Category Archives: Student News, Achievements, Awards

The best people, an excellent legal education program, and first-class facilities – essential attributes of every successful law school.

Panel of judges share wisdom and top tips for legal writing to law students

WMU-Cooley Law School students recently had the opportunity to participate in an exclusive roundtable with local judges. On Friday, Nov. 13, the Tampa Bay campus’s Student Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and Legal Writing Department co-sponsored a judicial roundtable entitled “Professionalism and Ethics in Legal Research and Writing.” The event was aimed at reinforcing the importance of professionalism in persuasive legal writing.

Judge David Denkin, Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, speaks to law students during WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay's Professionalism and Ethics in Legal Research and Writing Judicial Roundtable event.

Judge David Denkin, 12th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, speaks to law students during a WMU-Cooley Professionalism & Ethics in Legal Research & Writing Judicial Roundtable event.

WMU-Cooley brought together a panel of six judges to share their wisdom, lead small group discussions during break-out sessions, and answer questions. This unique format provided for fruitful collaboration between students and judges. After each judge listed his or her “Top-Five Tips” for legal writing, the judges and students broke out into six small groups to discuss a factual scenario suggesting an ethical or professional legal dilemma.

Here are six samples from the judges of the their top tips:

  • Proof, proof, proof your work!
  • Be concise; get to the point, but summarize your findings at the beginning
  • Don’t misrepresent the law; it will destroy your credibility
  • Read the document out loud as part of proofing
  • Use IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion) and plain language
  • Cutting and pasting from previous documents can be dangerous!
Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew speaks with students during a WMU-Cooley professionalism event.

Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew speaks with students during a WMU-Cooley professionalism event.

The judges led the discussion and, drawing from students’ ideas, guided the group to a consensus on a proper resolution to the problem.  After reconvening from the break-out groups, each judge presented his or her group’s scenario and its ideal resolution to the full audience.

For example, a group led by Judge Susan C. Bucklew discussed a scenario in which a new associate is handed a file moments before covering another attorney’s motion hearing.  The brief in support of the client’s motion is poorly written and misrepresents the law.  Students considered the benefits and drawbacks of “throwing the other attorney under the bus” by simply disclaiming responsibility for the brief.  Judge Bucklew pointed out that most judges would appreciate an attorney acknowledging the brief’s shortcomings but assuring the court that he or she was prepared to “fill in the gaps.”

The students were engaged and enthusiastic about working with sitting judges. Federal Bar Association Cooley Student Chapter President Angela Tormey said, “Having the opportunity to spend time with judges, get their personal insight on simulated real-world situations, and have that two-way conversation was very educational.  It certainly brought to life lessons we encounter in the law school setting.” Third-year student Eula Bacon was even able to use some of what she learned the very next week during Trial Skills.  Judge Charles P. Sniffen had explained that, when preparing to question a witness, a good attorney should first consider the answers he or she wants to elicit and then draft the questions needed to get those answers.

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In attendance were:

  1. Hon. Susan C. Bucklew, United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division;
  2. Hon. John F. Lakin, 12th Circuit Court of Florida
  3. Hon. Janette Dunnigan, 12th Circuit Court of Florida
  4. Hon.Diana Moreland, 12th Circuit Court of Florida
  5. Hon. David L. Denkin, Sarasota County Court of Florida
  6. Hon. Charles P. Sniffen, Manatee County Court of Florida

The judges were prepared, positive, and encouraging. According to Judge Dunnigan, “There are many concerns about the decline of professionalism and ethical behavior among lawyers.  Exercises like this can reinvigorate professionalism in the practice of law.  When you graduate an ethical and professional lawyer, you are one step closer to restoring the legal profession to its former place of honor.”

