Monthly Archives: January 2016

Thunder from Down Under – Law student from Texas takes in Sydney’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks and more

“This is the stuff of bucket lists, mine anyway. Being a weekend-only student and commuting from Texas to Michigan each week following a 40+ hour a week full-time job for the last four years, I jumped at the opportunity to fulfill a life dream of traveling to Australia. New Zealand was an added bonus” – WMU-Cooley Study Abroad Program student Stephanie Samuels

Stephanie Samuels and her mom living the dream Down Under!

Stephanie Samuels and her mom living the dream Down Under!

And talk about a bonus trifecta – this trip just happened to coincide with the world famous,  much watched, New Year’s Eve fireworks of the planet’s first celebration each year in Sydney, Australia! Since the New Zealand classes started on January 4, with my mother in tow, we decided to leave the United States a few days early to arrive in Sydney just in time for New Year’s Eve. Sydney had two firework displays.

One was at 9:00 p.m. and the other was at midnight, which was the BIG one that everyone can catch on television. We were lucky enough to book a last minute harbor cruise, and from a boat in the middle of the harbor, in the shadow of Darling Harbour Bridge, live and in-person, we experienced the ushering in of 2016 amid the thunder and glare of fireworks bursting all around us. It was all that, and more.

Our visit to Sydney, Australia was amazing. The weather was perfect. The water and sky could not have been more blue and the landscapes more brilliant green.


Our travels to see Bridal Veil Falls in Raglan, New Zealand was equally magnificent. Viewing the Falls was an easy walk up to two viewing platforms, both with spectacular views of the plunging white falls. I owe ‘livin’ the dream’ to the WMU-Cooley Down Under Study Abroad Program.

Stephanie Samuels

JD Candidate, Jan. 2017

WMU-Cooley Study Abroad Program student Stephanie Samuels

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Students Dig into Courses and Get to Know Kiwi Lawyers

In the course of several weeks, WMU-Cooley Down Under law students already completed one law course and started a new one. In their UN Rights of Indigenous People course, students completed their studies by presenting positions on the 2015 COP21 UN agreement on climate change through the lens of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Student presentation in Professor Toki's Indigenous Rights UN course

Student presentation in Professor Toki’s Indigenous Rights UN course

The students demonstrated how, after an intensive introduction to the subject by the talented Valmaine Toki, they were able to frame legally appropriate arguments regarding two important United Nations protocols. Students were introduced to new concepts in a course on International Trade Issues by Professor Alberto Alvarez-Jimenez. Students were treated to two guest speakers in their Introduction to New Zealand Law course. Terry Singh spoke about the criminal defense system and R. Bennett-King, a District Manager for Police Prosecution Services, discussed the role of prosecutors (who are by and large NOT attorneys in New Zealand). Finally, this week brought a whirlwind tour of Contract, Tort and Property law in China and New Zealand in Professor Liao’s course.

Students further explored the natural beauty of Aotearoa, New Zealand by traveling to the Pacific coast, seeing waterfalls and rain forest along the way. The white sand beaches of Tauranga and the extinct volcano of Mount Maunganui provided a day of respite and repose. Students also got to spend a beautiful day poolside with professors and classmates.

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 Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary is directing the law school’s foreign study program in New Zealand and Australia. She and her students will be sharing their experiences throughout the Hilary 2016 semester.


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WMU + WMU-Cooley Affiliation Advances with Signing Agreement and 134 New Initiatives

The progress WMU-Cooley has made in implementing the Western Michigan University affiliation over the past 18 months has been strong.  The partnership has already spawned 134 initiatives – in just over a year and a half – through the efforts of everyone, from the administration to the faculty to the students.

Now with the first two law classes underway on WMU’s Kalamazoo campus, Western Michigan University President John M. Dunn and WMU-Cooley Law School  President and Dean Don LeDuc met with officials on Jan. 19, 2016 to sign three new agreements that covered facilities use, courses and programs, and parking.  The classes in employment and environmental law will also pave the way for a group of first-year law students to begin basic legal education on the WMU campus in fall 2016.

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Both Dunn and LeDuc had great praise and mutual respect for the affiliation and the ideas generated by both institutions. For students, this latest agreement lends support and excitement to the many opportunities it opens for them, in addition to endless possibilities for the faculty and staff of both institutions.

“This is a great affiliation with a very fine law school,” said Dunn at the signing. “It is also, for the people of Michigan and locations well beyond, a great example of how to work our way through challenging times and expand opportunity for our students in a powerful way without relying on state resources.”

“With WMU now looking to use space at our other campuses, and the law school now active in Kalamazoo, the synergy is evident and the opportunities are abundant,” stated LeDuc. “The rewards have already included a joint major grant to the Innocence Project for $418,000 obtained through the initiative of WMU-Cooley Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon. Our affiliation with WMU is a great long-range priority, and it is already producing short-range benefits.”

