Monthly Archives: March 2016

Hmong Attorney Fills the Gap with Solo Practice, Work with Boys and Girls Club

This article about WMU-Cooley graduate (J.D. Marshall Class, 2013, cum laude; LL.M./Insurance, McLean Class 2015) was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove and originally published by the Legal News on Feb. 15, 2016. It is reprinted here with permission of The Detroit Legal News.

Joseph Yang

Joseph Yang

Lansing attorney Joseph Lee Yang is one of only two Hmong lawyers in the state of Michigan and the only one in private practice. “I’ve always wanted to help my people and felt this was a gap I could fill – hopefully they feel the same way too,” he says.

Yang has several Hmong clients, who trace their roots to the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. “I’ve found they don’t really call unless they need a fire put out,” he says. “I’ve been trying to change that by providing education about pre-planning and the importance of getting your affairs in order before legal issues arise.”

A graduate of Lansing Everett High School, Yang earned an associate’s degree in Information Technology from Lansing Community College, an undergrad degree in Information and Technology Management from Michigan State University, and his J.D., cum laude, from Cooley Law School, where he was associate editor of the Law Review, president of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association and of the Weekend Law Society, a Cooley Ambassador, and a member of the Parent Law Student Association.

“I was primarily a weekend student at Cooley, and I enjoyed the practical knowledge that was shared by the professors,” he says. “I appreciate legal theory, but learning skills that helped the rubber hit the road prepared me to go solo right out of law school.”

He opened the Law Office of Joseph L. Yang PLLC, in Lansing in July 2014, and specializes in criminal defense, contract drafting and estate planning. In addition to legal services, he also is a notary, and a Hmong translator.  “I enjoy being able to set my own rules and decide which clients to take on,” he says.

Named in 2013 among The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and Grand River Connection’s annual “10 Over the Next Ten” rising young attorneys, Yang has also earned a master’s degree in insurance law from Cooley. “I have a background in IT and business, and I’d like to merge that with my legal skills,” he says.  “I think that the merging of all three give me the technical knowledge, attention to detail and people skills that would translate well in the insurance law field.”

A member of the Ingham County Bar Association, Yang has been involved for a few years in the annual ICBA charity golf outing. “It’s fun to see everyone out of their dark suits, and just having fun on the course – although, I don’t know how to play,” he says.

The youngest of seven children, and the only boy, Yang is the only sibling born in the United States. His family, forced out of their homeland by the Vietnam War, came to the Lansing area under the sponsorship of the Presbyterian Church of Okemos, whose members sponsored a number of Hmong families from Thailand refugee camps. “My mom has returned once but I’ve never been there,” he says. “I hope to take a trip soon with my family so my mom can go with us and tell us all her war stories. She has tons of them.”

A Lansing native, Yang has lived in the state’s capital his entire life, and makes his home there with his wife, Ger, and children, Logan, Ginger and Alex. “When I submitted my bar materials, I realized I’ve never been away from Lansing for more than 10 days in a row,” he says. “I love the fact I can get anywhere and do anything in about 20 minutes.  Lansing is a great city, and it’s where I want to raise my three children.” In his leisure time, Yang enjoys playing basketball, collecting “Spawn” action figures, and serving on the Hmong New Year Committee.

A member of the Michigan Asian-Pacific American Bar Association (MAPABA), the Delta-Waverly Rotary Club, HAC of Lansing (Hmong American Community Inc., of Lansing), and South Lansing Business Association, he also has served as Director of Operations for the nonprofit Boys & Girls Club for 11 years. “Until someone can persuade me otherwise, I plan to be there as long as I can,” he says. “Working there and being solo has worked out well so far.

“I enjoy seeing kids grow. Some of the kids I knew when I first started are in college, working, or starting their own families. You never know what kind of impact you will have on a child until they tell you years later that you inspired them to do better. That’s food for the soul.”

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You Asked. We Answered. WMU-Cooley Law School Affiliation Q&A.

