Category Archives: Awards

Professor Christi Henke Personifies Griffith Award Tribute

The Frederick J. Griffith III Adjunct Faculty Award recognizes “that member of the adjunct faculty whose service best reflects the character and attributes of Professor Griffith: dedication to the law school; excellence in teaching; passion for persuasive advocacy; compassion for law students; and optimism about life and the future of legal education.” To show our gratitude, WMU-Cooley pays tribute by honoring one of them with this annual award. They are the unsung heroes of legal education. 

Griffith award winner Professor Christi Henke with Rick Griffith’s widow Margie Griffith.

Past award recipients have included judges and state officials, Assistant Attorneys General and local prosecutors, defense lawyers, solo practitioners and big-firm partners, corporate house counsel, and even a Canadian barrister.

This year’s recipient,Christi Henke, has taught Contracts I and II since 2008. She has also taught Sales, Agricultural Law, a Multi-state Bar Exam Skills course, and trained professors in both Contracts I and II.

About a year and a half ago, Professor Henke started teaching Con Law I, and this term is teaching Con Law II.  One term she taught five classes on three campuses! (Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Auburn Hills).

As hard a worker as she is, it is the quality of her teaching that makes her shine in the eyes of her students. Over the years, Professor Henke’s teaching effectiveness score on student evaluations averaged a superlative 9.87 out of 10.

Associate Dean Michael McDaniel shared these sentiments from her evaluations:

  • She provides her students with the tools to succeed in law school.
  • She affords each student the opportunity to ask questions and seek guidance both in the classroom and individually.
  • She shows tremendous compassion for students.
  • She encourages students to be passionate about the law.
  • She prepares her students for success in a legal career. gives Professor Henke high marks as well. She has been tagged as:

  • Respected
  • Gives good feedback
  • Caring
  • Amazing
  • Hilarious

Overall, she scored 4.8 on a 5-point scale for “Awesomeness” and was awarded a Chill Pepper for Hotness!

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WMU-Cooley Law School established the Frederick J. Griffith III Adjunct Faculty Award in 1997 as a memorial to Rick Griffith, and to recognize the contributions that WMU-Cooley’s adjunct professors make to the mission of the law school. Rick Griffith was a former Michigan Supreme Court Commissioner, and practiced law Of Counsel with the Lansing firm of Murphy, Brenton & Spagnuolo, while teaching at Cooley as an adjunct professor for nearly two decades, until his untimely death at age 52.

The award was endowed by contributions to the Griffith Memorial Fund made in Rick’s memory by his family, friends, associates, and faculty colleagues. The award carries with it a cash stipend and a memento recognizing the recipient’s selection. The memento is a commemorative ceramic tile created by Detroit’s renowned Pewabic Pottery, commissioned specifically for this award.

From left: Distinguished Professor Emeritus Otto Stockmeyer, Griffith Award winner Christi Henke, Associate Dean Michael C.H. McDaniel, Rick Griffith's widow Margie Griffith.

From left: Distinguished Professor Emeritus Otto Stockmeyer, Griffith Award winner Christi Henke, Associate Dean Michael C.H. McDaniel, and Margie Griffith.

Blog contributor Distinguished Professor Emeritus Otto Stockmeyer began his teaching career at Cooley Law School as an adjunct professor in 1976. Over the years he has also taught as a visiting professor at Mercer University Law School and California Western School of Law. At one time, before entering teaching, he was Rick Griffith’s supervising attorney at the Michigan Court of Appeals.

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Criminal defense lawyers must remember that they are impacting the lives of a real person

“Ms. (Valerie) Newman is an inspiration. She is passionate about her work, and her words will have a lasting impact on our students and how they approach their profession.” — WMU-Cooley Associate Dean Lisa Halushka 

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Valerie Newman, an attorney with the State Appellate Defender’s office, was honored with WMU-Cooley’s Integrity Award during its Integrity in Our Communities Speaking Series this summer. The award is presented to legal professionals who demonstrate the highest integrity in their profession.