New opportunities that are a result of the agreements signed Jan. 19 include the following initiatives.

  • Accelerated programs that will allow WMU students to complete both an undergraduate and law degree in a time frame shorter than the traditional seven years — saving the students time and tuition dollars.
  • Cross-listing of courses that will allow WMU graduate students to take law classes and law students to take graduate courses, with each earning credits toward their respective degree programs.
  • Dual courses that will be team-taught by faculty at both schools.

Watch the Jan. 19, 2016 WMU/WMU-Cooley Jan. 19, 2016 Signing Ceremony

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Military Feature Angela Tormey: Just a small town country girl looking to make her mark on the world

WMU-Cooley, as a Military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. WMU-Cooley 2L student Angela Tormey is the first in a monthly series featuring those in our WMU-Cooley military family who have served or are stilling serving our country. 

Military rank and title: Master Sergeant (E7), United States Air Force.

Why did you decide to go to law school and why did you choose WMU-Cooley: When I was contemplating my post-military-retirement plans, heading back to school was a very attractive option for me.  I knew I would be able to use my Post-9/11 GI Bill to pay for some or all of my tuition, as well as a housing stipend, so long as I was a full-time student. I also knew that the job market for the skill set I obtained while on active duty was highly competitive. It was going to be a challenge to find full-time, meaningful employment, especially since I was new to the area. In the interim, I thought that going to school would allow me to earn an income to help support my family while I waited for the military pay system to catch up with my new status as a retiree. When researching schools, law school never really occurred to me until I one day I noticed that a law school opened up near my home in Florida. I also learned after speaking to the folks at WMU-Cooley that they were very familiar with the ins and outs of billing and reporting with Veterans Affairs  (the people who maintain the GI Bill funds). I figured it was worth a shot to see if I qualified. Brianne Myers was the first person I met at Cooley, and my first impression of Cooley and law school.  For anyone who hasn’t met her, she is the perfect person for her position.  She is extremely patient, genuine, kind, and goes out of her way to make sure you get answers to your questions.  She gave me a tour of the Tampa Bay campus and by the end of the tour, I wanted to go to Cooley, and only Cooley. In fact, I only applied to Cooley.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only did I qualify to attend Cooley, I was also eligible for a scholarship.  From there, the rest is history. Cooley gave me an opportunity I never knew existed and I am forever grateful.


Career Description: I was active duty Air Force. Early in my career, I worked in Satellite Communications where I ultimately became an executive travel communicator for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. It was a pretty awesome assignment. My military travels have taken me all over the United States and overseas.  I have been stationed in Korea, as well as deployed to several locations in the Middle East. I eventually re-trained into Public Health. When I was offered the option to retire early as part of a force tailoring initiative, I jumped on the opportunity and retired in 2014.


Career goals: Law is a second career for me. One of the benefits of being in the service (military) is that we are taught early on to live by the phrase “Semper Gumby”… it means, “always flexible.”  So, presently, my career aspirations regularly change, which is common for many of my colleagues, but I’m not worried. While I would love the opportunity to work with the military as a civilian, or assist former military in routine matters, I don’t feel a strong need to go in one direction.  I learned early on in my military career that a person should be willing to grow where you’re planted.  I know, no matter what, everything will work out just fine!


Tell us a little about you: This is actually a hard question for me. What do I say? I was born in Georgia. I have three step-sisters, two step-brothers, two half-brothers, and two half-sisters. It has often been said that I left home, just to get some space. Although that may be true, to a degree, I am happy with my life.  I’m married to my best friend, Tommy, and we have two children and a big ol’ dog.  We enjoy running, working out, and cooking (more cooking now that I discovered Pinterest!). Ultimately, I am just a small town country girl looking to make my mark on the world.

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Law students settle into New Zealand life, land and law classes

“It is the beginning of a new year and an academic adventure for WMU-Cooley students in our Down Under Program!” – Down Under Director Kimberly O’Leary


It’s been a great 2016 so far! Law students arrived at the beginning of the year, and they have settled nicely into their rooms on the campus of University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand. Our first class was held on January 4, but unlike Michigan, the New Zealand landscape is full of fragrant flowers, green ferns and flourishing trees. It is in the prime of summer Down Under!

Students happily launched into their courses, such as Introduction to New Zealand Legal System with local co-director Cheryl Green, Comparative Chinese & Common Law Systems, with Professor Zhixiong “Leo” Liao, Indigenous Rights in Action with Valmaine Toki, while I teach Equity & Remedies to the law students. After just one week, our understanding of parliamentary, Chinese civil code/Communist party and indigenous systems has blossomed, just like the beautiful local flora!

