Monthly Archives: November 2015

Loss of child to addiction moves law professor to change criminal justice system paradigm from punishment and prison to treatment and recovery

In April 2012, I lost someone I loved due to heroin addiction.  He was a kid – only 19 years old – and I was his legal guardian. We had spent the better part of the previous year battling his disease. He had gone through part of an intensive outpatient program, but had been kicked out for using. He had done inpatient treatment twice, relapsing within 48 hours of release each time. And exactly one week after his last inpatient treatment, with his addiction once again in full force, the disease took him to the place where he lost his life. His death broke my heart, and the hearts of his family and friends. We will never be the same.

Professor Lauren Rousseau speaks at Paradigm Shift: Changing Law and Education to Better Support Addiction Recovery event.

Professor Lauren Rousseau speaks at Paradigm Shift: Changing Law and Education to Better Support Addiction Recovery event.

The federal Center for Disease Control recently reported that more than 120 people die of drug overdose in this country every day. Heroin overdose deaths in particular have quadrupled in the past 10 years, and Michigan ranks 18th in the nation in the number of overdose deaths. These statistics don’t begin to capture the damage that addiction is inflicting upon our nation, nor do they capture the deaths that are a more indirect result of this disease – the murders, car accidents, deaths due to liver disease, heart failure, and other health complications that are directly related to drug and alcohol use. It is estimated that over 85 million Americans have been impacted by addiction, either because they are personally struggling with the disease or because they love someone who has lived with or died from it. Everyone knows someone.

Panelists discuss improving addiction recovery support within the criminal justice and educational systems. Pictured (left – right) are Matt Statman, director of the University of Michigan Collegiate Recovery Program; Bill McDermott, personal trainer at One on One Athletic Club in Ann Arbor; Carly Keyes, student at the University of Michigan; Ariel Britt, a student in University of Michigan’s graduate school of Social Work; and Alvon Lathan, director of the Inmate Mentoring Program at the Genesee County Jail. All five of the panelists are in long term recovery from addiction.

Panelists discuss improving addiction recovery support within the criminal justice and educational systems. Pictured (left – right) are Matt Statman, director of the University of Michigan Collegiate Recovery Program; Bill McDermott, personal trainer at One on One Athletic Club in Ann Arbor; Carly Keyes, student at the University of Michigan; Ariel Britt, a student in University of Michigan’s graduate school of Social Work; and Alvon Lathan, director of the Inmate Mentoring Program at the Genesee County Jail. All five of the panelists are in long term recovery from addiction.

On Nov. 12, WMU-Cooley hosted an all-day conference entitled “Paradigm Shift: Changing Law and Education to Better Support Addiction Recovery.” I was a principal organizer of the conference, together with two friends of mine from outside of legal academia: Scott Masi, referral specialist and outreach coordinator for Brighton Center for Recovery; and Ivana Grahovac, executive director of Transforming Youth Recovery, which is based in California.

Our morning speakers focused their remarks on the extent of the addiction problem in the United States (presented by Oakland County Medical Examiner Dr.  ​Ljubisa Dragovic and U.S. District Attorney Patrick Corbett), as well as the manner in which our criminal justice system deals with addiction (presented by Craig DeRoche, former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives and Executive Director of the Justice Fellowship; and Michael Johnson, nationally recognized lecturer, trainer and counselor on addictions). In the afternoon, the conference focused on the importance of recovery support in our high schools and colleges. In total, we had eight primary speakers, as well as an hour-long panel discussion with five people in long-term recovery from substance use disorder. Each member of our “recovery panel” had experienced criminal consequences while in active addiction, and three of them had been or currently are participants in a collegiate recovery program. One of those panelists, Matt Statman, is currently the Director of the University of Michigan’s Collegiate Recovery Program

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 25 percent of the world’s prison population but only 5 percent of the global population. In 2013, there were 2,220,300 people incarcerated in our federal, state, and local prisons, or one in every 110 adults. Over 50 percent of those incarcerated in our federal prisons are there due to drug-related offenses. Yet for the most part, our jails and prisons do not offer any kind of treatment for addiction.

