WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Grand Rapids

WMU-Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus honored students for their leadership roles with various student organizations and for achieving academic excellence by receiving Certificate of Merit for the highest scores in classes and being named to the Dean’s List or Honor Roll at the Honors Convocation on Monday, July 17, 2017.

Shane Henry

Shane Henry

Shane Henry received the Dawn C. Beachnau Award. The award recognizes the member of the WMU-Cooley Law Review Board of Editors who has made the most significant contribution through leadership and dedication to the Law Review.

Jada Manggrum received the Leadership Achievement Award, which acknowledges a student who has consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Jada Manggrum

Jada Manggrum

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WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Auburn Hills

On Thursday, July 13, 2017, WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus held its Honors Convocation recognizing students for top course grades, Dean’s List, Honor Roll, and leadership and skills competition achievements.

The recipients of the Leadership Achievement Award were Eric Langton and Erika Morgan. The award acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Leadership Award winners

Leadership Achievement Award recipients Erika Morgan and Eric Langton hold the awards during WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills Honors Convocation on July 13.

During the event, WMU-Cooley Associate Professor Frank Aiello was presented the Distinguished Faculty Award, an award which was voted on by the law school’s students.

Aiello, who presented the evening’s keynote, spoke to students, staff and faculty about what he has learned over the years, and reflected on the intersection of his personal and work life. He offered what he referred to as “quasi-wisdom,” encouraging students to be kind, speak less, listen more and utilize their strengths.

“Having now taught here for almost 12 years, I have the pleasure of observing many incredible WMU-Cooley alumni who are doing amazing things — lead counsel to the police and fire unions in the Detroit bankruptcy, representing famous Detroit musical artists, working on behalf of the disadvantaged at legal aid organizations, incredible prosecutors and defense attorneys and wildly successful civil litigators,” Aiello said. “I am humbled by the accomplishments of my former students and can’t wait to see what you do.”

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Lynn Helland Honored with WMU-Cooley Law School’s Integrity Award

Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission was the featured speaker and Integrity Award recipient during the “Integrity in Our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus, July 14, 2017. The Integrity Award is presented to legal professionals who demonstrate the highest integrity in their profession. The event was co-hosted by the law school’s newest student organization, the Society for Personal and Professional Integrity.

Speakers at Integrity event

Pictured (left-right) Patrick Corbett, assistant U.S. attorney and WMU-Cooley Law School visiting professor; Joan Vestrand, WMU-Cooley Law School associate dean; Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission; and Alan Gershel, attorney grievance administrator during the “Integrity in our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus on July 14.

Alan Gershel, past recipient of the Integrity Award, former U.S. attorney  and current Michigan attorney  grievance administrator, who worked with Helland on a number of cases while each were employed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, provided Helland’s introductory remarks.

“We often said that a measure of a prosecutor’s integrity is not what he or she does in public, in a courtroom, when people are watching, when it’s easy to make the right decision,” said Gershel. “The more difficult times really occur when no one is looking, when the lights are not on, so to speak. Lynn was the gold standard. He led by example. He always did the right thing.”

Integrity Award winner

Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, was the featured speaker and received the Integrity Award during WMU-Cooley Law School’s “Integrity in Our Community” speaker series on July 14 at the law school’s Auburn Hills campus.

Helland’s presentation was on the topic of personal integrity, and spoke about how individual integrity can influence the community at large.

“None of us think that our integrity is responsible for that overall level of national trust, but it is. Each contribution we make, for better or for worse, has an impact on the whole,” Helland said.

Helland identified and discussed two types of integrity: moral integrity and integrity of thought. He spoke of the importance of remaining objective and honest. He also emphasized the challenges of having integrity, citing brain research that he said shows people are wired so that they handle information that undercuts their beliefs by disregarding or discounting that information.

“For the good of all our communities, I encourage all of us to embrace both moral integrity and thinking integrity. We all want to do that, you already said that, but I encourage you also to recognize how hard it is, and to embrace how hard it is and to try to work through how hard it is,” Helland said.

Group at integrity event

Pictured (left-right) Helen Khouli, president of the Society for Personal and Professional Integrity; Lynn Helland, executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission; and Alan Gershel, attorney grievance administrator during the “Integrity in our Community” speaker series at the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus on July 14.

