-burdened communities.
East Phillips is one of the most diverse communities in Minneapolis, including the Little Earth of United Tribes, the nation’s only Native-preference housing community. It is also a hub for existing pollution sources, including highways, an iron foundry, and an asphalt plant, leading to some of the worst air quality in the state. The Roof Depot site covers and caps legacy arsenic pollution that was put there by a now-defunct pesticide company.
“The City of Minneapolis didn’t want to listen to EPNI or the community’s concerns who were being forced to shoulder the burden of another polluting facility,” said Kingston.
“I learned from this case that grassroots groups need legal tools to protect their interests, and the legal system needs people and community to raise their voices to secure long-term wins for themselves and the environment.”
As part of a larger community-led effort, Kingston saw that effective organizing requires more than individual legal experts – the neighborhood and key allies, such as the American Indian Movement, effectively put pressure on the City until a political resolution could be found at the state legislature.
“Folks throughout the state can push for better solutions for their towns or townships, combining legal and political power and home-grown ingenuity. Like how EPNI and its coalition brought their ideas and power to bear to save the Roof Depot from demolition, we can solve our own problems given the right policy tools and information,” Kingston added.
In May 2023, the East Phillips community won their fight and secured a deal from the Minnesota legislature that allowed EPNI to obtain the rights to the Roof Depot. Today, the community plans to transform the site into an urban farm and community center. While no longer in active litigation, Elizabeth Royal continues to work with EPNI on their development plan and community revitalization efforts.
As Legal Director, Hudson steers CURE’s legal strategy to ensure that rural community interests are given a voice in the places where decisions are made about energy, agriculture, and the environment. CURE’s legal team works at the legislature, state and federal agencies, and in public meetings and county boards to ensure that rural people are central to solving their own environmental problems democratically and transparently.