  1. What is the affiliation? The affiliation is a formal linkage between Western Michigan University and the private WMU-Cooley Law School. The affiliation between the two entities is focused on providing new professional education opportunities for students while adding value and new research and service initiatives to the programs both institutions offer. With both WMU and the law school retaining separate governance and financial responsibilities, the affiliation is similar to the relationship between WMU and the private WMU Stryker School of Medicine.

    four campuses

    The Law School’s campuses in Auburn Hills, Tampa Bay, Lansing, and Grand Rapids

  2. When does the affiliation start? It already did, some time ago.  The University and Law School executed the original affiliation agreement in August 2014 after approval by the Higher Learning Commission and American Bar Association (the accrediting agency for law schools).  In the past year and half since, the University and Law School have proposed, and in many instances implemented, about 140 different initiatives involving about 140 faculty, staff, and leaders of both the University and Law School.

    WMU-Cooley President Don LeDuc and WMU President John Dunn

    WMU-Cooley President Don LeDuc and WMU President John Dunn

  3. When will the Law School hold courses in Kalamazoo? It already is, having started in January 2016 with elective courses in Employment Law and Environmental Law in the Health & Human Services Building on East Campus.  Also, a Constitutional Law Seminar jointly taught by WMU-Cooley Professor Devin Schindler and Western Professor Mark Hurwitz is taking place at the Law School’s Grand Rapids campus. The Law School hopes to hold certain first-term required courses for new law students on WMU’s Kalamazoo campus in Fall 2016.

    WMU-Cooley Professor Devin Schindler

    WMU-Cooley Professor Devin Schindler

  4. What should we know about the Law School? With nearly 20,000 graduates licensed in every state and many foreign nations, the Law School’s mission—practice access—is similar to the University’s mission.  While the Law School has students and graduates of the highest academic and professional achievement, the Law School ensures the success of a diverse student body through a rigorous instructional program providing intensive support, to prepare graduates for service in a global society.  In recent years, the Law School has graduated more minority and African-American lawyers than any other U.S. law school.  Learn more at wmich.edu/law.

    WMUCooleyTampa01072016-546 (1)

    WMU-Cooley Law students

  5. What are some affiliation highlights? The U.S. Department of Justice awarded WMU a $418,000 grant to expand the Law School’s Innocence Project in which WMU students are currently working with law students.  (The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, investigating criminal-conviction files for DNA evidence, has already exonerated and freed three wrongly convicted individuals.)  WMU’s Homer Stryker, M.D. School of Medicine has approved a joint medical student/law student course on informed consent and risk communication. Law professors have spoken in WMU courses in Kalamazoo and for WMU’s Center for Ethics in Society. Dozens of other initiatives are ongoing.

    Sen. Steve Bieda (blue tie) joins all the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project team on the Capitol steps after the press conference introducing Senate Bill 291.

    Sen. Steve Bieda (blue tie) joins the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project team on the Michigan Capitol steps after the press conference introducing Senate Bill 291 to provide compensation to wrongfully convicted persons.

  6. What’s next? That’s in large part up to students, faculty, and staff of both institutions.  While University and Law School leadership certainly have ideas for the affiliation, the presidents of both institutions deliberately chose to let their students, faculty, and staff draw inspiration and expertise from one another in organic collaborations. The approach is working, with relationships formed in dozens of different areas and around many different activities and functions.  Those who get involved will find other willing, inspired, and committed individuals sharing their own interests.

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    Law student at WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay

  7. Whom should I contact with affiliation ideas? Don’t hesitate to approach deans, directors, and department chairs with affiliation ideas.  The Law School has a representative on WMU’s Provost’s Council to field affiliation interest through WMU’s leadership and management.  If you don’t know who else to contact, then don’t hesitate to contact WMU Professor and Special Assistant to the President Mark Hurwitz or WMU-Cooley Associate Dean and Professor Nelson Miller.

    Mark Hurwitz, Western Professor of Political Science 
    Office: (269) 387-5372

    Nelson Miller, WMU-Cooley Law Professor and Associate Dean, Grand Rapids Campus
    Office: (616) 301-6800, ext. 6963

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Does Hulk Hogan have the legal right to a private life? What does the law say.

Blog author WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Jeffrey Swartz served as a county court judge for Miami-Dade County, Florida, where he presided over criminal and civil casesProfessor Jeffrey Swartz before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. Professor Swartz teaches Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure, along with being the legal expert for ABC Action News.

