Monthly Archives: November 2016

Personal Responsibility – Can Failure be the Best Predictor for Success?

Professor Gary Bauer

Professor Gary Bauer

“One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it’s remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver’s license.”  P.J. O’Rourke

A hard lesson to learn for some people is that failure is only a bad thing if you try to cover it up or blame someone else. As a Dean in charge of disciplinary matters in law school, I encounter students who are not unlike many of the clients I represented, as their defense counsel, for criminal charges. It always amazes me how many of the issues that arise concerning cheating could be easily resolved if the students involved simply owned up to the behavior alleged. Then we move on with the consequence phase of the process without a lot of fuss. Instead, they mount defenses that are full of holes or claim someone else was responsible for behavior that forced them to engage in prohibited conduct. In the process, they expend tremendous amounts of emotional capital and, in the end, most of them are found to be responsible anyway.

Why is this?

It is human nature to minimize our faults and emphasize our positive attributes. But the pressure placed upon many millennials to succeed in life is partially the product of limited self-confidence, and the FEAR, by them and their parents that they will EVER SEE same opportunities that my generation experienced. We “picked the low hanging fruit” and had advantages of a valuable dollar, with pensions,  and Social Security at the ready to feather our nest in our later years. Millennials and younger generations don’t see their future success as guaranteed. In fact, they are very anxious and concerned that the economy might collapse like we have seen in Greece or other developed countries. And they don’t believe Social Security or pensions will be in place to secure their future retirement. That fear fuels many of their activities and the competitive spirit that they display, in my opinion.  And the end justifies the means – even if those means include cheating.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone cheating or shortcuts. I believe understanding those fears requires a different approach to address the problem. Only then can we hope to change behavior.  Within organizations, businesses, and academic institutions we need to help those inclined to cheat understand that they are only cheating themselves. Not making the mark is not failure. What counts is that you gave it your best effort. If you fail and tried your best, then you should take pride in your failure as the first step in reaching success. The more you try and fail, but continue to try, should be the measure of your success. These are the people who will ultimately be the greatest successes in life. Because they are persistent and motivated.   But making excuses or taking shortcuts is a guaranteed path to failure, both in life and in your own self-esteem.

A couple of times in my career as a criminal defense attorney, I had clients who said “I did it, and I am willing to take my punishment.” Of course, I counseled them on their right to proceed to trial and force the prosecutor prove the allegations. They also knew the possible consequences of an admission before going forward. In every instance the judge was very lenient and the prosecutor even supported the most lenient outcome possible under the sentencing guidelines.

When I meet with students to counsel them, I explain why employers look for students graduating in the top 5% of their class or graduating with the highest grade point averages. They do this as they are playing the odds. Students who have been high performers in law school are more likely than not to need less “baby-sitting” or assistance to convert them from a “loss center” to a “profit center”. They are more inclined to find solutions faster and to be better writers and researchers.  And, frankly, they might be right. But, in my experience, some of the most effective students in my clinic, serving live clients, have been those who demonstrated persistence and motivation. Many of the low academic performing students actually understand how difficult it is to understand some of the legal concepts associated with estate planning. As a result, they often break things down and demonstrate greater patience than some of my high academic performers.

I tell students that if a potential employer is using as their only measure that student’s GPA, that that potential employer may be more likely to “use” them and burn them out. They might get paid more, but in time they burn out and either go out on their own or find someone who treats them with respect. I tell them to do the best they can and if that means that they achieve a 2.0 GPA, then sit erect, look a potential employer right in the eyes and tell them that you worked hard for those grades and you are willing to work hard for your clients. If that doesn’t do the trick – move on or go solo. Because that is not the person who values your persistence and motivation and will not value you as a person. First be true to yourself and others will be true to you as well.