We have also learned about a democracy where the Constitution isn’t written down and the importance of conventions and customs. In addition to studying and participating in classes, students have had time to explore Hamilton, including the outstanding Hamilton Gardens, the Riverwalk and the Hamilton Zoo. The students especially enjoyed feeding lemurs and a white rhinocerous at the zoo!

Over a weekend, students, faculty and family members fit in an excursion to Raglan, one of the best surfing beaches in the world and home of the famous black sand. After traveling through mountains to arrive, we viewed Bridal Veil Falls, which put on quite a show after holiday rains, and then we took a harbor cruise into the Raglan Bay, where we were served fish and chips. ­­The local co-director, Cheryl Green, has taken on a special role shepherding this American flock as we navigate through Aotearoa – the Maori name for New Zealand – which means, “land of the long white cloud.”

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 Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary directs the law school’s Study Abroad program in New Zealand and Australia. She, along with her law students are sharing their experiences throughout the Hilary 2016 semester.

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What’s New for Employers Under the Affordable Care Act in 2016?

Professor Lisa DeMoss

Professor Lisa DeMoss

Professor Lisa Sewell DeMoss is WMU-Cooley’s director of the Master of Laws Program in Insurance Law and an expert on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Before joining WMU-Cooley Law School, she was senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate compliance officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan in Detroit. Below she provides ACA updates and what’s new for employers in 2016.

Employers have confronted a lot of unpredictability under the Affordable Care Act. Between implementation delays and the uncertainty created by continual political wrangling and litigation, running a business and planning for the future has been a big headache for employers subject to the coverage mandate provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  About 96 percent of employers in this country are small businesses employing fewer than 50 full-time employees.  They are exempt from the employer health care coverage mandate under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees, 2016 marks the beginning of new reporting responsibilities and penalties under the ACA for failing to comply with the employer coverage mandate which went into effect in 2015.

There are two tiers of penalties under the law, one for failing to offer coverage to 95 percent of your Full-Time Equivalent (FTEs) and their dependents, and the other for failing to provide coverage equivalent to statutory minimum values. Each penalty is determined under a statutory formula that is triggered when one or more of the employees receives a premium tax credit or cost sharing subsidy when obtaining their own health coverage through the federal or state insurance exchanges. For larger employers, the penalties may exceed $2,000 per employee for those who are not covered under the group health plan. These penalties apply to 2015 enrollment activity. Also new to 2016 are employee and IRS reporting requirements corresponding to the employer coverage mandate. Employee statements regarding compliant 2015 coverage must be given to employees by February 1st. The penalty for a missed deadline is $100 per return or statement. Employers are also required to file a new form with the IRS by March 1st, reporting 2015 employment data demonstrating compliance with the coverage mandate. The penalty for missing that filing deadline is also $100 per return. For additional information regarding the employer coverage mandate and reporting requirements please refer to the IRS Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions web link.

The biggest news for large employers in 2016 is the passage of legislation in December of 2015, extending the effective date for two important and controversial provisions of the ACA. The employer tax on high cost health plans, otherwise known as the Cadillac Tax, has been delayed two years until  tax years beginning after December 31, 2019. This is a 40 percent non-deductible excise tax on amounts by which an employer’s monthly cost of applicable employer sponsored coverage exceeds specified statutory dollar limits. That same Consolidated Appropriations Act, which amends the ACA, also imposed a one year moratorium on ACA’s annual fee on health insurance providers and delayed the effective date of a medical device excise tax of 2.3 percent to sales occurring after 2017. Many expect that these extensions will be continued into the future in annual federal  appropriations bills.

These amendments will save employers millions of dollars in direct and indirect costs of administration of their group health plans. While employers benefit from these changes, individuals who are not eligible for group health insurance coverage may suffer the consequences of reduced funding of individual premium tax and cost sharing subsidies under the ACA which are dependent in part on these forestalled sources of offsetting revenue. And, the loss of critical funding revenue for the individual mandate may hasten the overall demise of the ACA.

More Articles 

Professor Lisa DeMoss makes sense of the new Health Insurance laws – June 18, 2015

Professor sought out to help make sense of Affordable Care Act – Dec. 12, 2014

It’s way too soon to stress over the health care law – Oct. 8, 2013

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WMU-Cooley Law School Prepares a Day of Dedication to the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we approach what would have been the 87th birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on Jan. 15, it is a privilege to once again honor the memory of the slain civil rights leader. As the law school has done for the past several years, WMU-Cooley will suspend classes on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. In place of the day’s normal schedule, a variety of activities are being planned at each of the law school’s campuses to pay homage to the life and work of Dr. King.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. presents his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presents his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963

In Lansing and Tampa Bay, the law school will hold its annual day of service in which students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate in service projects benefiting the community. In Grand Rapids, activities will include an essay contest where participants will be invited to write six-word essays on Dr. King and his impact on the nation. At the school’s Auburn Hills campus, a panel featuring community activists, law enforcement officials, criminal defense attorneys, and the ACLU, will discuss “Death by Police: Justifiable Homicide or Excessive Use of Force.”