“Valerie is very deserving of this award – her civility in the criminal justice system and her belief that the system works best when attorneys work together for the common goal of achieving justice,” shared Associate Dean Halushka to the group of faculty, students and community leaders. “She has always urged students to remember that when they practice, especially if they practice criminal defense law, they must remember that they are impacting the lives of a real person. She makes clear to students to never define their clients by their worst day, weakest moment, or biggest mistake.”

In attendance was also Devontae Sanford, a young man who was recently exonerated from a quadruple homicide he was wrongfully convicted of in Wayne County. Ms. Newman, who worked tirelessly to release Devontae from prison, invited Devontae on stage to answer questions from the audience. Devontae commented that Ms. Newman was like his second mom and provided hope to him while he was in prison. He told the audience that he hoped the law students in the audience would become lawyers who cared about their clients.

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Distinguished Brief Award Focuses on Importance of Careful, Thorough Writing

The WMU-Cooley Law Review hosted its 31st Annual Distinguished Brief Award ceremony on July 21, 2016, at the Country Club of Lansing. This unique event celebrates the best of Michigan’s practicing bar, formally recognizing authors of the three most scholarly briefs filed with the Michigan Supreme Court in each Court term.

WMU-Cooley Law Review Symposium Editor Courtney Sierra, WMU-Cooley Law School President Don LeDuc, Hon. Stephen Markman, Distinguished Brief Winners Desiree Ferguson, Brett DeGroff, Brent Morton, Joshua Van Laan, and WMU-Cooley Professor and Law Review Advisor Mark Cooney

WMU-Cooley Law Review Symposium Editor Courtney Sierra, WMU-Cooley Law School President Don LeDuc, Hon. Stephen Markman, Distinguished Brief Winners Desiree Ferguson, Brett DeGroff, Brent Morton, Joshua Van Laan, and WMU-Cooley Professor and Law Review Adviser Mark Cooney

Professor Mark Cooney, the Law Review’s faculty adviser and the event emcee, noted that this award reflects the importance of effective writing and the school’s longstanding commitment to teaching and celebrating effective writing.

“You’ve got to persuade your reader with the brief. And the judges and court staff who read appellate briefs are swamped with briefs on every imaginable issue, so it’s crucial to write clearly and concisely, with strong organization. And for Michigan Supreme Court briefs, writers must clearly articulate what the proper rule should be going forward.”

After the event, Cooney, who was an appellate specialist in his practice days, mentioned that WMU-Cooley’s writing courses “have always emphasized clarity and all the seemingly little techniques that writers must master to achieve clarity. If the brief isn’t clear,” he said, “you can’t possibly persuade your reader. Confusion and frustration aren’t good recipes for persuasion.”

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The Law Review was thrilled to have so many pillars of the Michigan legal community in attendance and appreciated their words of wisdom. Courtney Sierra, Law Review’s editor, shared that “This experience has shown me just how vital excellent writing can be in our legal system and that striving for exceptional writing is a key to being successful in my new career.”

She also offered her thanks to the attendees and “to my Law Review colleagues — especially Jon Paasch, Zach Green, Lyndsey Hof, Nick Langenkamp, and Shiela Burke — for helping me plan the event.” She noted that the Law Review will publish each winning brief in an upcoming volume.

The Law Review’s special guest was Justice Richard H. Bernstein, who gave an eloquent, heartfelt introduction of the evening’s keynote speaker, Justice Stephen J. Markman. Attendees were captivated by Justice Bernstein’s positivity and his gifts as an orator.

Hon. Richard Bernstein

Hon. Richard Bernstein

Justice Markman’s thoughtful keynote speech focused on the importance of careful, thorough briefs. He  highlighted the need for well-organized and well-written briefs not only for effective advocacy for clients, but for helping the Supreme Court appreciate why the case is important to Michigan’s larger jurisprudence. He added a light-hearted note about how even the finest briefs cannot ensure victory, recalling that although he’d voted for two out of the three award winners this time, at a past dinner he’d seen three winning briefs that had not garnered his vote in the cases.