WMU-Cooley Professor Gary Bauer, a recent ABA Solo and Small Firm Trainer award winner, 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 practitioners, and seasoned professionals who wish to go solo, with information and resources to be successful in the legal business. This blog is reprinted with permission of the author and was originally posted Oct. 14, 2016 at




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WMU-Cooley Law Professor Explains the Pros and Cons of Defending Yourself


Listen to WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Tonya Krause-Phelan’s interview with WKZO’s Tim Abramowski on Kalamazoo’s Morning News discussing the pros and cons of defending yourself in court. Professor Krause-Phelan lends her legal expertise on the topic surrounding the recent Charleston church shooter trial.

Professor Krause-Phelan frequently appears as a commentator on numerous radio, television, print, and internet media sources regarding criminal law and procedure issues. She has served as co-editor and editor of The Informant, a publication of the former Kent County Criminal Defense Bar. She also has served as editor of Right to Counsel, a publication of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.

At WMU-Cooley, Professor Krause-Phelan teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Defending Battered Women, Criminal Sentencing, and Ethics in Criminal Cases. Professor Krause-Phelan assists with the West Michigan Defenders Clinic. She also coaches national mock trial and moot court teams.

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Military Feature Shawlonda Hallback: Simple Conversations Change Lives

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. We are thankful and grateful for the sacrifices our military service men and women make to keep us safe and preserve our freedoms. WMU-Cooley’s November monthly feature is WMU-Cooley Law School graduate Shawlonda Hallback. Shawlonda is a Retired U.S. Marine Corp Veteran.

Military rank and title: Retired U.S. Marine, U.S. Marine Corps

Why did you decide to go to law school and why did you choose WMU-Cooley: I knew I wanted to be an attorney since I was 16 years old. I remember taking a Mock Trial class in a high school English class and everything about it felt right. I loved what I was doing and it seemed to be my calling. My teacher thought so too. She told me that I would make a great lawyer – and I believed her. It was that moment that I decided that I was going to go to law school and be a lawyer. The only thing I didn’t know was when. After retiring from the U.S. Marine Corp, I felt I could follow that dream. I chose to attend WMU-Cooley as a second challenging career after retiring from the military because of its diversity and its flexibility for non-traditional students. WMU-Cooley made it possible for me to go to law school. And my family support made it a reality.


Career description: I truly enjoyed my career with the U.S. Marine Corps. It was important work when my leadership and judgment accounted for several millions of dollars and numerous people. My responsibilities included Explosive Ordnance disposal, deconstruction, deployment, disarmament, and distribution of high explosive munitions. I was built to be a Marine, and honored to defend our borders and those other countries who needed our protection. It was gratifying to know that I was doing my part to keep people safe. When I think about kids, for instance, unknowingly walking into a field that might have old or unsafe bombs or explosives hiding, and in the blink of an eye a life is changed forever, I know what I am doing is valuable to society.

Career goals: My goals are clear for me. I want every person, no matter their lot in life, to have the legal representation they deserve and are owed in our democratic society. I think it’s critical that everyday people understand their rights under our Constitution and they have a say in how they are treated. It’s important to me to be able to ease people’s fears in a tangible way when they need help and guidance. All folks should have equal access to our legal system. There are two things I want to do, now that I am out of law school and an attorney. I want to provide very low-cost legal service to those in need. Translated, I plan to give pro bono services at 50 percent of my rate to under-served markets through grants I will acquire. The second focus I have is to support local efforts to end human trafficking. My belief is when you change the climate of human trafficking at the local level, you will make important changes beyond our borders and globally. It was during an elective called Slavery & Human Trafficking taught by WMU-Cooley Professor Stevie Swanson where my eyes were opened to the horrors of human trafficking. It became a very real passion of injustice for me. To think, I didn’t even realize that this existed. Now I look at people differently, even in the grocery store, and wonder, are these women and children victims of human trafficking – and many are. Victims are everywhere, including in our community.

Tell us a little about you: I enjoy doing work I feel is important to more than just me and my family. In fact, I get much enjoyment just talking to people; hearing their stories and listening to their problems, and working together to figure out solutions. Problem-solving is at the core of what we should try to do as good attorneys.  But it’s not always about me trying to solve someone else’s problems. It’s these simple conversations that can change lives. People are all tied together as human beings. It is our ability to come together that makes us better people. My family has been an important part of my life and why I have been able to find success along the way. Chevelle (Hallback) has been an anchor for me and throughout law school. Our sons, Michael Mitchell (25), stepson Terrick Russell (24), Joshua Mitchell (23), Christian Mitchell (21), and Jordan Barnes (20), also a Marine, have been a great source of strength and pride.