Historically, our country has viewed addiction as a moral failing warranting criminal sanctions, rather than as a health issue requiring treatment. This is true despite the fact that the medical community has recognized drug addiction as a brain disease since at least the 1970s. In addition to the lack of treatment while a person is in prison, the criminal record that a person carries with him upon release from prison can create barriers to recovery from this disease. Most drug possession and distribution crimes are categorized as felonies, and a felony record can prevent a person from receiving public assistance benefits, employment, and housing, all of which are often necessary to stabilize recovery. During the conference, Michael Johnson expounded on the “Reentry Trap” encountered by people in early recovery who have been released from prison, while Judge Linda Davis of the 41B Michigan District Court discussed the role of sobriety courts in moving the criminal justice system towards an addiction treatment paradigm, and away from punishment and prison.

Ivana Grahovac and Kristen Johnson, executive director of the Association of Recovery Schools, discussed the importance of recovery support in our education systems. Most people struggling with substance use disorders began using well before the age of 18, and many are in treatment for the first time before that age. Our speakers noted that it is almost impossible for young people to maintain recovery if they go back to their normal high school or college with no recovery support, since drinking and drugging so often are a part of the culture. Recovery high schools and collegiate recovery programs are essential to increasing the likelihood of recovery success for our youth.

Over 160 people attended the Paradigm Shift: Changing Law and Education to Better Support Addiction Recovery event.

Over 160 people attended the Paradigm Shift: Changing Law and Education to Better Support Addiction Recovery event.

Well over 160 people attended the conference, and a large number of sponsors set up tables offering information regarding addiction treatment, recovery, and substance abuse prevention. Several WMU-Cooley law students assisted with registration, and others attended the conference, along with members of the legal community, the behavioral health and addiction treatment communities, the recovery community, and members of the general public. All of the feedback that we received from conference attendees was positive. I heard statements such as, “the speakers were amazing” and “this was the best conference I’ve attended all year.” The students who attended likewise enjoyed the experience.

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley provided the keynote during the conference “Paradigm Shift: Changing Law and Education to Better Support Addiction Recovery,” hosted at WMU-Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus on Thursday, Nov. 12.

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley provided the keynote during the conference.

We were fortunate to have Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley deliver the closing remarks, during which he revealed his own personal experience with addiction in a family member. Lt. Gov. Calley pledged his support for “shifting the addiction paradigm” – from the false perception of “moral failing” warranting criminal sanctions, to the more constructive and accurate perception of the condition as a disease warranting treatment and compassion.

Many thanks to WMU-Cooley for being on the forefront in recognizing the public health crisis that addiction presents in our state, and providing a conference designed to educate our community regarding the disease, our current approach to it, and the need for system reform.

WMU-Cooley Professor Lauren Rousseau

WMU-Cooley Professor Lauren Rousseau

Professor Lauren Rousseau teaches teaches Civil Procedure I and II at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. She is also the Chair of the school’s Civil Procedure, Evidence & Practice Skills Department, and has served as Assistant Dean at both the Auburn Hills and Ann Arbor campuses She serves on the Boards of Directors of several nonprofit organizations. These include Home of New Vision, an addiction treatment nonprofit corporation in Washtenaw County; the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities (ACHC), which oversees 16 coalitions in Oakland County focused on substance abuse and prevention, as well as the Oakland County chapters of Families Against Narcotics; and Access to Bankruptcy Court, a nonprofit corporation providing pro bono bankruptcy services to indigent clients.

April 7, 2015 Blog Forums Held on Heroin Addiction Generate Intense Interest

 

 

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Barristers’ Ball: An evening to remember say WMU-Cooley law students

WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay law students Rob Johnson and Sabrina Mentor had nothing but high praise for the Third Annual Barristers’ Ball.  The prestigious event, hosted by the Tampa Bay Student Bar Association, an organization entirely run by students, was very well attended with nearly 200 students, faculty, staff and respected members of the Tampa Bay community, present on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015 (Photo gallery below).

