Monthly Archives: August 2015

In-N-Out Burger: A True Story

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer

Professor Gary Bauer has been a member of the full-time faculty at WMU-Cooley Law School since 1998. He now teaches Estate Planning to third-year law students and a directed study class he created called Solo By Design. His blog,, provides law students, recent solo practioners, and seasoned professionals who wish to go solo, with information and resources to be successful in the legal business. The following blog post was first published on August 24, 2015.

About 10 years ago my wife and I went to visit my father in California from Michigan where we resided. At that time, he was in his 80’s and had been observed and diagnosed as one manifesting symptoms of dementia.

We decided to take him out to eat and asked him where he would like to go. He said he would like a good hamburger. We asked him if he had a favorite place to go? He told us that he liked, “in and out” burgers. At that point, my wife and I looked at each other knowingly so as to say, “that is so cute, he sees the traffic directional signs at a burger joint instructing vehicles where to enter and exit and he thinks that is the name of the franchise.” We assumed at his age and with his mental frailty, that he mistook those signs for the name of the franchise. And rather than embarrass him, we decided to say nothing and pretend he was making sense.

In the end, we took him to a local restaurant and enjoyed spending the rest of the day with him and thought nothing more of it.

Several days later when were traveling in California, my wife said, “Stop!”. I pulled the car over and asked what was the matter? She said, “Look behind us and across the street.”

And there it was.

In-N-Out Burger restaurant

The signage was unmistakable. My father was correct and accurate in his description and we were the more feeble of mind.

In practice, it is easy to misjudge individuals based upon bias that we bring to the table. It is important to check ourselves when dealing with individuals who are reported to be suffering from dementia to evaluate them independently and objectively. Many of my clients suffer from hearing impairments that may affect their ability to understand or hear an inquiry properly that leads to an answer that doesn’t appear to make sense. A hearing impairment may mask itself as an inability to comprehend the meaning of my question. We have interviewed clients more than once who have severe hearing loss and who had been diagnosed as having dementia. During our assessment of the some of those individuals, we offer a headset amplifier and find that often they are competent and have been mis-diagnosed.

Similarly, a person who has suffered from a stroke can often experience cognitive deficiencies which resolve themselves fully or to a limited degree. This may mean that the affected individual’s part of the brain which affects speech or the ability to say the name might be interpreted as a cognitive deficiency. Yet, that person may be very capable of exercising good judgment and may regain that ability within a short period of time. Yet, once diagnosed as “incompetent”, it is a steep slope for the patient to climb to overcome the prejudice many individuals experience once labled as “incompetent.”

Make sure you do a critical and unbiased assessment. See what you can do to help your clients demonstrate their true abilities and you will be a better advocate.

Have you ever made an assumption and learned later how wrong you had been? Let’s hear your story.

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Debra Steele: You are only as strong as you believe yourself to be.

“The defining step in the journey to where I am today is the time I served in the United States Marine Corps where I was taught discipline, leadership, and the value of team work. The Marine Corps’ motto is Adapt, Improvise and Overcome. I have lived by that code for most of my adult life and it has brought me much success.” – WMU-Cooley Law School graduate Debra Steele  

Debra on Graduation Day, with her God son, Mike Jones (left), and son Michael.

Debra Steele on Graduation Day, with her God son, Mike Jones (left) and son Michael.

To say Debra Steele’s life so far has been a challenge is an understatement. Yet, you can also say that she has more than stepped up to any challenge, no matter how hard. She has looked adversity in the face, overcome all obstacles, and succeeded.

Debra and Jay's children and grandchild together, (left to right) David, Keith, Austin, Samantha, grandson Zaniel, Michael, and Michelle.

Debra and Jay’s children and grandchild together, (left to right) David, Keith, Austin, Samantha, grandson Zaniel, Michael, and Michelle.

The challenges began after her service in the military. She attended college, all while working full time and managing a household. During this time, she went through a devastating divorce and found herself raising four children on her own with no financial or emotional support. “There were times when I worked two jobs in order to care for my children and meet my financial obligations,”stated Debra. “As many generations of parents before me, I was and still am determined to encourage my children to study hard and work diligently so they can have a better and easier life than I have. I want them to see that hard work pays off and they can become anything they desire as long as they have the determination to realize their dreams as I am doing now.”

Debra with (left to right) Nikoya (Mike’s wife); God son Mike; sons Michael, Keith, Austin, and David with girlfriend Michelle and mother-in-law Dottie.

Debra with (left to right) Nikoya (Mike’s wife); God son Mike; sons Michael, Keith, Austin, and David with girlfriend Michelle and mother-in-law Dottie.