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Preparation. Preparation. Preparation: An interview with Hon. Christopher C. Sabella

The first thing 13th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Christopher C. Sabella tells law students on the first day of class is that he wants them to be “as comfortable in the courtroom as they are in their own living room.” Now that doesn’t sound very easy, but he goes on to say that one of the best ways to become comfortable in the courtroom is by preparing. In fact, the three top things you need to remember in the courtroom are, “Preparation. Preparation. Preparation!”

Below are questions we asked Judge Sabella during our interview, along with his answers and his advice.

Tell us a little about your career before becoming a circuit judge with the 13th judicial circuit court? 

Before my career as a judge with the 13th judicial circuit I had two of the greatest jobs that you can imagine. I served as the legal adviser for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for a total of 12 years where I represented the sheriff, the agency and individual deputies in lawsuits that were filed against those different entities. I left the sheriff’s office and went to the U.S. attorney’s office and I served as an assistant U.S. attorney for a short period of time where I prosecuted federal cases in United States court. And one of the greatest feelings was to walk into court and to say I represent the United States of America. I’ll never forget that, that was a highlight of my career. Eventually I did return to the sheriff’s office as the deputy chief legal adviser where I supervised other attorneys and ultimately represented the agency, mainly in federal court in use of deadly force cases, until I was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to be a circuit court judge here in the 13th judicial circuit.

So what in your legal career has guided you the most in your life? 

I think the one most important thing that has guided me the most in my legal career, and particularly my time on the bench, is that I’ve learned how to treat people. The thing that I have learned over the years being a judge is, that people treat you the way that you treat them, and I treat everybody with the greatest amount of respect.

I’ve had individuals, even young men, who I’ve sentenced to prison for long periods of time – even one that I remember that I sentenced to life in prison – but the way that I had treated him throughout the course of the proceedings, and the way that I treated him at the time that I sentenced him, he left the courtroom thanking me even though he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison.  It just shocked me that he was able to treat me with such respect. I think that he was able to do that – and actually did that – because I had treated him with respect. I feel that that’s very important, and not just in the practice of law, not just in the courtroom, but in everyday life. You interact with people. Treat everybody with respect and they’ll return that respect.

In July 2010 you were recognized by Tampa Bay Magazine as Tampa Bay’s top lawyer in law enforcement. Was law enforcement an area of law you always had an interest or was it something you developed a passion for?

The time that I spent representing the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the time that I spent with law enforcement was something that I developed a passion for. In fact when I graduated from law school I had no idea that law enforcement agencies even had in-house counsel. It was a time when I was looking for a job and my cousin who was a judge here locally, a county judge, knew the chief legal adviser at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. He knew that I was looking for a job, so he called him and he agreed to meet me and gave me an interview, then hired me as a law clerk while I was waiting for my bar results. During that time, I guess I must have impressed them because when I got my bar results back they hired me as a legal adviser. I then spent the next six years there representing them as a legal adviser. During that time I developed an incredible passion for law enforcement. I ultimately was recognized by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as an expert in use of deadly force. I was on a committee picked by the governor to investigate officer-involved shootings, and ultimately developed a curriculum for FDLE for the investigation of officer-involved shootings.  I represented many officers in court for use of deadly force and developed an incredible passion for law enforcement.

You have been teaching trial skills at WMU-Cooley since 2014. What inspired you to go into teaching?

The thing that inspired me the most to go into teaching law students is my experience with young lawyers in my profession and my time as a judge. I always take the opportunity to spend time with young lawyers because I believe that they are the future of our career. Coming here and teaching law students is an opportunity to address them at an early point in their career and to assist them in becoming not only good lawyers – but great lawyers.