Rob Johnson and his wife, Ainsley Johnson

Rob Johnson and his wife, Ainsley Johnson

“To help grasp the significance of a Barristers’ Ball, one must first understand that a barrister is an attorney from a common law country, who generally represents a litigant in court and presents that case before a judge and jury,” explained Rob Johnson. “More specifically, a Barristers’ Ball is an annual event held at most law schools in common law countries, such as: the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. It is a formal or semi-formal event where all students are encouraged to attend, network and have fun with colleagues and professionals in a relaxed social environment.”

The Barristers’ Ball was held in downtown Tampa from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the University Club of Tampa located on the top floor of the One Tampa City Center building. The building, commonly referred to as the U-Club, has a vast history of tradition, prominent members, and is also known as one of the oldest, private, member’s only clubs in the Tampa Bay area. “Each guest that arrived was immediately greeted with the red carpet treatment, literally,” according to Rob.

Judge Edward LaRose and his wife mingling with students during the cocktail hour

Judge Edward LaRose and his wife mingling with students during the cocktail hour

Sabrina Mentor and WMU-Cooley Professor Karen Fultz

Sabrina Mentor and WMU-Cooley Professor Karen Fultz

They were then escorted to one of many rooms where cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were being served. “The long hours and meticulous details were well worth it to see the looks of joy and astonishment on everyone’s faces,” agreed Sabrina Mentor.

“Let me just say WOW to the view – it was absolutely breathtaking,” continued Rob. “The students looked amazing and everyone was dressed to impress for the elegant evening ahead.  A rumor floating around proved to be true, as there was indeed a special drink called ‘The Martlew;’ appropriately named after our fearless leader, Dean Jeffrey Martlew.”

Dinner was served in the main dining room where the guest speaker, Judge Edward LaRose, who sits on Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals, “delivered a powerful and insightful message to everyone in attendance,” stated Rob.

He imparted wisdom to all who attended. “Establish goals for your career and your personal life,” suggested Judge LaRose to the crowded room. “Have a five year plan. Have a 10 year plan. Engage in activities that are going to advance that plan and do not hesitate to share your plan with a prospective employer … But be ready to seize unexpected opportunities through faith, fate, or just plain dumb luck.”

Judge Edward LaRose

Judge Edward LaRose

“It was an honor to hear him speak about life, law school, the journey after graduation, and most importantly, not to forget our families and friends, who should be most treasured,” said Sabrina.

Shortly thereafter, it was time to dance the night away with DJ Cardinal. “He was outstanding,” said Rob. “For those looking for a place to rest those dancing shoes, a short stroll down the hall led to the dessert room, which offered a warm and relaxing ambiance. This is where the signature ‘Barrister Pastry’ could be found, along with coffee and other fine desserts.”

“What was going on next door, you may ask?  The Photo Booth room, of course,” smiled Sabrina. “A professional photographer, the use of props, and a keepsake filmstrip brought the experience to a whole new level of fun, with lasting memories.”

WMU-Cooley students Eric Anderson and Steffanie Brown

WMU-Cooley students Eric Anderson and Steffanie Brown

“The event was surely not to be forgotten,” stated Rob emphatically. “Every student was proud to be there, and looking forward to attending next year! The Student Bar Association was thankful for such a spectacular event and the fun and camaraderie. We especially want to thank the committee, as well as WMU-Cooley faculty and staff for all of the hard work and support!”

Student Bar Association member Mark Patterson echoed Rob and Sabrina’s good wishes. “I very much enjoyed this year’s event and I look forward to attend next year’s Barristers’ Ball event as a proud WMU-Cooley graduate and as a sponsor!”