She believes that you really have no limits in life, except those we set upon ourselves. “I was diagnosed with lupus in 1991, and soon after, I began to have severe joint pain which was diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis,” remembered Debra. “In 2002, the lupus became systemic and I was hospitalized for a while and unable to work; my family suffered a financial hardship. As I began to recover, my doctor advised me to apply for disability. I would not give up that easily. I believed then as I do now, that I can beat these conditions by living life and achieving my goals. That belief has not failed me.”

Debra would say that her professional history tells the tale of an ambitious woman working hard to make her dreams a reality. “During college I worked as a receptionist at a law firm specializing in workers’ compensation. In short order, I was promoted to legal secretary. I then moved to another firm to attain a higher position. After three years, this firm later merged with a larger firm and as a result, most of the support staff, including myself, were laid off.  Rather than considering this as a negative, I viewed this as an opportunity for growth and to expand my knowledge of the law. I was soon hired by Kass Shuler to work as a legal assistant. As it turns out, this was a crucial moment in my career because I began working with my mentor Larry Foyle, Esq. and he taught me everything about bankruptcy law and the rules of the Bankruptcy Code.”

In 2008, Debra was able to take her career to the next step and began working as the bankruptcy manager for Suncoast Credit Union. After taking classes and learning the ropes there, she was promoted to senior bankruptcy manager in 2011. In 2013, she again was promoted – this time to director of member solutions overseeing the Bankruptcy, Foreclosure, Fannie Mae and Recovery areas.

Debra with husband Jay, who has been her rock since 2000.

Debra with husband Jay, who has been her rock since 2000.

“Although I stay busy with my career and family, I make it a point to find the time to give back to the community,” said Debra. “I  serve on the Rifle Honor Guard, which allows me to assist in memorial and funeral services for fallen veterans, and have served as president of WMU-Cooley’s Military Veterans Law Student Association. I also serve my community through volunteer programs and charity events such as Adopt-a-Highway, Walk for Lupus, epilepsy fundraisers, etc., totaling approximately 80 to 100 hours per year.  I have received a Meritorious Service Award from the Marine Corps League and several other service awards through Suncoast Schools. However, I am most proud of earning the Marine of the Year Award in 2009 and the Diamond Award at Suncoast Schools.”

“I agree with the phrase, ‘that which does not kill you makes you stronger.’  Even though I have had to overcome many obstacles, I believe conquering those challenges has made me a stronger, more determined person. I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school and college. By going to law school, I want to show my children that one can do anything they set out to do if they have the will to make it happen.”

Anyone who knows Debra, and has worked with her, can attest to her strength, commitment and leadership qualities, along with her dedication to her community.

“Debra has stated on many occasions that she believes in leading by example, and she practices this leadership style in her personal and professional lives,” stated Antonio Hill, former PSCU Financial Services vice president of marketing. “Over the years, I have gotten to know Debra’s family quite well.  She is a dedicated mother who constantly encourages her children to follow their dreams and supports them in all of their endeavors. By fulfilling her dream of becoming a lawyer, Debra will show her children that they can always achieve their goals regardless of any obstacles they might face.”

“Debra Steele is a rare person who is selfless and devoted to making a difference in the lives of others,” stated Judy Cayson, Suncoast Credit Union Bankruptcy Administrative Secretary. “Her positive attitude and love of life and country are contagious! She is an outstanding example of someone whose life reflects a sincere desire to serve others in whatever opportunity is presented. I have witnessed many of those opportunities in the over four years in which I have been privileged to work for her. She is continually involved in many types of community events that affect the lives of others in positive ways.”

“As a member of the Honor Guard, Debra has had to console bereaved family members at funeral services, escort family members at honor ceremonies and perform military honors,” shared Walt Raysick, president of the Veterans Council of Hillsborough County. “She and her detail have received many accolades for their performance and the finest display of military bearing.  Her performance has provided comfort for those involved in these ceremonies.”

Aug. 15 Tampa Bay campus graduation valedictory speaker Debra Steele.

Aug. 15 Tampa Bay campus graduation valedictory speaker Debra Steele.

As Debra stated in her graduation valedictory speech to her classmates earlier this month, “law school is a rite of passage to becoming a lawyer and our hard work has paid off. President Lincoln once said ‘Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.’ Let’s take his advice and be peacemakers, good men and women. Let’s continue to make a difference. I congratulate each and every one of you and wish all of us much success. Now go pay it forward!”

Debra has stood tall amidst many obstacles but has fulfilled her life dreams – all while making a difference to others. What are some of the ways you have overcome adversity to achieve your goals? 