Tell me about your style of teaching. What do you find your students appreciate about it?

Students have told me often that they appreciate my teaching style. So it’s caused me to wonder what it is I’m doing right in the classroom. I think that, first of all, teaching a trial skills class is different than teaching any other class, because this is a class where the students have the opportunity to come down and to participate and to have hands-on learning experiences where they actually do each and every one of the parts of a trial. So we are having fun in class and that makes them enjoy class but most importantly I think why the students enjoy the class is that I am trying to make them comfortable in a courtroom. I tell them in the very beginning, the first day of class, that in order to be a great trial lawyer you’ve got to be comfortable in the courtroom. So I tell them everything we’re going to do throughout this class is going to be geared toward making you as comfortable in the courtroom as you are in your own living room. The second part of being a great trial attorney in addition to feeling comfortable in the courtroom is being prepared. So my students often hear me tell them preparation, preparation, preparation. And when you put those two things together, preparation and comfort in the courtroom, they’re going to be great trial attorneys.

What is it about WMU-Cooley students that standout to you?

There are several things that stand out to me about Cooley students, but overall I find that they’re just absolutely incredible. The diversity of the students is just amazing to me. I have had students that are executives in large corporations. I have had students that are ex-teachers, ex-law enforcement officers. I even had one student who was only 18 years old. She had been home-schooled through high school and college and here she was in her third year of law school and she was only 18 years old. She was an incredible student.

But the diversity is amazing, and that’s one of the things that keeps me coming back to the classroom here at Cooley, as well as so many other things, because everything else about this school is so amazing – the other faculty members, the administration, this facility that we teach in. Cooley Law School is just incredible to me, and it starts with the students and it ends with the faculty and the administration. I just can’t imagine not being a part of this great school.

What advice would you like to give to law students?

The best advice that I can give to a law student is that I truly believe that you can accomplish anything that you set your mind to. It starts with setting goals, then working hard to achieve those goals, staying focused throughout the process, and then always being prepared. Like I always say preparation, preparation, preparation makes great lawyers.

What have you learned from your law students?

As much as I’ve heard students tell me that they’ve learned from and they enjoy my class, I recognize that it’s not just a one-way street. I have incredible students and I’ve learned a lot from them. They continue to amaze me how focused they are and how committed they are. They work hard; they come to class prepared – and it really helps me stay focused in seeing them and how hard they work. It makes me a better judge.

As a judge in Hillsborough County, you have seen the good and the bad times. What are the challenges to being a judge in this community?

I have found that there are many challenges to being a judge, but one of the most challenging things is being able to, what we call “stay within our lane.” We are sworn to interpret the law, not to change the law. Too many judges try to change the law if they don’t like it. I recognize that I have to follow the law whether I like it or not, whatever the result may be. If I want to change the law then I should have been a legislator, and at some point in my career maybe I’ll do that; where I can make the law. But while I’m a judge, I have to interpret the law and follow it wherever it takes me.

Do you have any interesting memories from your time as a judge?

In my time in the courtroom as a judge, two of the most interesting memories that I have is when I was a young judge. The first one was when I was a young judge in family law. I had two individuals who were in their 70s, had been married over 50 years and were getting a divorce. The only thing that they couldn’t settle between the two of them was the wife’s family spaghetti recipe. They were fighting over the recipe. The husband wanted a copy of the recipe, and that was the only thing that was standing in between them and their divorce. I can’t help but think that it must have been really good spaghetti for 50 years!

The other most interesting thing that happened was my time in juvenile where I had a non-jury trial and the defendant was accused of breaking into a home and stealing several items. The state attorney was doing a direct examination of the victim and she was going into a very specific description of a set of shoes that had been stolen from her house. I was wondering why they were going into such detail over these shoes – it was absolutely not necessary, until the attorney asked ‘have you seen those shoes since the day that they were stolen,’ and the victim, who was on the witness stand, pointed to the shoes that the defendant was wearing and said, ‘yes, he’s wearing them today.’ Needless to say, I found him guilty of the charges!



