We recently announced that Trellis Legal added a new attorney to the firm, George Jugovic, Jr., so we thought we would share a little more information about George and the experience he is bringing to our firm!
What are your areas of expertise? Plainly, environmental law is one of them. I have a long history working for, with, and against the Department of Environmental Protection. The years that I spent as DEP’s Regional Director in Pittsburgh provided me a unique view of how the bureaucracy operates and what it takes to achieve results with the agency. After leaving DEP, I spent a number of years working as General Counsel for PennFuture, a statewide non-profit. That role exposed me to a number of different laws and rules that apply to non-profit organizations beyond the energy and environmental field in which the organization operated. I hope to leverage this knowledge, and my experience as a litigator, to expand the services offered to Trellis clients, and expand that client base into new areas.
What recent cases have you’ve worked on? I recently won a case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that was very interesting, in that it concerned the intersection of zoning, land use law, and the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. The case began in 2014, when I represented two families who opposed location of a shale gas well in the middle of their residential neighborhood. The local township approve the use under a conditional use permit. The families feared the well was not allowed by their local zoning ordinance and would impact public health and their way of life. We successfully overturned the local decision, but only after appeals through two appellate courts. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of our clients.
Another interesting matter on which I recently worked concerned a conservation easement. I represented the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association. That case questioned whether a local government could abandon a local park in favor of selling off the property for a residential development. The questioned turned on the interpretation of three different state laws. In the end, the Court agreed with our analysis that the municipality had not taken the steps required under applicable law to allow development of the public park.
What is your view of litigation? I’ve spent many years working before local government, state administrative hearings and both state and federal courts, and make no mistake, it is my view that litigation is the least efficient way of getting something accomplished. That is why I have always advised my clients to, first, make every effort to avoid litigation, and second, when faced with a disagreement, make a good faith effort to resolve that disagreement short of litigation. Litigation is costly and disruptive. But sometimes, despite best efforts, it ends up being the only way to resolve a dispute or to defend a principle, however, it should be a last resort because even when you know that you are right - you cannot predict that the judge will agree with you. So my advice is to spend the time up front negotiating a good contract or agreement that avoids disagreements down the road, and use good faith efforts to resolve disputes should a disagreement arise. And then, if litigation becomes unavoidable - make sure you have the right strategy (and attorneys!) to succeed.
What do you do in your off time? I enjoy hiking, hunting, and working on my small farm outside of Pittsburgh. I spent about eight years completely rehabilitating my 100-year-old farmhouse (from top to bottom). And just when I saw light at the end of that tunnel, I gained a English Labrador Retriever pup as a new family member. I’m not sure which is more challenging - the mind of a Lab puppy, or putting drywall on hand hewn studs in the farmhouse!