Before Helland was appointed to serve as executive director of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission, he served as assistant United States attorney. Helland has significant experience with Michigan legal ethics as a professional responsibility officer, discipline hearing panelist and ethics instructor. He has been responsible for helping colleagues comply with the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct.

During Helland’s 34 years as a federal prosecutor, he was assigned to complex crimes involving public corruption, health care fraud, national security and civil rights. He has investigated complex economic, environmental and non-drug money laundering crimes. In addition, he has worked internationally within legal systems to obtain documents and/or testimony for prosecution of complex economic crimes. Helland also served as senior legal adviser for the United States Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan.

Helland served as law clerk to the Honorable Cornelia Kennedy, who was on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. His community involvement includes serving as a board member for Save the Afghan Children, a charity that supports a girls’ orphanage and school in Kabul, Afghanistan; was a board member for Veahavta, a charity that supports a girls’ orphanage in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka; served as a board member and president, Parent’s Association, Oak Trails Montessori School; and has participated in humanitarian trips to Sri Lanka and Haiti.

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WMU-Cooley Law School Holds Honors Convocation in Florida

On Wednesday, July 12, WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus held its Honors Convocation recognizing students for top course grades, Dean’s List, Honor Roll, and leadership and skills competition achievements.

Sheila Lake received the Alumni Distinguished Student Award for her academic success, professionalism, and participation and leadership in student organizations.

Lake also won a Leadership Achievement Award, along with classmates David Lee and Selena Neal. The award acknowledges students who have consistently, comprehensively and effectively provided leadership in a variety of capacities.

Selena Neal with award

Selena Neal

Sheila Lake with award

Sheila Lake

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WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids Campus to Host Panel Discussion on Human Trafficking in Michigan

“You Don’t Own Me: Perspectives on Human Trafficking” will be the topic of discussion at Western Michigan University Cooley Law Schools’ Grand Rapids campus on Wednesday, July 19. The free event is open to the public and will feature a diverse panel of community leaders who will discuss the issue of human trafficking and its impact on west Michigan communities.

Chris Johnson

E. Christopher Johnson

Panelists include Carmen L Kucinich, victim specialist, FBI; Andy Soper, owner, Five Arrows Consulting; Christopher Johnson, Jr., CEO and co-founder, Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity; Jodi Dibble, police officer, city of Muskegon Police Department.

Carmen Kucinich is a master’s level licensed professional counselor with the state of Michigan. Kucinich has been a victim specialist with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since 2005 and has worked with crime victims for over 18 years.  Prior to the FBI, she was a caseworker with the Michigan Indian Child Welfare Agency. She then worked for Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center as a forensic interviewer and therapist for sexually abused children and children who witnessed domestic violence.

Carmen Kucinich

Carmen Kucinich

Kucinich has testified as an expert witness in the areas of the Native American culture, forensic interviewing and children’s counseling. She is active in working on the FBI’s West Michigan Based Child Exploitation Task Force, formed in 2014, and is one of the original members of the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force since 2007. Kucinich has also had the opportunity to provide interviews with local media stations, and participated in the premiere episode of the “Mutually Inclusive” television program.

Having worked with severely traumatized youth for 10 years in residential and community forums, Andy Soper founded the Manasseh Project in 2011 and opened the first human trafficking victims’ shelter in Michigan for minors. After years of advocating for victims and working with professionals to improve treatment and legislation, Soper also helped to open HQ – Grand Rapids’ Runaway and Homeless Youth Drop-In Center in 2014. He is now the owner of Five Arrows Consulting.

Andy Soper

Andy Soper

Christopher Johnson, Jr. and his wife Rhonda were exposed to the injustice, enormity and brutality of human trafficking during a 2011 mission trip with NorthRidge Church to Mumbai, India. They felt called by God to join the anti-human trafficking movement, and together, they co-founded the Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity. The organization is committed to advancing the cause of justice and securing human and civil rights for all who are denied human dignity, especially those victimized by modern day slavery.

Johnson started his legal career in 1981 with a New York law firm. In 1988, he accepted the role as General Motors’ sole attorney handling computer law matters, as well as one of GM’s purchasing lawyers. He rose through the ranks and ultimately became the GM North America vice president and general counsel. After his 2008 retirement from GM, Johnson joined the faculty at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School where he served as a law professor and director/founder of the LL.M. program in Corporate Law and Finance until 2013 when he moved to adjunct status to focus his efforts on human trafficking issues.