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Law Profs Offer Students a Dozen Guide Books

Law school is a transformative experience; a once-in-a-lifetime privilege to acquire hugely useful knowledge and skills. It also isn’t easy. To help students navigate the law curriculum for the best effect, and graduates enter fruitful careers, law professors gathered to write a dozen guide books.


Law professors are scholars. Yet they can also devote their writings to helping students and graduates where most needed.

For example, the first book Going to Law School: Preparing for a Transformative Experience helps students confirm their interest in law school, choose a school, and then prepare for the best start. A Law Graduate’s Guide: Navigating Law School’s Hidden Career & Professional-Development Curriculum then shows students how to shape their studies to connect with law careers.

Dear J.D.: What to Do with Your Law Degree helps students choose a practice field and law or law-related career. Preparing for the Bar Exam: A Comprehensive Guide to Plans, Programs, Content, Conditions, & Skills helps students and graduates pass the bar exam. How to Get a J-O-B: An Eight-Step Program for Lawyer Employment helps graduates with their job search.

Entrepreneurial Practice: Enterprise Skills for Lawyers Serving Emerging Client Populations shows graduates how to develop a law practice of their own, while Are You Legal? A Personal Legal Audit & Empowerment Tool shows graduates how to audit a client’s matters for opportunities to provide helpful law services.

How to Build a Practice with Pro Bono shows graduates how to help 10 disadvantaged populations, while Cross-Cultural Law Service: A Framework for a Lawyer’s Professional Skill shows graduates how to provide services to disadvantaged populations. Lawyer Finances: Principles & Practices for Personal & Professional Financial Success shows students and graduates how to manage finances as a lawyer and in a law firm.

Top 100 Questions Friends & Family Ask a Lawyer shows students and graduates how to answer the curious law questions of a family member or friend. And finally, The Faithful Lawyer: Flourishing from Law Study to Practice shows students and graduates how to integrate faith for a sound and balanced professional career.

Most of these books are free to students in online form. Professors also give away print copies, or anyone can order them online. While most of the books are priced at cost, professors donate any proceeds to the law school’s scholarship fund.


These resources, a decade in the making, show just how committed law professors can be to student success, not just in the classroom, but also outside the classroom in academic advising and career support.

nelson millerBlog author Nelson Miller is the Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy. He also teaches law classes on the Kalamazoo, Michigan campus of Western Michigan University.

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The costs of war

As of 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs is still paying a Civil War pension. The last surviving child of a Union veteran still receives a small, monthly pension payment 149 years after the Civil War ended.[1]


In the final paragraph of President Lincoln’s second inaugural address, on  March 4, 1865, the president delivered his prescription for the nation’s recovery: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Irene Triplett’s pension, albeit small, stands as a reminder that the checks we wrote in wartime still must be honored long after the guns fall silent. The VA is also still paying benefits to 16 widows and children of veterans from the 1898 Spanish-American War. World War I ended a 100 years ago, and the last U.S. World War I veteran died in 2011. But 4,038 widows, sons and daughters get monthly VA pension or other payments. Our cost today, for that Great War of 100 years ago, our annual tab for surviving families comes to $16.5 million. Those payments don’t include the costs of fighting or caring for the veterans themselves. A Harvard University study last year projected the final bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would hit $4 trillion to $6 trillion in the coming decades.

That is just money though. When we think of costs of war, the cost of national security, the phrase we use in the military is “blood and treasure[2].”

The “Butchers bill,” as the British used to say and General Milley recently revived the phrase. The reference then is to the so-called hidden costs of war. There are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (compared to 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who fought in Vietnam); there are 8.2 million “Vietnam Era Veterans” (personnel who served anywhere during any time of the Vietnam War).

And at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. (Military counselors I have interviewed state that, in their opinion, the percentage of veterans with PTSD is much higher; the number climbs higher when combined with TBI.) Other accepted studies have found a PTSD prevalence of 14%; see a complete review of PTSD prevalence studies, which quotes studies with findings ranging from 4 -17% of Iraq War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Some 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment — out of the half that do seek treatment, only half of those get “minimally adequate” treatment (RAND study). About 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI). Over 260,000 veterans from OIF and OEF so far have been diagnosed with TBI.