Hon. Stephen Markman

Hon. Stephen Markman

During the ceremony, Professor Cooney thanked the panel of judges who evaluated the briefs and selected the winners. He told the audience that the list looked like “a judicial all-star team — perhaps our finest group yet, including veteran judges from every level of Michigan’s court system: Honorable Brian K. Zahra, Honorable Bridget Mary McCormack, Honorable Rosemarie E. Aquilina, Honorable Patricia D. Gardner, Honorable Kirsten Frank Kelly, Honorable Kathleen Jansen , Honorable Patrick M. Meter, Honorable Christopher M. Murray, Honorable Michael J. Riordan, and Honorable Paul J. Denenfeld.” He thanked them for “the generous gift of their time and expertise.”

The Distinguished Brief Award winners, who included one recent WMU-Cooley graduate, were recognized for producing exceptional briefs while balancing busy caseloads. This year’s winners were all criminal-law practitioners, a first. They were (listing attendees first and then in alphabetical order):

  1. Brett DeGroff, Desiree Ferguson, and Michael L. Mittlestat (State Appellate Defender’s Office) (People v. Lockridge);
  1. Brent E. Morton and Douglas R. Lloyd (Eaton County Prosecutor’s Office) (People v. Uribe);
  1. Joshua R. Van Laan, Victor A. Fitz, and Eric J. Smith (Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office) (People v. Seewald).


Filed under Achievements, Awards, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

WMU-Cooley Graduate Helps the Homeless and Inspires Volunteers

For a quiet guy, Shane Goodale has made a lot of “noise” ever since joining the legal arena — good noise; noise that makes changes in people’s lives and inspires them to do good things on their own.

Shane Goodale

Shane Goodale

Goodale, 41, graduated from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2012. In the three years since graduation, Goodale, who has a solo practice in Okemos, Michigan, continues to, not just speak out about the needs of people in the community, but do something about it, along with inspire others to join in and help.

This summer, Goodale saw a months-in-the-making drive to help the homeless in a practical way come to fruition when he collaborated with Sera Bella salon in the Meridian Mall to provide free haircuts to those in need. Personal grooming might not seem like a necessity to some, but Goodale knew from his experience as a volunteer just how much a difference a spruce-up can mean to people.

He started the quest to provide haircuts in the spring, but learned that, in Michigan, cosmetology services must be provided in a licensed salon. He found a salon that would help at Sera Bella after a conversation about the project idea. The manager arranged for stylists to provide the free haircuts; Goodale made arrangements to get interested clients of a Lansing shelter to the mall salon. Goodale was also able to work with Sbarro pizza, from the mall’s food court, to provide free pizza. Inspired by the project, Sera Bella plans to keep a collection box on site for both monetary and non-perishable food donations.

Shane Goodale received WMU-Cooley's Student Great Deeds Award from Heather Spielmaker in 2011.

Shane Goodale received WMU-Cooley’s Student Great Deeds Award from Heather Spielmaker in 2011.

Goodale is no stranger to the shelter from which the haircut clients came. Called Open Door Ministry and located at the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing, the shelter has been a volunteer outlet for Goodale since his days as a student at WMU-Cooley.

During his tenure as a law student, Goodale inspired fellow students to help the homeless as part of a class project. That experience led him to found a free legal clinic called HAPP, the Homeless Assistance and Prevention Project. The clinic provides free basic legal services to people who visit the Open Door Ministry, as well as pro bono opportunities for succeeding classes of law students.

Goodale was acknowledged in 2011 for his volunteer work when he was presented with the first-ever Lansing campus WMU-Cooley Student Great Deeds Award. He was also noted for his service with the Meridian Township Planning Commission, and his service on the board of directors for Stormfield Theater. In addition to his continued service on the Open Door Ministry Board of Directors, and with HAPP, Goodale also now serves as a member of the Parkwood YMCA Board of Directors, and as a community reinvestment fund board member for the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council.

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