Jodi Dibble has worked for the city of Muskegon Police Department as a police officer for 22 years. Dibble became involved in advocating against human trafficking when she learned that her niece (now her adopted daughter) was sex-trafficked at the age of 10. After attending a human trafficking conference hosted by the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, she became empowered to raise awareness of the issue.

Dibble is now the vice president of the board and training coordinator for the Hope Project, an outreach program to educate and inform the community about the issue of human trafficking. Dibble is also the chair of the Lakeshore Human Trafficking Task Force. She was the investigating officer on the first prosecuted case of human trafficking in Muskegon County, and also developed the Sex Offender Registry Violation Program at the Muskegon Police Department.

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Did Trump Junior Commit Treason? Don’t Bet On It – Or Against It

WMU-Cooley Law Professor Brendan Beery

Blog author, Constitutional Law expert and WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery  gives expert analysis surrounding media coverage regarding whether or not Donald Trump, Jr. committed treason. Professor Beery is a summa cum laude graduate of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure. Professor Beery is a frequent legal expert in the media.

Until now, some pundits were hesitant to throw around the “C word” when discussing the Trump team’s seeming fetish for raw Russian power. That word was collusion. But the days when that word, and its attendant whiff of impossible scandal, were deemed hysterical or preposterous – well, those days, like the Biblical former world, have passed away.

The email exchange between Donald Trump, Jr. and a portly intermediary named Rob Goldstone proves that the Trump campaign did, in fact, collude with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton. To collude means to conspire (not necessarily in the legal sense), which in turn means to act in concert for the accomplishment of some improper purpose. As is the case with conspiring (even in the legal sense), colluding does not mean successfully executing some diabolical plan; it just means working together to try.

So the goalpost has moved. We’re on to the “T word.” Now the question isn’t whether Trump Jr. (and by extension the whole Trump operation) colluded, but whether Trump Jr. (or others similarly situated) committed treason. (Actually this is just one of many questions about many possible crimes, but since it’s in the ether, I want to focus on this one.) It’s way too soon to say that Trump Jr. did commit treason, and there are many voices out there screeching that he didn’t. (Jonathan Turley and Jeffrey Toobin, I’m looking at you.)

What I’d like to point out is that, just as it’s far too early to say that Trump Jr. did commit treason, it’s also a bit silly to have already concluded that he did not.

In the United States, treason is defined in the Constitution itself, not just a mere statute. Article III provides that treason “shall consist only in levying War against [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” (A federal statute, which can’t change the standard, merely parrots it: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason …” 18 USC 2381.)

The two most important words in all of the law are and and or. Those words signal the relationships between ideas or elements, telling advocates whether they must show one thing, every item on a list of things, or some combination of things. We see that our Constitution’s definition of treason has an or in it – as well as at least one and.

Treason can consist either of waging war against the US or adhering to enemies of the US, giving them aid and comfort. As to the comma in that last sentence, let’s read that as an and, too (that’s the reading most favorable to Junior). That seems a fair reading; were a parent to tell a child, “You must get to bed, giving yourself plenty of rest,” that comma before giving certainly means and, not or – you should go to bed and get rest, not you should go to bed or get rest.

So we can represent treason, quasi-mathematically, this way: You commit treason if you

Levy + War + Against the United States

-or-

Adhere + To enemies of the US + Give those enemies (Aid + Comfort)

Let’s assume that, even though Trump Jr. might have participated in an attack on American democracy, he did not in any literal sense levy war against the United States. That leaves us with the question whether he adhered to an enemy of the US and gave that enemy aid and comfort.

Adhere

To adhere is to stick to or bind oneself to something. It can also mean to follow, as when one adheres to a religious belief. So the question would be whether Trump Jr. joined with or bound himself to something else – in this case, Russia (or Russians). It seems clear from his emails that he did join together with a foreign national to further a common purpose: the defeat of Hillary Clinton facilitated by Russian intelligence that, in all likelihood, would have been obtained through espionage. I note here how unlikely it is that Special Counsel Bob Mueller is going to believe Trump Jr.’s story that no ill-gotten information actually changed hands at the not-so-clandestine meeting. If this joining together turns out to have happened (in a way that is legally provable), then Trump Jr. seems to have adhered. On the other hand, if adhere means come under the spell of some anti-American orthodoxy (again, as in religious adherence), then we seem a long way from treason in this case.