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WMU-Cooley Tampa Student Wins Florida Bar Scholarship

Eula T. Bacon

Eula T. Bacon

Eula T. Bacon’s law school career continues to sparkle with jewels of success. Eula is employed full-time with the non-profit agency Career Source Suncoast, attends classes at WMU-Cooley’s Tampa, Florida campus, and actively participates in a number of student organizations. A busy person with just a few semesters to go until graduation, Eula has her eye on a bright future.

This summer, Eula Bacon learned she had some help with that goal when she was awarded a scholarship by the Labor and Employment Section of the Florida Bar Association. Only one student from each Florida law school received the award — $1,000 to help with their studies.

Eula was excited to learn she’d won the scholarship. “I am grateful to the Florida Bar – Labor and Employment section for investing in my legal education.  The award provides me with financial support, permits me to develop professional relationships with attorneys around the state and gives me the opportunity to learn about the importance of the Florida Bar.”

The scholarship is designed to recognize students who have excelled in their studies while exhibiting an interest in practicing labor and employment law.

In addition to the monetary award, the scholarship also provided a networking opportunity for Eula with labor and employment attorneys across the state. At the section’s recent convention, she connected with several attorneys from all over Florida.  “Attending the Florida Bar convention is a valuable experience, and I recommend law school students try to attend,” she said.

Eula served as Vice Chief Justice for the Moot Court Board for two terms this year, is a Pupil Member of the Tampa Bay Inn of Court, and an associate editor with the WMU-Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law. Eula is also active in competition teams.

Eula won first place in 2014 in the Melissa Mitchell Criminal Procedure Moot Court Competition, served on the ABA Regional Negotiation Competition team in 2013 (which placed fifth overall) and, more recently, participated on a three-member team at the 2015 E. Earle Zehmer National Workers’ Compensation Moot Court Competition. She has made the Dean’s List several times, and participated in WMU-Cooley’s study abroad program in Oxford, England, in summer 2014.

When she’s not participating in on-campus activities, Eula is involved in community service, including volunteering at community legal redress workshops organized by the George Edgecomb Bar Association, participating in The Walk to End Lupus Now, and packaging personal items for active-duty military.

Eula is planning to be finished with her law studies in December 2016, and hopes to obtain a federal clerkship or a clerkship with a justice at the Florida Supreme Court.

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WMU-Cooley graduation speaker: Others don’t have to fail in order for you to succeed

“Because of Cooley, you are now prepared to join in the battle for justice; to be the voice for the voiceless, to bring hope to the hopeless, and to speak justice for those who suffer injustice … In pursuing success in the profession, remember that success is not a zero sum game. Others don’t have to fail in order for you to succeed.” – Frederick McClure, managing partner at the Tampa Bay office of DLA Piper and president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association.

WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay campus keynote speaker Fredrick McClure, managing partner at the Tampa Bay office of DLA Piper and president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association.

WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay campus keynote speaker Fredrick McClure, managing partner at the Tampa Bay office of DLA Piper and president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association.

On Saturday, August 15, the Tampa Bay campus of WMU-Cooley Law School held its graduation commencement ceremony at the University of South Florida’s School of Music Concert Hall. The keynote speaker was Fredrick McClure, managing partner at the Tampa Bay office of DLA Piper and president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association.  McClure is a member of the board of trustees for Earlham College, the former president of the Tampa Club, and the former chairman of the board for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. His practice areas include litigation, arbitration and class action, and employment disputes.

Every graduate has a story of how they decided to be a lawyer.  Some always knew they wanted to be a lawyer, and some discovered a love for the law in a different way.

Fredrick McClure

Fredrick McClure

As Frederick McClure stated in his keynote address, “Some of you have known since birth that you would become a lawyer; some of you decided in elementary school or high school.” McClure decided in college.

“However or whenever it was you arrived at your decision, you now have received a quality legal education and gained the right to seek admission to the bar and membership in this great and noble profession. Because of that education, however, you have also lost some rights. You have forever given up the right to be an ‘ist’.

“As I look out onto this beautiful rainbow of a class, I smile broadly, because I see hope for the future.

  1. “Because this class is such a rainbow, you have given up the right to be sexist, believing that intellect and the capacity for greatness resides only in those of your sex;
  2. Because this class is such a rainbow, you have given up the right to be racist, believing that intellect and the capacity for greatness resides only in those of your race and/or ethnicity;
  3. Because this class is such a rainbow, you have given up the right to be a phobist (yeah, I know, the correct word is “phobe,” but work with me here! ) believing that intellect and the capacity for greatness resides only in those who share your sexual orientation or gender identification.