Seven percent of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts in times of peace. In any given year,  3.6% of the general population have PTSD (caused by natural disasters, car accidents, abuse, etc.). Recent statistical studies show that rates of veteran suicide are much higher than previously thought. PTSD distribution between services for OND, OIF, and OEF: Army 67% of cases, Air Force 9%, Navy 11%, and Marines 13%. (Congressional Research Service, Sept. 2010)

A recent sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found: 14% post-traumatic stress disorder; 39% alcohol abuse; 3% drug abuse. Major depression also a problem. “Mental and Physical Health Status and Alcohol and Drug Use Following Return From Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.” (Susan V. Eisen, PhD).

More active duty personnel died by their own hand than in combat in 2012 (New York Times).

These statistics are sobering and often ignored. We all know soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, who through multiple deployments recently, or one lengthy deployment in previous conflicts or wars, either did not return or returned scarred, altered either mentally or physically: The Marine with PTSD, the soldier with a burned or missing face, or a prosthetic, or multiple missing limbs.

And yet in some ways I was most struck by the public’s reaction to the single sentinel standing guard during Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, standing watch at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a hurricane. The photo quickly went viral. The nation reacting with respect, awe, inspired, by what to all of us, was simply, DUTY. The Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard” have guarded the Tomb for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the weather, since 1948. The Sentinel’s Creed which in part says “Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.” “I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability”That really captures the sense of Duty, not just Duty, but with 2 other conditions – to the utmost of our abilities And, second, with humility and respect. In short, how many times have you said, “Proud to serve” sometimes you said it ironically, even sarcastically, but mostly you meant it.

Not just as a cliché, but deep down in your heart and gut.And so we return, we return from the Argonne and Huertgen Forests. From Anbar and Helmand Provinces. From Aberdeen and Hood. We return to the state, to the  community that raised us and put its mark on us, far before the Army or Marines ever did. And we still retain the soul of a sentinel. The spirit of a servant. You who do not, would not,  think twice of standing your post in hurricanes or patrolling dusty streets in Baghdad, or on heaving decks in blizzards.In our Army Values, we uphold the ethos of “selfless service.”

“The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of each team member to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort.” (Army Values) “Public service” — I was raised that there was no higher calling than public service. Members of my family have fought in almost all of this country’s wars since the very first one. And, I am equally proud that they have served as educators, as teachers, and as religious leaders, for that same length of time, since our country was founded.

But, today, the term “public servant” is often equated with politician or bureaucrat. It has taken on a somewhat or somehow unsavory connotation, probably because too often politicians or bureaucrats have hidden behind the label of public servant. So think of yourself as a community servant. Or simply as a servant.  You have returned with that same spirit. Or, to return to my theme, as a servant-sentinel. Because while I am here today to publicly thank you for your service, to remind you that there is a grateful nation, and to remind that nation that they need to be ever grateful and more grateful. I am also here for a larger theme. Veterans, your country still needs you. They need you precisely because you have the soul of a sentinel, and the spirit of a servant.And, you must be a servant.

[1] Each month, Irene Triplett collects $73.13 from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a pension payment for her father’s military service — in the Civil War.More than 3 million men fought and 530,000 men died in the conflict between North and South. Pvt. Mose Triplett joined the rebels, deserted on the road to Gettysburg, defected to the Union and married so late in life to a woman so young (50 years younger than him) that their daughter Irene is today 86 years old — and the last child of any Civil War veteran still on the VA benefits rolls.

[2] Jonathan Swift, who was so fond of this phrase that he used it twice in a single sentence in this passage from his pamphlet The Publick Spirit of the Whigs, written in 1712:

“I cannot sufficiently commend our Ancestors for transmitting to us the Blessing of Liberty; yet having laid out their Blood and Treasure upon the Purchase, I do not see how they acted parsimoniously; because I can conceive nothing more generous than that of employing our Blood and Treasure for the Service of Others.”

mcdaniel21Blog author Brig. Gen. Michael C.H.  McDaniel, USA (ret.) 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.

