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Suffolk Closeup: A pioneering lawmaker in protecting the environment
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Suffolk Closeup: A pioneering lawmaker in protecting the environment

Suffolk Closeup: A pioneer in creating laws protecting the environment

So now we are stuck here in paradise, Victor J. Yannacone, Jr., a colorful and feisty Suffolk County lawyer, was saying from Maui, Hawaii, the other day.

Carol Yannacone, Mr. Yannacone’s wife, had traveled to Victor J. Yannacone III’s home to see him for Thanksgiving 2019. We were planning to stay until April or May. The epidemic of COVID-19 struck and we were quarantined. We never got home.

At 85, I have severe arthritis and don’t want to fly home. They are in paradise.

After a long career as a Suffolk lawyer, Mr. Yannacone is still involved with legal matters. I’ve been practicing civil rights law since Hawaii, where I also worked with Cory H. Morris. His practice is in Melville.

It was there, he notes on his website.,He was the one who coined the term and established the field of Environmental Law in the 1960s when DDT litigation was raging. It was pioneered by Mr. Yannacone and is now a global legal specialty.

In an effort to stop the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Commission (then called the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Commission) from spraying DDT, Mr. Yannacone filed a suit in the name of his wife Carol.

DDT was banned in the United States after this lawsuit was filed. The Environmental Defense Fund, a national organization, was founded by the Suffolk group behind this lawsuit.

Mr. Yannacone re-counted the events that took place in Riverhead in June 1966 at the New York State Supreme Court, Suffolk County. The suit was meant to prohibit the county commission. Years later, Mr. Yannacone still speaks the same words.

The attorney for Brightwaters asked the judge in this case, Justice D. Ormonde Ritchie (deceased), “What is the basis for this suit?” Mr. Yannacone stated.

The judge then turned to me, asking, Where should your adversary look it up? Mr. Yannacone recalled. I said, Try environmental law.

The New York Times and other newspapers described the case as involving a new concept in law in their accounts.

Mr. Yannacone would go on to write the two-volume treatise Environmental Rights & Remedies. He also established the Environmental Law Section at the American Trial Association and gave presentations throughout the years about environmental law in the U.S.A. and around the world. 

He gave what became known as the Sue The Bastards Speech in 1968 at a National Audubon Society convention. Mr. Yannacone said that I urged National Audubon not to follow the civil rights movement but to knock on the doors of courts across the country and seek justice for the environment. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the diverse populations of animals and plants on which human life depends, was the speech.

In 1994. Patchogue, where his law practice was located, elected Mr. Yannacone village justice. His website says that he remained on the bench throughout 2002 and decided more than 8,000 cases.

He was also an attorney in litigation involving Long Island Lighting Company’s Shoreham nuclear power station, a failed project he challenged, and was an attorney for veterans who were affected by Agent Orange, the toxic chemical used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. The $180 million settlement for the class action suit, which was the largest settlement in U.S. legal history, was reached in 1974.

He founded the Brookhaven Town Council on the Arts, as well the Brookhaven Town Symphony Orchestra. To top it all, Mr. Yannacone also performed with the Brookhaven Town Symphony Orchestra and other musical groups such as The Symphonic Band of Suffolk (Big Band East) and The Symphonic Band of Suffolk (Big Band East). The only thing I miss about getting older, stated Mr. Yannacone, a Hawaiian baritone saxophone player. His arthritis has gotten so bad that I can’t play any more.

I’ve passed his baritone Saxophone on to my grandson.

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