“None other than Dr. Martin Luther King warned that ‘Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.’

“Because of Cooley, you have forever lost the ability to be sincerely ignorant on these matters;

“So, if you adopt and/or hold on to such foolish ideas, you are, I am afraid, conscientiously stupid.  Just remember, you are Cooley, and you are better than that!”

Matt Marin receives his doctoral hood for his LL.M. degree in IP law by Dean Jeff Martlew and Professor Kathy Gustafson during the graduation ceremony on Aug. 15, 2015.

Matt Marin receives his doctoral hood for his LL.M. degree in IP law by Dean Jeff Martlew and Professor Kathy Gustafson during the graduation ceremony on Aug. 15, 2015.

WMU-Cooley LL.M. graduate Matthew Marin also found his passion for the law later in life.

When he was growing up, and even though his dad was a lawyer and his sister always dreamed of becoming a lawyer, Matt Marin felt he wanted to do something different than pursue a job in the profession of law. In fact, he obtained a science degree in biology, from Lawrence University, with the intention of going to medical school. However, he wasn’t sure medicine was the right fit for him.

“My sister, Marybeth, knew that I was having second thoughts about attending medical school, so she encouraged me to take the LSAT,” remembered Matt. “Next thing you know, I was starting law school at WMU-Cooley, and my sister started three months later at WMU-Cooley too!”

Matt loved the challenge of law school and realized that he truly enjoyed learning the law and being a part of academia; in fact, he decided after graduating from law school to accept a position at WMU-Cooley’s Tampa Bay campus.  A year later, Matt decided that he wanted an advanced degree in law – an LL.M. in Intellectual Property – which could dovetail into his science background.  He applied and was admitted into the Intellectual Property LL.M. program at WMU-Cooley’s Auburn Hills, Michigan campus. What made this nearly perfect for him was that he could pursue his teaching career in WMU-Cooley’s Academic Resource Center while wrapping up his WMU-Cooley LL.M. classes online.

With his WMU-Cooley LL.M. degree in one hand and his WMU-Cooley Juris Doctor degree in the other, he is thrilled to continue teaching law students what it takes to succeed in the classroom and how to pass the bar exam.  When asked if he ever thought of joining the family business in Marquette, Michigan, which his sister has since taken it over, he takes a stand:

“I have thought about going back to Marquette to work in private practice with Marybeth, but then I think about those 200 plus inches of snow that Marquette gets in the winter. Coupled with the students, my fantastic colleagues at the Tampa Bay campus, and of course the tropical weather, it makes the decision to stay here pretty easy.”






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WMU-Cooley law students continue to serve the Michigan Veterans and Military Community

Brig. Gen. Michael C.H. McDaniel, USA (ret.)

Brig. Gen. Michael C.H. McDaniel, USA (ret.)

By Brig. Gen. Michael C.H.  McDaniel, USA (ret.)

Michael C.H. McDaniel is a professor and the director of WMU-Cooley’s Homeland and National Security Law Program. He served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Strategy. His responsibilities included supervision of the Department of Defense Critical Infrastructure Protection Program and the Global Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection Policy.

It may seem, to the casual observer, that there has been a recent surge of manuals for the practitioners of military and veterans law. In 2014, the Michigan Department of Attorney General simultaneously published the Michigan Guide to Military Family Law with WMU-Cooley Law School and the Michigan Military and Veterans Legal Service Guide with University of Detroit Mercy Law School.

This year, WMU-Cooley law students have assisted in developing two publications for Michigan judges on laws affecting Servicemembers and Veterans: The 2015 Revised Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the soon to be released Veterans Treatment Courts in Michigan: A Manual for Judges.

All of these publications were vitally needed, however, in the  post-conflict legal environment with a resultant sharp increase in the need for services for servicemembers and veterans.  The 2015 Revised Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act will assist practitioners greatly in this area.

2015 Edition of the Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

2015 Edition of the Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

When this country was ramping up to engage in World War II, Congress enacted the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) to provide protection to those called to serve in the nation’s armed forces. Enacted in 1940, with a few changes after the Gulf War in 1991, the SSCRA was largely unchanged until 2003. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was written to both acknowledge the decades of judicial interpretation of the SSCRA since enactment in 1940 as well as to update the law to reflect the changes in American life. The SCRA, can be found at 50 U.S.C. App. § 501 et seq.

Courts generally construed the original act, the SSCRA, liberally to protect those in uniform.  The U.S. Supreme Court has said that the statute should be “liberally construed to protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of the nation” Boone v. Lightner, 319 US 561, 575, (1943) and should be read “with an eye friendly to those who dropped their affairs to answer their country’s call.” Le Maistre v. Leffers, 333 U.S. 1, 6 (1948). The same spirit and intention is reflected in the SCRA.