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Applauded Leadership Program Expands Participation for Community Members

The Leadership In Times of Crisis program was recently featured in, and endorsed by, the Grand Rapids Business Journal in a recent article. The successful program is now expanding participation in the next session for community members.

leadershipThe program, a one of a kind collaboration between the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Western Michigan University and Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, is looking to encourage and craft principled leaders of integrity to lead in times of crisis. The program uses several of President Ford’s difficult and controversial decisions as vehicles for exploring leadership with integrity. The final session of the fall program, to be held Nov. 12, features Kalamazoo County Commissioner Kevin Wordelman leading a discussion on President Ford’s handling of the New York City bankruptcy and its relevance today.

Earlier sessions featured Brigadier Generals Thomas Edmonds and Michael McDaniel exploring leadership lessons from the fall of Saigon and the Helsinki Accord, and Professor Devin Schindler exploring lessons from President Ford’s pardon of former President Richard Nixon.

The class is open to all members of the community. Reservations are being taken for the next three sessions in 2017, which will be held on three Saturday mornings – one in January, February and March. Interested individuals should contact WMU-Cooley Professor Victoria Vuletich at 616-301-6800, ext. 6960, or by email at

Participants who successfully complete the program receive a certificate from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum reflecting their participation in the program.

The program has also received the support of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.  The foundation provided each of the students with a copy of the DVD, Gerald R. Ford, A Test of Character,  which was commissioned by the Peter F. Secchia Family.

vuletich_victoriaWMU-Cooley Law School Victoria Vuletich teaches Professional Responsibility. She is chairperson of the American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Professional Responsibility Continuing Legal Education Committee. She was a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection 2004-2008, and was formerly president of the Shiawassee County Bar Association.

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Clinton vs. Trump: Con Law Professor Describes Election ‘What If’ Scenarios

WMU-Cooley Law School Constitutional Law Professor Devin Schindler was featured in WalletHub’s recent articles about what a Clinton vs. Trump win would mean for the economy. 

What would a Clinton presidency mean for health insurance?

The short answer turns in part on the results of the congressional elections. If Clinton wins, but the Senate and/or House remains in the hands of the Republicans, very little will be accomplished. The Affordable Care Act will remain in place, with neither side having much ability to either eliminate or amend it. I would expect President Clinton to use the power currently delegated to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to continue to enact regulations “at the margin” to make health care markets more transparent and more efficient. READ MORE

What would a Trump presidency mean for health insurance?

Assuming the Republicans control both houses of Congress, the ACA is in serious jeopardy. Predicting what will happen is difficult, given that Mr. Trump has given few details on his legislative plan to replace the ACA. There is also the possibility that the Republicans, faced with the prospect of 15-20 million American’s losing health insurance, might pause before implementing a wholesale repeal of the ACA. Taking Mr. Trump at his word, however, the initial impact would fall hardest on the millions of Americans who received coverage either through the exchanges or as a result of the Medicaid expansion. READ MORE

Listen to Professor Schindler’s WKZO’s pre-election interview.

schlinder_devinProfessor Devin Schindler teaches Constitutional Law and Health Care Regulation at WMU-Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus and is a frequent commentator on numerous healthcare and Constitutional issues, having been interviewed over 200 times by radio, television, print and internet media sources.  His comments have appeared in Time Magazine, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and many other media outlets.

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WMU-Cooley Professor Works Polls to Secure Election Laws and Democracy

Law professors across the nation will make it their duty to work the polls on election day. WMU-Cooley Law Professor Kimberly O’Leary is just one of many at the law school who will be working all day on Tuesday, November 8, to ensure that everyone who turns out and wants to vote, gets to vote.


She joins hundreds of attorneys and law students who turn out to help make sure voter laws are followed and people are not prevented from voting. According to the State of Michigan website, references Professor O’Leary, “Michigan has 83 counties, 274 cities, and 1,242 townships. During an election, each of these units of government requires a staff of paid workers to work at the polls.”