WMU-Cooley Professor Barbara Kalinowski

WMU-Cooley Professor Barbara Kalinowski

Blog author Professor Barbara Kalinowski teaches Research and Writing and has served in various judicial attorney and clerkship positions with the Michigan Court of Appeals in Detroit and the Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan. She has been a member of the State Bar of Michigan Publications and Website Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan Character and Fitness Committee, the Legal Writing Institute, the American Society of Legal Writers (Scribes), and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (2007-2009).

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Helping hand: Law student collects bottled water for Flint

Robert St. Cin

Robert St. Cin

WMU-Cooley Law student Robert St. Cin rounded up several classmates and faculty to help Flint in its health emergency caused by high lead content in the water.

“I love Flint – I’ve lived in many different places but Flint is my home and that’s why I wanted to help,” St. Cin explains. “The best way I could think to help was by reaching out to the Cooley community and, as expected, that community came through in a big way. We were able to collect around 175 bottles of water in just a few weeks, which went to the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. The Food Bank does great work across numerous Michigan counties but the bulk of its efforts go toward Genesee County.

“What made the water drive so great in my mind was that it took place in the midst of Cooley’s Thanksgiving Food Drive. The fact that each of these events was so successful, even with a fairly small student population, is an incredible testament to the generosity of the Cooley community.

“It may seem cliché but the people really are the highlight of Cooley, especially at the Auburn Hills campus,” says St. Cin, a second year law student at Cooley. “Whether students, staff, or faculty, our campus is filled with genuinely good people from a variety of backgrounds and with a sincere desire to help one another.”

A graduate of Flushing High School in Flushing, northwest of Flint, St. Cin attended Anderson University in Indiana before earning his undergrad degree from the University of Michigan-Flint where he attained Dean’s List distinction. He served as secretary of the U-M-Flint Entrepreneur’s Society that has worked closely with Habitat for Humanity in Flint in developing an award-winning work/live initiative.

“The program allows for individuals to own a building, which houses both their home and business,” St. Cin explains.

St. Cin, who started his legal studies at WMU-Cooley in May 2014, was motivated by the fact that neither of his parents graduated from high school.

“I saw the struggle that can come with limited schooling – I think it’s fair to say that’s really pushed me,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed negotiation and working towards the most amicable compromise in a given situation, so law school really seems like a natural fit.”

A member of the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division, St. Cin is working part time at Chowning, Edgar, & Wagner in Grand Blanc near Flint.

“I’ve aided in legal research, participated in trial preparation, and typed countless legal documents,” he says. “Though some of my responsibilities aren’t glamorous, the experience of working first-hand with knowledgeable, dedicated attorneys has been invaluable.”

As for future career goals, St. Cin has a wide range of interests.

“I could easily see myself happy and fulfilled following any number of paths,” he says. “That said, serving as a judge or magistrate certainly makes the short list.”

St. Cin’s time in leadership with Cooley’s Sports & Entertainment Law Society has been a bit different than that of the U-M Flint Entrepreneur’s Society.

“Because sports and entertainment are fields built around networking, that’s been the emphasis,” he explains.

Earlier this year, the society hosted Flint native Patrick McInnis, CEO of Fathead, a Detroit-based company that specializes in life-size vinyl wall graphics, who discussed the importance of networking.

“The event was a tremendous success and really set a high bar for the organization going forward,” St. Cin says.

As president of the Sports & Entertainment Law Society, St. Cin jokes that he has an obligation to love sports and music.

“I was never the greatest athlete, nor musician, but I know an unhealthy amount of trivia relating to both,” he says. “The same can be said for movies and TV. I know more useless facts about music of the mid ’90s than anyone should know.”

St. Cin and his wife recently bought their first home in Grand Blanc.

“I married my best friend,” he says. “She supports me and pushes me to be better than I expected I could. I recently made Dean’s List for the first time at Cooley and there’s no way that would’ve happened without her.”

While he has given back to the community in many ways, including volunteering with Easter Seals, a major highlight for St. Cin was as a Special Olympics coach while attending school in Indiana. He worked with Mitch, a small, middle-aged man with Down syndrome. The two were walking around the outdoor track when it began to rain.