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Oxford Program Student Reflects on Visit to Paris and Normandy Beach

Jordan Wilson spent five weeks this summer participating in the Oxford WMU-Cooley Law Study Abroad Program. During a three day weekend during the program, Jordan made sure to take a trip to France to visit Paris and Normandy; places he had on his bucket list. Given the recent tragedy in Paris, Jordan’s visit this past summer seems even more poignant and meaningful.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Arc de Triomphe in Paris

On a clear and sunny Friday morning this past summer, Jordan, his mom and grandfather took the Eurostar to Paris where the family scheduled a stay for three nights. A whirlwind tour. They spent the first day in Paris touring the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Napoleon’s Tomb, the Rodin Museum, and the Eiffel Tower. They were in awe. “The history, art and culture of Paris was breathtaking,” shared Jordan.

The streets of Paris

The streets of Paris

The next day they rode a train to Bayeux in Normandy where they took a guided tour of the American landing sites at the Normandy beaches. The tour included visiting Pointe du Hoc, Omaha Beach, and the Normandy American Cemetery.  The America Cemetery was one of the most sobering sites Jordan ever experienced. As they overlooked the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc, they were told that this was where the Rangers scaled the cliffs to capture the German battery, which was able to fire on the main beaches.

Overlooking the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc

Overlooking the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc

That morning they also viewed the famous Bayeux Tapestry that depicted William the Conqueror crossing the English Channel and “conquering” England. They  visited the monument at the edge of Pointe du Hoc where President Reagan made his famous speech on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landings. They saw one of the bunkers, still intact at Pointe du Hoc, built by the Germans as part of their “Atlantic Wall.” “It was all mind numbing to believe that something like this happened.  Yet it still happens today, but in different ways,” said Jordan somberly.

The monument at the edge of Pointe du Hoc where President Reagan made his famous speech on the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Monument at the edge of Pointe du Hoc

Jordan reflected, “The Oxford Program was an incredible academic experience, but it also allowed me a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit historic places that I may never have had the opportunity to do.”

American cemetery in Normandy

American cemetery in Normandy

Today, and every day, we remember and honor our veterans and thank them for their service and sacrifice.

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Mentor event gives law students advice on how to build a positive reputation

The Winning Edge mentor event was hosted on Nov. 11, 2015 by Florida Bar’s Henry Latimer Center for Professionalism, the Standing Committee on Professionalism, the Young Lawyers Division, and the Young Lawyers Division Law Student Division.  The panel discussion revolved around professionalism and how to build a positive reputation in the law community.

The panel consisted of the Hon. LaRose from the Second District Court of Appeals, Attorney Caroline Johnson Levine with the Florida Office of the Attorney General, Attorney Michael Colgan with the firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP, and Attorney Henry Paul with the firm Henry Lee Paul, P.A.

Winning Edge Mentor Panel with WMU-Cooley law students

Winning Edge Mentor Panel with WMU-Cooley law students

The mentors brought a unique approach to professionalism from a diverse background of experiences.  The distinguished panel discussed the importance of a first impression, and how a lawyer should continually be mindful of both their attire and demeanor. The impression you make is a responsibility to be taken seriously.

The panel also discussed the concepts of reliability and accountability. All concluded that a lawyer must always take ownership of mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. Effective communication with clients, co-counsel and the public are skills that can effect a young attorney’s reputation for many years to come.

Winning Edge Panel with WMU-Cooley students: Front row (left and right) WMU-Cooley student Governor Kimberly Canals and Attorney Caroline Johnson Levine. Back row (left to right) WMU-Cooley student Governor Brandon Porter, WMU-Cooley Professionalism Director Amy Bandow, Judge Edward LaRose, Attorney Henry Paul, Attorney Michael Colgan, Student Governor Lisa Centrangolo, and student Governor Cynthia Whitman

Winning Edge Panel with WMU-Cooley students: Front row (left and right) WMU-Cooley student Governor Kimberly Canals and Attorney Caroline Johnson Levine. Back row (left to right) WMU-Cooley student Governor Brandon Porter, WMU-Cooley Professionalism Director Amy Bandow, Judge Edward LaRose, Attorney Henry Paul, Attorney Michael Colgan, Student Governor Lisa Centrangolo, and student Governor Cynthia Whitman

The panel was gracious enough to answer numerous questions from the students in attendance regarding advice on mentors, achieving goals and ethical dilemmas.  The WMU-Cooley Young Lawyers Division, as well as the student body in attendance, were grateful to have seasoned professionals and mentors available to impart valuable knowledge and to answer questions from law students.

