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Tulane Law student wins the prestigious Burton Award for legal writing

March 21, 2024 8:30 AM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu




The Tulane Law Review’s Editor-in-Chief has won the prestigious Burton Award, marking the seventh time in a decade that a Tulane student has won the national legal writing award.

Cameron Ott (L’24) wrote his case note for the Law Review last year, where he now serves as the top editor for Volume 98. His case note is titled, Louisiana Wetlands, LLC v. Energen Res. Corp.: Has the Louisiana First Circuit’s Expansion of the Subsequent Purchaser Doctrine Post-Eagle Pipe Gone Too Far.

“I am incredibly honored to represent Tulane Law at the Burton Awards this year. I have always been passionate about both writing and environmental issues, so I very much enjoyed merging those interests through my case note," Ott said.

"I’m deeply grateful for the support and guidance from everyone who helped me refine and shape this piece, including Dean (Sally) Richardson and my fellow editors at the Tulane Law Review," he added. "Their invaluable insights and edits made this happen, and I am forever grateful.”

Ott joins a half-dozen other Tulanians who’ve won the award in recent years, including last year’s Law Review Notes and Comments Editor Kelly Constantine (L’23), who wrote about police use of “stop and frisk” policies.

“We are so proud of Cameron for winning the Burton Award,” said Interim Dean Sally Richardson.  “That Tulane Law School has become practically synonymous with the Burton Award speaks to the extraordinary talent and work ethic of our students, as well as the great strength of our legal research and writing program.”

Richardson noted the complexity of the subject matter, too.

“Cameron’s topic of the subsequent purchaser doctrine in Louisiana law was a challenging topic to tackle, to be sure.  It’s a confusing area of the law that courts and scholars have argued about for years,” she said. “Cameron did a masterful job analyzing the issue in his case note and I could not be more pleased to see him gain this national recognition for his writing.  He is a wonderful representative of the best of Tulane Law School.”

The Burton Award is one of the most prestigious awards for writing that law students can receive, and is highly competitive, drawing hundreds of submissions each year. It is given annually to about 15 law students whose work is at the highest standards nationally for legal writing.

Since 2014 -- with a pause in awards in 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic -- Tulane Law students have won the award seven times. 

In his article, Ott wrote about the Louisiana Wetlands case before the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal where a family attempted to sue several oil companies for tort damages after soil and groundwater testing revealed environmental contamination on their property. The court ultimately concluded the family had no right of action to pursue their contamination claim because they previously conveyed their property to their closely held LLC without including an explicit right to sue in the transfer. Ott notes that this result is a significant development in Louisiana jurisprudence because it marks the first time that a state court has interpreted the subsequent purchaser doctrine to include property transfers from family members to a company that they also own. He then explores what the court’s decision will mean for Louisiana property owners’ ability to receive compensation for past oil and gas operations gone wrong.

The awards, co-sponsored by the American Bar Association and Law360, are presented annually at a gala event at the Library of Congress.  This year, CNN anchor Chris Wallace is the master of ceremonies and recipients will also see a live musical performance by Idina Menzel. 

Ott, who has served as an editor on the Law Review since his 2L year, will receive his J.D. and Environmental Law Certificate this May. While in law school, he has also worked as a student attorney in the Environmental Law Clinic, mentored fellow students as a Dean Rufus Harris Fellow, and been a member of the First Generation Law Students Association.

After graduation, Ott will clerk for Judge Eldon E. Fallon in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Upon the completion of his clerkship, he will join Burns Charest LLP as an associate in their New Orleans office.