Jury selection began Tuesday in Tampa, Florida in the trial of the lawsuit by Terry Bollea, better known as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, against the Hulk Hoganwebsite Gawker. Factually, the case revolves around Gawker obtaining, and then publishing, a 2006 video of Hogan having sex with the wife of a local radio shock jock Bubba Clem aka “Bubba the Love Sponge.” Hogan claims that the recording was made without his knowledge or consent.

Gawker’s position is that the tape was fair game, since Hogan made his sex life public by speaking of it frequently and made it one of the centerpieces of his book, and his television and radio appearances.

At the same time, the Erin Andrews trial proceeds on her claim against a stalker who surreptitiously recorded her nude in her hotel room by removing the peephole viewer. She is also suing the hotel for failing to secure her privacy by confirming she was in the hotel, conceding to the stalker’s request to be put in the room next to her and not advising her that a request had been made for such a room placement.erin andrews

There are parallels and distinctions. Both claim invasion of their privacy. In Hogan’s case he knowingly and purposely made his sex life public. However he claims he has the right to determine what the public should know, not to mention that Gawker used an illegally produced video in violation of Florida state statutes.

On the other hand, Erin Andrews claims she is humiliated by publication of the video on the Internet, which to date has garnered up to 14 million views. Experts have testified that despite numerous efforts to remove the video, individuals who have stored or downloaded the video keep posting it. Thus, they have testified, it may never cease to be out there for the public to view. She claims not only an invasion of privacy, but security failures by the hotel. She is seeking $75 million.

In Hogan’s case the issue may seem simple. “How far does the public have the right to delve into a public figure’s private life?” However the answer is more complex. There is a fine line that is really at issue here. Is there a difference between what a public figure makes public and what a public figure has the right to keep private?

Hogan is claiming: The fact that I talk about my sex life doesn’t mean Gawker possesses the right to disclose what I do in the privacy of a bedroom. That is, what I choose to let the public know, I choose to let it know. What I don’t want the public to know, it doesn’t have the right to know.

This is what Gawker does. They get their hands on information like people’s private sex tapes, and they put them out there for whatever profit they can get for it. They feel this case is, for all intents and purposes, an invasion on their business model.

Gawker Media has filed several motions in an attempt to stain Hogan’s character, make the tape proof of those allegations and decrease the amount of damages, even if Gawker were to lose the case. If Gawker were to lose the $100 million case, it could potentially put them out of business.

After losing these motions, portions of the unauthorized sex tape that capture Hogan repeatedly dropping the N-word and other racial slurs about his daughter’s boyfriend surfaced through other tabloid outlets. Hogan’s contract with WWE was terminated. Hogan has alleged that Gawker leaked the tape. Gawker denies that.

Both of these cases test the limits of the public’s right to know about celebrity’s private lives, and the right of those same celebrities to maintain private what they chose to keep private.  On the other side, how far can the media go to expose whatever they can about a public figure’s life?

My prediction is that Erin Andrews will win BIG, and Hogan may win a verdict, but in monetary terms he will lose just as big as Andrews wins.

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Lawyers and Health Literacy? Yes, It’s A Good Match

Trudeau_ChristopherWMU-Cooley Professor Christopher Trudeau is one of the leading advocates on health literacy and the law.  He is widely recognized as an expert on informed consent and often speaks to audiences of health professionals and/or lawyers about creating processes to not only engage patients, but also protect healthcare organizations.

health literacy

Listen to Professor Trudeau in this Podcast with Helen Osborne, Host of Health Literacy Out Loud, about:

  • Why lawyers are starting to be more aware of, and engaged with, health literacy
  • How lawyers can use plain language to protect their clients while also helping patients understand medical-legal information
  • Ways that public health professionals, clinicians, and others can start working with lawyers to make health messages clear

More ways to learn:
Plain Language InterNational (PLAIN)
Clarity, an international association promoting plain legal language, http://www.clarity-international.net
Institute of Medicine’s Health Literacy Roundtable, “Informed Consent and Health Literacy: A Workshop,” July 28, 2014. Christopher Trudeau presented on “Establishing harmony between the rules and health literacy.”
“Making a Business case for Plain Language (HLOL #84).” A podcast interview with attorney Joseph Kimble.

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