 

 

 

 

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Questions answered by Chinese-English bilingual attorney: How to excel and succeed in international business and law

Alice Pai

Alice Pai

Alice Pai, a 2004 WMU-Cooley Law School graduate, is a Chinese-English-French trilingual attorney working as Senior Executive Officer and acts as the leading counsel on international legal matters for the Want Want Group, a Hong Kong listed multinational corporation that originated in Taiwan, with its headquarter in Shanghai, PRC. It is the largest rice cakes and flavored milk company in China, a pioneer in registering the first Taiwanese trademark, and owns most of the registered trademarks in China. Ms. Pai  has years of experience handling cross-border and international legal matters, including but not limited to, Chinese-English contract review, drafting, negotiation, translation, rendering legal consultations in international commercial law, corporate law (e.g. joint venture, corporate finance), foreign direct investment, international investment risk management, international trade law, intellectual property law, immigration law, and product liability law. She shares her views on how to succeed in law school and to excel in an international legal career.

  1. What inspired you to become an attorney?  From an early age, I have been inspired by my father to become an attorney.  I admired him judging cases and helping others using his legal expertise
  2. When did you arrive in the United States and how did you come to choose Cooley Law School? I arrived in the United States when I was 15 years old, and since then I have come a long way to overcome the language barriers. Cooley is a law school that gives students like me, who might be disadvantaged due to special circumstances, the opportunity to study law.
  3. From your background and experience, can you provide advice to others on how to survive and thrive in law school? Law school is very demanding and the training at Cooley is very solid.  In addition to working hard, students should consider obtaining Bar review materials for the courses they are taking before or during their enrollment in such courses. This will give students a good sense about the classes they are taking and will provide an overview of the courses.  Also, students should learn as early as possible, to write clearly, concisely, and logically so that they can write their exams effectively and efficiently in IRAC (the Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion).
  4. As a Chinese-English bilingual U.S. attorney working in Shanghai, what are the three things you believe helped you most in achieving your career goals? Personally, I believe they are:
    1. A solid legal knowledge and the ability to resolve problems by researching and condensing a large amount of materials within a short time;
    2. High level of fluency in languages and strong culture awareness that are needed to effectively communicate with clients; and
    3. Global vision and cross-field training, especially when working on international legal matters and when working in a big corporation where inter-departmental cooperation and handling multiple tasks at the same time are essential.
  5. What are the three things you feel an attorney must understand or do for future success as an attorney?
    1. Be aware and able to adapt to new ideas and knowledge by keeping oneself current about the existing and future needs of your clients;
    2. Acquire a broad range of non-legal knowledge (such as business, finance, technology, etc.), in addition to the legal knowledge;
    3. Be able to think outside of the box and to work with people of various cultural, national, professional backgrounds, and explain legal concepts effectively to people without a legal background.
  6. What are some obstacles that you have faced working between the United States and China, and how did you overcome them? One of the difficulties is the access of information. Due to the censorship in China, many websites (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc.) are not accessible or difficult to get connected, although this problem can be resolved by using a VPN or other servers outside of China. Also, many English legal books and materials might not be available or only have limited selections.  Another difficulty is the international express mailings, which usually take at least 5-7 business days from Shanghai to the United States. It can be quite expensive, and there are many restrictions as to what you can or cannot enclose in the mail or packages.  Similarly, in Mainland China, airplanes and trains, domestic and international alike, tend to have delays for long periods of time (ranging from 30 minutes to hours and days). Be sure to schedule and allow for additional time to travel, especially for time-sensitive matters. Moreover, PRC, in many aspects, is still a developing or underdeveloped country. Things that are often easily handled or accomplished in the United States can be much more difficult  to get done in China. There is no solution to these situations presently, so please try one’s best and to understand that this way of life is its culture. (c’est la vie).
  7. Are there certain laws that make it hard to practice in both countries? If so, can you explain?  Yes. Some laws in PRC make practicing law in both China and the United States difficult.  For example, in China, the law requires that only Chinese nationals can take legal qualification exams. For foreign attorneys wishing to practice under the laws of their jurisdiction in China, they can open foreign attorney law firms according to the World Trade Organization so long as they meet the requirements of the Chinese government. Alternatively, they can also work as in-house counsel on matters involving international laws. Also, given the fact that China is still a communist country, many local laws might be tailored to preserve the ideology of communism or socialism and many court rulings might still be based on political concerns rather than pure legal reasoning. In addition, since PRC is a civil law country, there is no jury trial or discovery process.  Consequently, rather than lawyers, judges play a much more critical role in determining the outcome of cases.