A 2009 case in Michigan, Hurley v Deutsche Bank Trust Co  2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20261 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 13, 2009) ultimately reinforced that principle. The ripple effect from an unpublished decision on a motion for reconsideration in western Michigan caused waves in many directions: the decision was the first in the nation to find a private cause of action on behalf  of the harmed servicemember, it resulted in Congress creating an explicit cause of action, as Section 802(a) of the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (VBA-2010), Public Law 111-275, amended the SCRA, and it compelled Matt Cooper, SGT Hurley’s attorney, to volunteer to update the existing Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The 2015 edition of the SCRA Guide is vital to every attorney and judge as it continues the template of annotations based on Michigan and other states’ decisions which interpret each section of the Act, or noting where state statutes may be limited by the SCRA. There is a substantial increase in the number of annotations, as one would expect. It also continues the use of “Michigan Practitioners’ Notes” which emphasize key areas of concern or of potential distinction from Michigan practice. Finally, the 2015 edition contains two new key points of discussion: the private cause of action by servicemembers created by the Hurley decision and the subsequent amendment, and it expands the discussion on the Act’s limitation on the concept of paramount title.

The original Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was created by the Honigman firm with substantial assistance from WMU-Cooley Law students through its Service to Soldiers Legal Assistance Program.

The 2015 Guide was shepherded by Matt Cooper, of Schuitmaker, Cooper, Cypher & Knotek. Sean Crotty of the Honigman firm assisted and assured continuity with the original guide. WMU-Cooley students Heather Spielmaker, Nathan Chan and Matthew Flynn continued the WMU-Cooley tradition of the practical application of legal skills and of service to the community by ably assisting in the research and drafting of the 2015 edition.

Aug. 18, 2015 news release: Students Work to Update Michigan Guide to Servicemembers Civil Relief Act



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Teen Court program gives troubled young people a second chance

If you ask Mike Botke to describe exactly what Teen Court is all about, he tells you straight up. “The Teen Court Program really is about holding young people accountable and giving them a second chance in life,” explains Botke. “Because we all know what happens to people when you have a criminal record. We don’t want these young people to have a criminal record.”

Botke is the director of the Teen Court program in Ingham County, one of the juvenile justice diversion services that have helped about 175 first-time juvenile offenders each year since 2001.  He helps young people between the ages of 11-16 who have committed an offense and have had their petitions reviewed and referred by the Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Circuit Court-Family Division.

When entering the Teen Court program these young people must take responsibility for their offense (admit guilt) and participate in a variety of requirements and services designed to help them resolve risk factors, (such as negative peer pressure, underage drinking, poor school performance), which will enhance their ability to make safe choices and reduce repeat offenses.

“Who’s holding them accountable?  Well besides the adults like me, it’s their peers,” continues Botke.

Teens (Left front clockwise) Sara L., Monntel W., Elijah, W., Aidan J. and Julia S. review each case in the deliberation room.

Teens (Left front clockwise) Sara L., Monntel W., Elijah, W., Aidan J., and Julia S. review each case in the deliberation room.

“They’re average young people in our community. They’re learning too about the importance of making good choices. They are learning about what happens in the courtroom. They’re learning more about the law, and they are learning about how to be good citizens.”

Currently the Teen Court is achieving nearly a 90 percent success rate, which means less than 10 percent fail to complete the program and do not commit additional crimes.  Annually, over 500 students are trained and serve as Peer Jurors, Bailiffs and Clerks in hearings conducted at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School campus in Lansing, Michigan.  Students are recruited from eight different high schools (Dansville, Mason, Williamston, Stockbridge, Eastern, Everett, Sexton and Okemos) during the school year.  In the summer months, youth are recruited throughout Ingham County.  While they deliver a positive peer pressure message through issuing sanctions to hold the Respondent accountable, participants are engaged in a positive way in our juvenile justice system.  Often Peer Jurors will sanction Respondents to return to serve as a Peer Juror, which affords them the opportunity to contribute to the community and become part of solution and not the problem.

Teen Court Honorary Judge Professor Mable Martin-Scott guides Teen Court participants through the hearing process at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Teen Court Honorary Judge Professor Mable Martin-Scott guides Teen Court participants through the hearing process at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.