“I wasn’t wearing a coat and Mitch saw me begin to shiver,” he says. “Without warning, he wraps me in a hug and says, ‘Are you warm yet?’ It was such a small gesture but a great reminder of the reward that comes from helping others.”

Sheila Pursglove story is reprinted with permission from the Legal News

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

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

Rob Johnson and his wife, Ainsley Johnson

Rob Johnson and his wife, Ainsley Johnson

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

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

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

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

Sabrina Mentor and WMU-Cooley Professor Karen Fultz

Sabrina Mentor and WMU-Cooley Professor Karen Fultz

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

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

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

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

Judge Edward LaRose

Judge Edward LaRose

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

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

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

WMU-Cooley students Eric Anderson and Steffanie Brown

WMU-Cooley students Eric Anderson and Steffanie Brown

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

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

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Halloween isn’t just for kids. It’s for law professors and students too!


WMU-Cooley faculty, staff and students didn’t need much persuasion to convince them to celebrate Halloween this year! After all, Halloween isn’t just for kids. It’s for law professors and students too!

spooktacular

I said, "We can see right through that I'm an invisible ghost defense!" - Tampa Bay campus Mock Trial Board & Moot Court Board Annual Spooktacular

In the Tampa Bay Mock Trial Board and Moot Court Board annual Spooktacular, the mock attorney dashed the defendant’s (far left) hopes, exclaiming,”We can see right through that ‘I’m an invisible ghost’ defense!” 

Sure, candy is expected, but let’s talk pizza. Thank you, Dominoes for providing lunch to all of our WMU-Cooley ghouls and goblins – And Darth Vader; Lansing campus Halloween costume winner!

Sure, candy is expected, but let’s talk pizza. Thank you, Domino’s for providing lunch to all of our WMU-Cooley ghouls and goblins – And Darth Vader; Lansing campus Halloween costume winner!

Thank you #Dominoes for the pizza!

Where's the candy? Good thing we're at the Grand Rapids campus Access to Justice Clinic.

Where’s the candy? Good thing we’re at the Grand Rapids campus Access to Justice Clinic.

You are in big trouble, Elvis, with Mary Poppins and Ruth Bader Ginsburg presiding over your jurisdiction.

You are in big trouble, Elvis, with Mary Poppins and Ruth Bader Ginsburg presiding over your case.

It's not International Talk Like a Pirate Day or Gasparilla, but let's say it together: Arrr!

It’s not International Talk Like a Pirate Day or Gasparilla, but let’s say it together: Arrr!

Halloween and Auburn Hills pumpkins go together like chocolate and peanut butter!

Halloween and Auburn Hills pumpkins go together like chocolate and peanut butter!

Shades of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Must be fall in Auburn Hills, Michigan!

Shades of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Must be fall in Auburn Hills, Michigan!

So this is how they do trick-or-treating in Tampa? Food trucks?

So this is how they do trick-or-treating in Tampa? Food trucks?

Will the real Harry Potter please step forward.

Participants showed a great variety in costume choices!

Candy anyone?

Candy anyone?

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Award-winning senior shows how to rise above life’s challenges

If you looked up “resilient” in the dictionary, it would be fitting to find an image of Heather Spielmaker. The WMU-Cooley Law School graduating senior is the poster child for rising above life’s challenges with grace, strength, and even more options than she began with.

Heather Spielmaker

Heather Spielmaker

A mom at 19, Spielmaker had to trade in a fledgling college career to support herself and her son. When a subsequent marriage ended in divorce, she again found herself struggling to make ends meet for herself, her son, and her daughter.

Spielmaker, 43, didn’t give up. Instead, she not only survived the curves life threw at her, she thrived, and has taken it up another notch, making it her life’s mission to give to others she knows are facing the same challenges she’s gone through.