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High School kids learn the right way to respond to a law enforcement encounter at WMU-Cooley event

On November 9, 2015, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Black Law Students Association from the Tampa Bay Campus coordinated an event at Middleton High School entitled Responding to a Law Enforcement Encounter. In light of the events on Sunday, November 15, 2015, in Minneapolis, the recommendations from the panelists continue to be relevant. According to Sr. Judge Perry Little, “You cannot win a fight in the streets with a law enforcement officer. Obey their directions, and you will live to address any alleged mistreatment at a future time.”

In a nation based on the rule of law, law enforcement is trained to meet and exceed the level of force encountered by citizens in public settings. Citizens will be afforded due process but not when law enforcement is seeking to maintain order. Questions from the audience of students and adults were answered by the panelists and provided detailed information intended to maintain the safety of citizens and law enforcement.

The purpose of the event, according to WMU-Cooley Professor Renalia DuBose, a former Hillsborough County and Pasco District administrator, is to provide students, parents and community members with the proper information on how to appropriately respond when approached by police.

High school students listen attentively to a panel of law enforcement official, judges, and WMU-Cooley law experts on how to respond to a legal encounter event Nov. 9.

High school students listen attentively to a panel of law enforcement official, judges, and WMU-Cooley law experts on how to respond to a legal encounter event Nov. 9.

During the event, a panel of six area experts offered advice to keep students, adults, and officers safe during a variety of law enforcement encounters. The distinguished panel consisted of:

  • Perry Little, Sr. Judge, Hillsborough County and Florida Circuit Courts
  • Renalia DuBose, Professor Cooley Law School & Former Hillsborough & Pasco District Administrator
  • Jeffrey Swartz, Professor Cooley Law School & Former Miami-Dade County Court Judge
  • Darrell Brown, Retired Lieutenant and Shift Commander District 1, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department
  • Faye Brown, Retired General Manager 1 Detention Officer, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department
  • Gig Brown, Middleton School Resource Officer, Tampa Police Department

Event panelists (left to right) Darrell Brown, retired lieutenant and shift commander district 1, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department; Jeffrey Swartz, professor WMU-Cooley Law School, former Miami-Dade County Court Judge; Hon. Perry Little, Hillsborough County and Florida Circuit Courts; Faye Brown, retired general manager 1 detention center, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department; and Gig Brown, Middleton School resource officer, Tampa Police Department.

Event panelists (left to right) Darrell Brown, retired lieutenant and shift commander district 1, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department; Jeffrey Swartz, professor WMU-Cooley Law School, former Miami-Dade County Court Judge; Hon. Perry Little, Hillsborough County and Florida Circuit Courts; Faye Brown, retired general manager 1 detention center, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department; and Gig Brown, Middleton School resource officer, Tampa Police Department.