Targeted Teen Court Program Outcomes (all youth participants):

  • Personal Success: Enhance Skills, Positive Self Identity and Confidence to Succeed
  • Reduce Underage Drinking and Use of Other Illegal Drugs
  • Remain In School / Increase School Attendance and Overall School Success
  • Increase Family Success: Boundaries, Expectations, Positive Communication
  • Earn Dismissal of Code of Conduct Offense (resolving risk factors and increase school engagement)
  • Gain New Law Knowledge and Personal Skills
  • Spend Constructive Time Engaging in Peer Jury Duty – practice “Good Citizenship”
  • Increase Awareness of How Safe Choices can Increase Personal Success

Do peer pressure messages carry more weight? What do you think?

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What Bilbo Baggins’s Contract Teaches About Plain Language

Michael Braem

Michael Braem

Michael Braem is a 2006 WMU-Cooley graduate and works in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University.  He specializes in civil litigation and contract law, and has a never-ending quest for plain language in the law. He recently co-authored an article entitled “What Bilbo Baggins’s Contract Teaches About Plain Language.” 

If you have seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, you may recall the contract full of legal jargon the dwarves gave to Bilbo Baggins. Braem and fellow contract attorney Chadwick Busk teamed together to write about this contract for the August 2015 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal.

“For those requiring a Hobbit refresher, here is the contract’s background. The wizard Gandalf recommends to a band of 13 dwarves that they hire the hobbit Bilbo Baggins to help recover their treasure in the Lonely Mountain. But the treasure is guarded by a terrible dragon, Smaug, and the journey to the Lonely Mountain is likely to be dangerous. The dwarves are reluctant to hire Bilbo despite Gandalf’s insistence that Bilbo has burglary skills, and Bilbo is even more reluctant to join the dwarves. The parties’ discussions culminate in the following dwarf-drafted “acceptance,” which is somewhat peculiar because there is no evidence of any “offer” from Bilbo:”

Read the entire article at:

Special credit and thanks go out from Braem to his colleague Chad Busk, WMU-Cooley Professor Joe Kimble, the Journal’s editorial staff, and the author/designer of the prop contract, Dan Reeves.

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WMU-Cooley legal experts reflect on levels of social change one year after Ferguson

How far have we come in the one year after Ferguson? That is the question we posed to law professors and legal experts at WMU-Cooley Law School about the real and perceived change in society since the public protests and civil unrest over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer on August 9, 2014, in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Here are their opinions:

Karen Fultz

Karen Fultz

Professor Karen Fultz: In my opinion, over the last 12 months, we have seen an immediate response from the Department of Justice which included, among other things, a proactive role in ensuring that local officers are properly trained and strongly encourage local leadership to incorporate change that is sensitive to the need for more diversity in police departments.

Diversity that is reflective of the communities that the police departments are serving.

The unfortunate occurrence prompted the influx of federal funding and the implementation of body cameras for local officers and social awareness around the country that reinvigorated the discussion of race relations.

Jeffrey D. Swartz

Jeffrey D. Swartz

Professor Jeffrey Swartz: I believe that the effect of Ferguson has been to bring a focus to the debate on the issues relating to white policing of African-Americans.  As a practical matter it has produced very little in tangible action.

Yes, body cameras are the subject of conversation, but that issue almost dropped out of sight until the more recent events in South Carolina and Texas.  The only other visible results have been the action of the Justice Department, not in prosecuting anyone, but in examining certain big city police departments and auditing their practices.  This has resulted in some department’s procedures and policing practices to be reviewed and amended.

Until there is more urgent and emergent action by the departments, very little will change over the short run.  The departments are claiming they lack the money to buy and implement the use of body cameras.  Federal funding will be needed and that will make the issue a major political football in a presidential election year.

Mark Dotson

Mark Dotson

Professor Mark Dotson: I am a child of the 60s and 70s.  Much of the civil unrest and social responses we saw then were a result of police incursions on human rights – especially the rights of African Americans. It was no coincidence therefore that witnessed the emergence of entities like the Black Panther movement and the stature of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fast forward to Ferguson, and the question of what tangible results can we identify as a result of the response of the shooting one year later, my opinion would have to reflect my awareness of the history of racial issues in this country and my sense for what qualifies as substantive change.On the positive front. I find that the youth, especially in the minority community, have become more vigilant – more aware of their environment. With respect to social and racial issues, you saw a similar response 40 years ago. You saw more solidarity. Greater willingness to express provocative opinions. More discussion, generally, in society as a whole. In addition, you hear more conviction in the voices of police department leaders when they speak of diversity, having a force that reflects society, and their support for community policing.The negative. For those that are hell-bent on never seeing the races co-exist peacefully, what we witnessed in Ferguson is not that different from what we experienced in the 60s and 70s, nor what we see today, one year later. Racist sentiments still exist. We have witnessed it again as recently as the South Carolina murders.In sum, the discussion has to be more than symbolic, like the removal of the confederate flag. For change to be meaningful – such that we are not having the same conversations from decades ago – every single individual needs to find a way to respect those unlike themselves.

