Kristen Boyles is a staff attorney in Earthjustice's Northwest regional office.
In 1987, after two or three potential majors and much time spent on the water with the sailing team, she graduated from Stanford University with a degree in creative writing. After brief stints as a journalist (one of the forgone majors) for the Point Reyes Light and an industrial chemist (the other forgone major) with Ampex, she entered Cornell Law School, where she was Note Editor of the Cornell Law Review, worked at the legal aid clinic, taught classes to both graduate and undergraduate students, and graduated cum laude in 1991.
Kristen clerked for Judge Raymond J. Pettine in the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island and Judge Robert R. Beezer in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Seattle. A four-year stint as an Earthjustice associate attorney (1993–1997) led to a position as a staff attorney for Pacific Rivers Council (1997–1999).
Kristen, her husband Trenton Cladouhos, and her children Henry and Ying live in Seattle with two cats, three fish, and quite a few dust bunnies.
I have been playing in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. Growing up in rural Maine, my family grew all our own organic vegetables, raised hundreds of chickens and rabbits, and heated our house with wood cut from the "backyard." I had acres of white pine trees to climb and miles of rivers and beaches to wade. From science fair projects to founding Frog Research Operation Group (FROG), a three-kid club that rescued stranded frogs from a road construction site, my childhood gave me the view that the outdoors was best and that it was my responsibility to protect it.
So this is my version of "young Bill Clinton shakes President Kennedy's hand." That's me at 12, looking quite small next to Maine Senator Edmund Muskie, longstanding environmental champion and legislative force behind many of the statutes I now use everyday. He is looming above me because I wrote a poem about oil tankers polluting the ocean. And while I never knew what I was going to be when I grew up, looking at this picture, I know I'm lucky to have found a home at Earthjustice.
My interest in the outdoors and sciences stayed with me as I went to college in California. I spent those years doing as much sailing, swimming, rock-climbing, hiking, and back-country skiing as classes allowed (and sometimes didn't allow). All that playing paid off, for I fell in love with the West (and my husband) while in college. The journey from the top of Bradbury Mountain in Pownal, Maine (485 feet) to the top of Mount Rainier in Washington (14,410 feet) might seem longer than it has actually been—each step simply opened up new vistas to explore.
After school, I tried a little journalism and then a little chemistry, but I ultimately opted for law school—not really knowing what lawyers do. In fact, I went to law school thinking I'd be the next Nina Totenberg, but that changed after graduation, when I clerked for two remarkable federal court judges. That experience convinced me that I wanted to litigate, not just write about litigation. In 1993, after hiking and soaking in hot springs on the Olympic Peninsula with new friends and overhearing a stray remark about a job opening at Earthjustice (then Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund), I became an associate attorney here in Seattle. Earthjustice's associate attorney program is unique because it gives young attorneys a chance to learn from some of the best environmental lawyers anywhere. After I stretched a two-year contract into a four-year contract, I became a staff attorney for Pacific Rivers Council, an environmental group focused on protection and restoration of native fish and aquatic habitat. In 1999, I was rehired by Earthjustice as a staff attorney.
In my more than 10 years with Earthjustice, it's been my privilege to speak for the fish and the murrelets and the trees. I've been honored to work on the Biscuit logging project, Klamath River fish and water issues, protection of wild salmon and their habitat, challenges to Columbia/Snake River hydropower operations, continued protection for old-growth forests, and clean water in Idaho and Montana. I have been awed, again and again, by the dedication and passion of so many people who attend meetings, write letters, submit comments, and work tirelessly to protect the wonder and resilience of our natural world. Earthjustice lets me bring that spirit and those voices into the courtroom, and I can think of no job more worth doing or one that I'd rather do.
I've told my young son that my job is to save salmon and protect trees. For a while he thought I worked at the aquarium, but now he says that I "talk to the judge and type lots of words on the computer." That's about right. And I'm happy to say that most weekends still find me playing somewhere in the outdoors.
"My childhood gave me the view that the outdoors was best—and that it was my responsibility to protect it."