Professor Swartz, who spent a decade as a judge in Miami-Dade County gave insights on how the criminal justice system works, and agreed with Little that obeying officers is very important even when the officer could be wrong. “You are not going to convince a police officer that he is wrong, or you are right,” said Swartz. “That is why we have courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges to make those decisions.”

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Animals rely on us to protect them and to be their voice says WMU-Cooley law student Rosina Mayo

Rosina Mayo with her best friend Jax as a puppy

Rosina Mayo with her best friend Jax as a puppy

My name is Rosina Mayo, and I am the 2015 Community Service Chair for Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honors Society – Castor Inn at the Tampa Bay Campus of WMU-Cooley Law School. On Nov. 11, 2015, Phi Delta Phi hosted what I believe to be a very successful Animal Law discussion panel event called Our Animals – Our Friends. Here’s why I became involved in animal rights and why I feel it is our time to change the future and end animal abuse and cruelty.

In May of 2015, one of my very best friends was rushed to the emergency room by her boyfriend after she was attacked by her dog. She had three gashes to her face. The picture that was sent to me that evening of her injuries was unexpected and put me in shock; my heart dropped into my stomach. There was so much blood on her face, her neck, and her shirt. There was nothing I could do for her. I was in class that night, and she was about an hour drive from me. During break, I frantically called her boyfriend to find out what was going on. He told me that while he was at work, but she was home in bed because she did not feel well. She told him that their dog, at the time called Hercules, grabbed a sock and she leaned down from her bed and tried to get the sock out of his mouth. The dog suddenly lunged at her face, latching on and shaking his head. She later told me that she thought she was going to die. If he had been just a couple inches lower, he would have latched onto her neck. She needed many stitches, and even today has a small scar on her left cheek. She said she looked like a monster, but I disagreed. She was still beautiful to me.

The next day, animal control went to their house, and they surrendered the dog for his mandatory 10-day quarantine. For the next few days, I saw the pain they both felt. For her, it was both emotional and physical. They called animal control daily to check on the dog, and they made countless calls to rescues. Turns out, a rescue located in another county agreed to take Hercules and attempt to train him. While there, he was fixed and received all of his treatments. My best friend and her boyfriend decided they would take him back. His name has since been changed to Minn, short for Minn Kota (they are both into boats and fishing). They continue to work with Minn, despite the difficulty. The point of sharing this story is that this is what truly inspired me.

When my friend’s boyfriend went to animal control a few times to walk and check on their dog, he told me about how sad and lost Herc was and how sad the other animals at the shelter appeared. It broke my heart knowing this. I went to bed every night with my three dogs and comfortably slept, while there were animals out there that are alone, afraid, and not loved by a human. I know it happens every day, but their situation puts things into perspective for me. I wanted to do something about it. I had the idea that this would make a great community service project for our chapter of Phi Delta Phi. I mentioned my idea to the members during a meeting, and their eyes lit up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Well, at the same time this idea was coming to fruition, our magistrate, Simone Genus, had an idea of doing an Animal Law Panel. So she and I met with Professor Kathy Gustafson several times to brainstorm, and then things started coming together. We would hold the Animal Law Panel to educate students about the law surrounding our furry friends AND include a community service project. It would be a win-win situation.

During our planning stages, all the animal related cases that were in the news or previously in the news now stood out for me, like the Michael Vick’s dog fighting conviction (and I am an Eagles fan so this is a sore subject for me); two teens who were arrested for shooting a dog and tying it to train tracks leaving it to die only to be saved by law enforcement who responded to a call regarding gun shots in the area; a dentist’s dog he kept in his office that bit a child on the face that is currently awaiting his fate in the hands of a judge; and a prize winning horse being slaughtered in his stables with some of its meat cut out. Horrible stories!! How can people be so cruel to severely injure or kill an animal that trusts us; how can we as a society allow a dog that bites someone, its natural instinct to protect itself, face the death penalty when there are people out there who abuse and kill kids and walk free! I understand that the euthanizing of a dog is done to “protect society” and is necessary at times, but this needs to be done on a case-by-case basis more often than what truly happens in the real world. THIS! This was motivation for me. Motivation for me when the planning of this event became so overwhelming I felt as though I would have a panic attack and runaway. Keep in mind, I work a full-time, demanding job in the child welfare field AND go to law school at night.