Tonya Krause-Phelan

Tonya Krause-Phelan

Professor Tonya Krause-Phelan: In my opinion, the levels of social change one year after Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri are multi-faceted. At the highest level, President Barack Obama acknowledged racial discrimination continues to exist and that police injustice is a systemic problem in our country. To that extent, President Obama expressed a willingness to use federal dollars to force significant changes in the way police departments operate.

The President’s comments, along with the surrounding events, have also led to growing scrutiny of the way our police forces have become militarized over the past decades. As far back as the Kennedy and Nixon administrations, we have witnessed politicians call police forces to arms to wage wars on drugs, sex offenders, juveniles, gangs, cybercrime, illegal aliens, terrorists, and everyone in between. It’s no wonder that law enforcement views the general public as enemy combatants. This phenomenon has become so pervasive that President Obama President intends to limit the amount and type of military style equipment being funneled to local police departments.

The Department of Justice promptly launched two separate investigations: one to investigate the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s death, the other to investigate civil rights violations in Ferguson, Missouri. These investigations concluded that a pattern of civil rights violations existed in Ferguson.

As a result, a revolution—languid in some places, measured in others—has begun in law enforcement. Police departments around the country have begun to use body cameras to capture their interactions with the community. Those departments that have not already implemented body cameras have either begun the process or are investigating the best ways to implement such programs. Law enforcement, legal, and social experts alike have begun to discuss and analyze the effects, and necessary reform, of an over-militarized police force.

The public, through protests, public awareness, and grassroots campaigns for reform, continues to bring the issues of race, discrimination, and law enforcement reform front and center. These actions have sparked an important dialogue and have led to police departments across the country creating policies and programs to increase public trust and to provide the public with transparency and accountability.

No matter what one believes the social change and lasting legacy of Ferguson to be, how we continue to address these issues, effectuate change within law enforcement, and engage in honest discussions about race in our country will be the true legacy of Ferguson.

Frank C. Aiello

Frank C. Aiello

Professor Frank Aiello: The last year has continued to highlight the stark dichotomy of views on civil rights issues in this country.  As my colleagues have noted, there has been some action in response to the events of Ferguson. Yet we also saw a divisively worded dissent in the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, a roll back of federal voting right protections, and further suspect police interaction with racial minorities.  Where does the silent majority stand on most of these issues and is its voice reflected in the policy momentum and judicial decisions since Ferguson?

How much do you think things have changed since the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown and the Ferguson protest?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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Sixty Plus, Inc. Elderlaw Clinic recognized for decades of service to older adults

The work of Sixty Plus, Inc. Elderlaw Clinic students, faculty and staff is being recognized by the Elder Law of Michigan at the 7th Annual Joe D. Sutton Call to Justice Awards on August 21, 2015.  The awards honor those that share the mission of ELM, which is to advocate for, educate, and assist many different people, with a continued focus on older adults and persons with disabilities. In the words of Ron Tatro, vice president of ELM, “The Call to Justice Awards give us the opportunity to recognize the people and organizations that are making a real and tangible difference in the lives of seniors every day.” 

Professor Kimberly O'Leary

Professor Kimberly O’Leary

Sixty Plus History: In 1978, Fred Baker and the Young Lawyers Division of the Michigan Bar Association obtained funds from the Older Americans Act to establish a student-staffed legal clinic for people 60 and over. What the team lacked in resources, they made up for in enthusiasm and wits. The original 13 students, called the “Baker’s Dozen,” worked without any academic credit as volunteers.  Under the inspired leadership of faculty directors Dorean Koenig, Kent Hull, Nora Pasman-Green, Ann Miller Wood, Jim Peden, Marjorie Russell, Norm Fell and Kim O’Leary, WMU-Cooley Law School now houses the clinic in a state-of-the-art law office suite, where students use cloud-based technology to learn modern law practice systems.

“It is an honor to have Sixty Plus recognized for its long-lasting impact in the community” stated Professor and Sixty Plus Clinic Director Kimberly O’Leary. “This award gives credit to the countless hours of work performed by hundreds of Sixty Plus students, staff, board members and faculty for more than 35 years.”

Sixty Plus Today: “Sixty Plus is a vibrant clinic serving people in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties and has helped thousands of residents over the decades,” declared O’Leary. Working with community partners such as Elder Law of Michigan, Legal Aid of South Central Michigan, and Tri-County Office on Aging, Sixty Plus has helped create mechanisms for protecting the independence, resources and well-being of senior citizens in the region.”