Enemy of the United States

It’s true that when we talk about enemies of the US, we usually (historically) mean a country against whom we are engaged in a hot war. But the term “enemy” is not defined in the Constitution, and like most of the Constitution’s words, “enemy” is a broad and flexible term that should be interpreted in light of evolving realities. (Yes, the organic “living Constitution” view is the correct one, and “originalism” is highly suspect.) Many pols, lawyers, and national-security experts have claimed, with good reason, that what Russia did to the United States during the 2016 election cycle was nothing short of an act of war – not in the conventional sense, but in the sense that it involved key elements of war: an attack combined with the intent to achieve dominance over the United States by causing American institutions to malfunction and, ultimately, collapse. By that standard, Russia could be an enemy of the United States.

Giving Aid and Comfort

This term – aid and comfort – has always been broadly understood to mean nothing more than tangible help or assistance. The Russians had multiple objectives: to see the defeat of Hillary Clinton; to accomplish that end by employing espionage and subterfuge; to cause chaos in American politics; and to install an American government so compromised by Russian mischief as to be an extension of Vladimir Putin’s will. Trump Jr.’s emails arguably show that he was anxious to (and by accommodating the meeting request, actually endeavored to) help the Russians achieve those objectives. Critically, we don’t yet know the full extent of the Trump team’s efforts to help the Russians. Obviously, the deeper those efforts went, the stronger the case for treason becomes. We also don’t yet know the extent to which President Trump is compromised (his tax returns sure would help in that regard). The more compromised he is, the more likely it is that he and his family would have played along; the more likely it is that they would have provided aid and comfort.

Conclusion

One common misperception about treason, and one I’ve heard repeatedly recently, is that it requires a war and adherence and an enemy and the provision of aid and comfort. That’s not what the Constitution says, and it ignores the meaning of the word or: treason can be committed either by levying war or by acting in concert with an enemy to help that enemy attack the United States.

Without knowing about all the Trump team’s financial and other dealings with Russian officials, many of which are likely still to be discovered, it’s hard to say whether there was enough entanglement, symbiosis, and subversive conduct to rise to the level of treason. It would be absurd to conclude one way or the other at this point, but it is certainly not absurd, as talking-head thought police keep telling us, to discuss the possibility of treason and argue one side or the other. As long as we keep our focus on the standards discussed above, debate about the issue is both fair and healthy. File it under “civics 101” — the more we engage about constitutional issues, the better.

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Mock Trial Winners Announced For WMU-Cooley Evidence Competition

The Mock Trial Board at WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus recently awarded Mackiesch Taylor and Mayra Puerta winners of the term’s Evidence Competition. The competition featured 10 teams of two students who each had to display their skills introducing evidence as a prosecutor, or defending a client against the evidence that had been introduced.

Mock Trial participants

WMU-Cooley Mock Trial Board recently held its Evidence Competition for the current term at the law school’s Tampa Bay campus. Pictured (left-right) are competition winners Mayra Puerta and Mackiesh Taylor with John Scott, professor and presiding judge for the competition; and runners up Nathan Tamulonis and Trevor Persenaire.

Using the “Hunger Games” as a theme, the case presented during the competition involved a defendant name Katniss Everdeen, who was charged with murdering Peeta Malark by bow and arrow.

WMU-Cooley Professor John Scott, who advises the Mock Trial Board and served as the court’s judge during the competition, said, “Members of the board did a superb job organizing the competition and the event was a great way for students to get practice applying rules of evidence.”

The finals of the competition were held on June 17. Students Trevor Persenaire and Nathan Tamulonis were runners-up for the competition.

Mock Trial participants

WMU-Cooley Law School Mock Trial Board members and competition participants from the law school’s Tampa Bay campus. Pictured (front row, left-right) Nathan Tamulonis, Justin Sblano, Sarah Marin, Mayra Puerta, Mackiesh Taylor, Kim Canals, Thomas Yi, Shederis Lakin, (back row, left-right)Mock Trial Board President Clyde Barrow, Rob Johnson, Andrew Yaktman, Professor John Scott, Tim Saitta, and Trevor Persenaire.

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