Animal Law Panel (back row, left to right) Timothy B. Harvey​, law enforcement instructor and WMU-Cooley student; ​Scott Trebatoski, MBA -Department director, Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center​; WMU-Cooley Professor Kathy Gustafson; Judge Nick Nazaretian, Hillsborough County Judge; and Jennifer A. Dietz, Esq., animal rights attorney. Front row (left to right) law students Simone Genus, Steffanie Brown, and Crystallis Ortiz.

Animal Law Panel (back row, left to right) Timothy B. Harvey​, law enforcement instructor and WMU-Cooley student; ​Scott Trebatoski, MBA -Department director, Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center​; WMU-Cooley Professor Kathy Gustafson; Judge Nick Nazaretian, Hillsborough County Judge; and Jennifer A. Dietz, Esq., animal rights attorney. Front row (left to right) law students Simone Genus, Steffanie Brown, and Crystallis Ortiz.

Anyway, the day finally came. Staff, faculty, and students came together and made this event amazing! Staff worked very hard to assist PDP in advertising the event and setting up the auditorium; faculty got their students involved by giving them incentives to attend and donate; students poured into to room with excitement. The donation table was overflowing with treats, food, toys, blankets, and so many other things. I cannot thank everyone enough.

pet_donations

On top of that, we had four guest speakers who took the time on, what I am sure was their day off (it was Veteran’s Day), to come speak and educate the masses on all aspects of animal law. The guest speakers included Judge Nick Nazaretian, Circuit 13 Judge and professor here at WMU-Cooley Law School; Jennifer A. Dietz, a local animal law attorney; Scott Trabatoski, Department Director at the Pet Resource Center of Hillsborough County; and Tim Harvey, a retired police officer and fellow student. Without their generosity and willingness to participate, this event would not have happened. Their knowledge of the subject matter was very insightful and kept the crowd intrigued. They were each amazing.

Rosina Mayo speaking to a full auditorium at WMU-Cooley Animal Law event Nov. 11.

Rosina Mayo speaking to a full auditorium at WMU-Cooley Animal Law event Nov. 11.

During my quick speech at the end of our program, I was nervous. I joked around a lot. That usually helps me feel more comfortable. I am not sure how that will help me in the courtroom one day: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am nervous so dont look at me. I spoke about my fur children at home, thanked everyone for their attendance and donations, and advised them to get out there and get involved.

This stands true. If you financially cannot donate items or money, then donate your time. Sign up with your local animal shelter and walk a dog, shampoo a dog, pet a dog, a cat, whatever! Or you can foster an animal in your home. Or just adopt and save a life! The moral of this story is that animals are helpless in the grand scheme of things. They rely on love from humans. They rely on us to show them compassion. They rely on us to protect them because they do not have voices. A little bit of love goes a long way in life for ALL living creatures (maybe not snakes or spiders in my mind, but they may in yours).

This is our time to shine. This is our time to change the future and end animal abuse and cruelty, change the laws to give these furry creatures a second chance at living, and to do the right thing. Something I forgot to say at the end of my speech (because of my nerves) I will share right now. Here on campus, Moot Court was selling t-shirts. One of those t-shirts said “Keep Calm and Study Hard.” Well, I am going to add something to that: Keep Calm, Study Hard, and Volunteer. Make that your motto, and you cannot fail! Rant. Done.

Animal Law panel and members of WMU-Cooley's Phi Delta Phi student organization students gather after a Nov. 11 event.

Animal Law panel and members of WMU-Cooley’s Phi Delta Phi student organization students gather after a Nov. 11 event.

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