Elder Law keeps growing as a critical and necessary area of need for lawyers and leaders with a legal background. 

What WMU-Cooley students say about Sixty Plus:
  • “It was like a switch clicked and all of a sudden you know what you’re doing.”
  • “They actually valued my opinions and my ideas…I realized I can do it”
  • “I’ve learned how to work with people in a professional setting”
  • “I can interact with a client”
  • “I can be creative, think outside the box”
  • “After communication, the client who felt lost felt relief and appreciated what I had done for them”
  • “I loved bouncing ideas back and forth”
  • “This experience led me to my passion”
Find out more about the Call to Justice Awards and Sixty Plus.

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Golf Outing is a win, win, win for team of WMU-Cooley graduates

If you are a golfer, then you know that summer is golf outing season. But for golfer and WMU-Cooley graduate Vincent Welicka, it really means it’s time to join up with his fellow graduates and friends for his law school’s annual alumni golf outing – in fact, for him and his team, that’s every summer since it started 26 years ago.

Tom Halm, Vincent Welicka, Dave Case, and Dave Prine hit the links for WMU-Cooley's 26th Annual Alumni Memorial Scholarship Golf Outing on July 13, 2015.

Tom Halm, Vincent Welicka, Dave Case, and Dave Prine hit the links for WMU-Cooley’s 26th Annual Alumni Memorial Scholarship Golf Outing on July 13, 2015.

“It’s gotten to be an obsession for our team for a lot of reasons,” smiled Welicka. “Initially our group started going to the golf outing because we had become friends while I was a referee in Livingston County. Working together there we soon realized we were all Cooley graduates. Participating in the alumni golf outing was like a reunion. We’d meet up as a team and get to have fun with everyone we knew from law school days. Three of our team members,Tom Halm, Dave Prine and I, have participated in every one of the golf outings.”

Chasing a ball

This obsession with golf wasn’t always the case. In fact, Vince Welicka had never played the game until he came to Cooley.

“I thought chasing a ball around a field to put it in a little hole seemed sorta stupid,” Welicka remembers with a laugh.

Cooley Law School Pratt Class, 1988

Cooley Law School Pratt Class, 1988

Then he met Kevin Fitzgerald in his first law school class. It happened that he was from his own hometown of Binghampton, New York – and he was an avid golfer.

“Kevin changed my mind about golfing,” chuckled Welicka. “He told me, under no uncertain terms, that, ‘if you are going to be a lawyer, then you will need to know how to play golf! Kevin really did teach me the game. My first golf outing was at the old Waverly Golf Course in Lansing. I only had to rent clubs that one time though because I was able to purchase a set of used clubs being sold at a garage sale at the house across the street from me when I was dropped off that day!”

“In retrospect,” reflects Welicka, “I guess you could say that my entire golf life has revolved around Cooley.”

Win. Win. Win.

“Participating in the golf outing is really a win, win, win,” proclaimed Welicka.

“One; it’s the camaraderie and friendships that make this event so great. The entire team gets a kick out of golfing with each and catching up. We also have a good time talking to the other participating Cooley graduates and professors.

“Two; it’s simply a great event – well done, down to the last detail. Always a nice venue – from the first one at Royal Scot to the Lansing Country Club, which we’ve enjoyed for the past several years. We have a blast!

“Three; the event provides help to benefit students. We have fun and help others. What could be better? It’s one way I can also give back to my alma mater.”

Good Old Days

If you ask Vince Welicka what stands out for him about the golf outing over the years, he responds with his usual matter of fact humor peppered with a dash of reality.

“Honestly, the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is that in the good old days we could actually win,” Welicka surmised. “We’ve taken home longest drive awards and even taken home the team tournament trophy a couple times.  This year, I remember being pretty happy with how I was hitting the ball, until I heard that I was 150 yards behind the longest drive winner! Participating in the golf outing today is not about winning anymore, it’s enough to just get out there, do the best you can, and have fun.”

After thinking about it for a minute, Welicka really only has one regret; “The only disappointment I have is that the next alumni golf outing is now a year away!

More photos from the 2015 WMU-Cooley Alumni Golf Classic

WMU-Cooley Law School President Don LeDuc (far right) teams up with his brothers, (from left) Reed, Kevin, and Dan, for the 26th Annual Alumni Memorial Scholarship Golf Outing.

WMU-Cooley Law School President Don LeDuc (far right) teams up with his brothers, (from left) Reed, Kevin, and Dan, for the 26th Annual Alumni Memorial Scholarship Golf Outing.


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