Additionally, Presidential campaigns recruit hundreds of volunteers and train them in election law in each state.

O’Leary volunteered in Flint in 2008 and 2012. “It is easy to complain about government and elections. But sometimes, you have to step up and help. By the time we get to a Presidential election, emotions are running high on both sides. Lawyers trained in election law can help defuse possible contentious situations.”

O’Leary found that her training as a lawyer also contributed to the ability to help with non-legal issues. “Are there enough voting machines, so that people are not waiting for hours in line? Do people know which line to stand in? Are elderly and disabled voters helped?” Often, O’Leary discovered, these kinds of issues were more important than the intricacies of voter training law.

This year, rather than being assigned to one precinct, O’Leary has been tapped to travel to a variety of precincts on behalf of the City of Flint. As an election inspector, she will help monitor the status of voting to make sure everyone who wants to vote, gets to vote.

“Our democracy relies upon the participation of its citizens,” said O’Leary. “It is easy to compromise democracy if it is too difficult to vote. Lawyers and law students can help make it easier.”

Not surprisingly, more volunteers and paid staff are present in perceived “swing” states. This is because allegations of fraud or intimidation are more likely to occur in those states. Moreover, precincts with heavier minority populations are also more likely to be the target of intimidation. Lawyers are there to ease tensions, and send a clear message to voters that someone is there to help them exercise this precious right. Professor O’Leary says, “It’s times like this that a person is proud to be an attorney.”

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary has written in the field of attorney-client counseling, housing law, diversity training, the relationship between social justice goals and clinical law offices and clinical teaching. She has presented papers at the UCLA/University of London International Clinical Scholarship Conference and the New York Clinical Theory Workshop.

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Sexual Assault Conversation: Timely, Relevant, and Necessary

Much has occurred during the current election cycle. Our nation has been engaged in a number of debates, including discussions about sexual assault; conversations that most people would find disturbing. Journalists, political pundits, legal experts, and the public have found themselves talking about whether or not grabbing a person’s genital area is a crime.

statue of Justice

Many people have strong opinions on the topic. But in at least one state, Michigan, such conduct would most likely be criminal. Michigan divides its primary sexual misconduct statute into two types of behavior: sexual penetration and sexual contact.

In Michigan, Criminal Sexual Conduct (CSC) in the Fourth Degree is defined as using force or coercion to accomplish the intentional touching of a victim’s or actor’s intimate parts (described as the primary genital area, groin, inner thigh, buttock, or breast of a human being), if that intentional touching can reasonably be construed as being for sexual purposes. [CSC 4th (MCL750.520e )] In situations similar to the one described in the current national discussion, Michigan courts have found criminal culpability. For example, a man’s CSC-4th conviction for actively pinching a victim’s buttocks was upheld. Similarly, a defendant who touched a woman’s breast without her permission was found guilty of CSC-4th degree.

Because this national debate was based on a conversation about grabbing the genital area of women, many people have concluded that locker room banter, bragging, or joking about sexual misconduct is not the same thing as performing an illegal act. To be sure, talking about inappropriate sexual contact is not the same as committing inappropriate sexual contact. But the notion that one person has the right, without retribution, to sexually assault another person because of their status or gender speaks to the very reason Michigan led the way in reforming outdated sexual laws. Michigan’s approach to reforming rape laws include disavowing the historical view that women were property and that women were required to resist against nonconsensual sexual assaults.

Sexual assault is not a laughing matter. Sexual assault is a violent crime. And although it is unusual to discuss sexual assault laws crime in the midst of a national election cycle, the ensuing conversation about sexual misconduct is timely, relevant, and necessary.

krause-phelan_tonyaBlog author WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Tonya Krause-Phelan teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Defending Battered Women, Criminal Sentencing, and Ethics in Criminal Cases. She assists with the West Michigan Defenders Clinic and coaches national mock trial and moot court teams, and is frequently appears as a commentator on numerous radio, television, print, and internet media sources regarding criminal law and procedure issues.

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