During the week, students will also be invited to take the Pro Bono Pledge and consider how pro bono service will enhance their legal careers.

As we celebrate Dr. King’s life and work, it is worth revisiting his famous “I Have a Dream” speech given in Washington, D.C., on August 23, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Dr. King gave an earlier version of the speech in Detroit in June 1963. Nearly everyone knows about the famous speech, but one must read it in its entirety to understand its power, its majesty, and the force and  urgency that it still carries today.

Dr. King’s estate, which holds the copyright to the speech, has licensed it so that it can be read and heard. WMU-Cooley Law School urges you to read and listen to it:  I Have a Dream. For more information about Dr. King’s speech, to obtain a copy of the video, or to read more about Dr. King, we recommend that you go to Martin Luther King Online and to the website of  The King Center.

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Greetings from Down Under!

 Kimberly E. O'Leary

Kimberly E. O’Leary

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary is directing the law school’s foreign study program in New Zealand and Australia. She and her students will be sharing their experiences throughout the Hilary 2016 semester.

Before beginning the work of the WMU-Cooley “Down Under” program, I took a week-long holiday (as the Kiwis call a vacation) across New Zealand. We took some great photos of our travels!

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First, I settled into my apartment, where I will live for the next two months, in Hamilton, New Zealand. There is a beautiful riverwalk behind the apartment in this lovely city!

Then, I took a scenic train ride down the entire North Island from Hamilton to the capital city, Wellington. There, I sipped a Flat White and relaxed into a slower vibe. We had the most amazing view of Wellington Harbour.

Flying to Queenstown next, Lake Wakatipu was sparkling and the town was vibrant with Kiwi tourists on holiday. There, I visited a bird sanctuary and saw real-life kiwis (nocturnal flightless birds), a kia (beautiful parrot), and other native birds. Also learned a lot about conservation concerns.

Finally, I spent three days in Te Anau, a quiet little town on Lake Te Anau, in the Fiordlands National Park. The highlight of that trip was a trek to Milford Sound, with crystal clear water, dolphins abounding, waterfalls many times taller than Niagara Falls, and guided stops in the beautiful national park.

Flying back to Hamilton, I could see the mountains and coast all over this beautiful land, finally settling back into Hamilton, with its green rolling hills.

We are already off to a great program. As they say down here, “no worries, mates!”

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WMU-Cooley’s Bar Passage Rates Continue to Exceed ABA Requirements

Cooley President and Dean, Don LeDuc

Cooley President and Dean, Don LeDuc

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, publishes commentaries on our website about the Law School, legal education, legal employment, and related topics.  This post summarizes President LeDuc’s updated commentary that teaches us about the ABA’s bar exam passage rate standards and demonstrates that the Law School continues to exceed those standards.

Much has been written recently about ABA bar exam passage rate standards.  Because so many of the commentators are ill-informed about how the standards work, WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc has published a commentary on the topic.  He clearly demonstrates how WMU-Cooley meets the ABA standards.

ABA Standard 316 provides two alternative criteria to determine bar passage compliance by a school.  If either is met, the school complies with the standard.  WMU-Cooley of course meets both criteria.

The Ultimate Pass Standard is met if (1) cumulatively across the last five calendar years, 75% of the school’s graduates sitting for a bar exam passed it or (2) during any three of the last five calendar years, 75% of the school’s graduates sitting for a bar exam passed it.  The relevant time period is 2010-2014, as the 2015 bar results are not final.

On the Michigan bar, WMU-Cooley surpassed the 75% standard every year, with the highest ultimate rate being achieved by the 2010 cohort of students at 94%.  Further, our 85% cumulative rate for 2010-14 well exceeds the requirement.  And across for all jurisdictions, we have surpassed 75% in four of the last five years, and our cumulative ultimate rate of 81% is well above the standard.

The First-Time Pass Standard is met if, during any three of the last five calendar years, the school’s annual first-time bar passage rate in its jurisdictions is no more than 15 points below the average first-time bar passage rates for graduates of ABA-approved law schools taking the bar examination in the same jurisdictions.  This standard recognizes that the states differ on how hard to grade the bar exam.

We surpassed this standard in each of the five years.

Although we meet the ABA requirements, WMU-Cooley strongly desires to see improvement in our students’ bar passage rates.  We are actively working to accomplish that goal.

Read President LeDuc’s commentary in full.       

Click here for all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

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Filed under About Cooley Law School, History, Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, Latest News and Updates, The Value of a Legal Education