She’s gone on to graduate with high honors from Lansing Community College, and with honors from Michigan State University. And she’s about to earn her J.D. degree — with honors — from WMU-Cooley Law School.

For nearly nine years, Spielmaker was also the director of the school’s Center for Ethics, Service and Professionalism. In this role, she earned the Ingham County Bar Association’s highest honor for non-lawyers — the Liberty Bell Award — for her work in helping members of the military receive legal assistance through the school’s Service to Soldiers program.

Recently, Spielmaker earned another prestigious accolade when the National Association of Women Lawyers presented her with the Outstanding Law Student Award. The honor is given to a graduating law student who has demonstrated academic achievement; shown motivation, tenacity, and enthusiasm; and contributed to the advancement of women in society and the legal profession.

Giving back to the community is an integral part of Spielmaker’s makeup. She served on the Charlotte, Michigan, City Council, was a volunteer coordinator for Ingham Regional Medical Center, and became a charter member of the Capital Region Community Foundation Legacy Society. With that, she established the Heather Spielmaker Testamentary Fund with the foundation to support assistance for single parents and homeowners and programs that help emancipated minors.

 

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WMU-Cooley Tampa Student Wins Florida Bar Scholarship

Eula T. Bacon

Eula T. Bacon

Eula T. Bacon’s law school career continues to sparkle with jewels of success. Eula is employed full-time with the non-profit agency Career Source Suncoast, attends classes at WMU-Cooley’s Tampa, Florida campus, and actively participates in a number of student organizations. A busy person with just a few semesters to go until graduation, Eula has her eye on a bright future.

This summer, Eula Bacon learned she had some help with that goal when she was awarded a scholarship by the Labor and Employment Section of the Florida Bar Association. Only one student from each Florida law school received the award — $1,000 to help with their studies.

Eula was excited to learn she’d won the scholarship. “I am grateful to the Florida Bar – Labor and Employment section for investing in my legal education.  The award provides me with financial support, permits me to develop professional relationships with attorneys around the state and gives me the opportunity to learn about the importance of the Florida Bar.”

The scholarship is designed to recognize students who have excelled in their studies while exhibiting an interest in practicing labor and employment law.

In addition to the monetary award, the scholarship also provided a networking opportunity for Eula with labor and employment attorneys across the state. At the section’s recent convention, she connected with several attorneys from all over Florida.  “Attending the Florida Bar convention is a valuable experience, and I recommend law school students try to attend,” she said.

Eula served as Vice Chief Justice for the Moot Court Board for two terms this year, is a Pupil Member of the Tampa Bay Inn of Court, and an associate editor with the WMU-Cooley Journal of Practical and Clinical Law. Eula is also active in competition teams.

Eula won first place in 2014 in the Melissa Mitchell Criminal Procedure Moot Court Competition, served on the ABA Regional Negotiation Competition team in 2013 (which placed fifth overall) and, more recently, participated on a three-member team at the 2015 E. Earle Zehmer National Workers’ Compensation Moot Court Competition. She has made the Dean’s List several times, and participated in WMU-Cooley’s study abroad program in Oxford, England, in summer 2014.

When she’s not participating in on-campus activities, Eula is involved in community service, including volunteering at community legal redress workshops organized by the George Edgecomb Bar Association, participating in The Walk to End Lupus Now, and packaging personal items for active-duty military.

Eula is planning to be finished with her law studies in December 2016, and hopes to obtain a federal clerkship or a clerkship with a justice at the Florida Supreme Court.

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WMU-Cooley graduation speaker: Others don’t have to fail in order for you to succeed

“Because of Cooley, you are now prepared to join in the battle for justice; to be the voice for the voiceless, to bring hope to the hopeless, and to speak justice for those who suffer injustice … In pursuing success in the profession, remember that success is not a zero sum game. Others don’t have to fail in order for you to succeed.” – Frederick McClure, managing partner at the Tampa Bay office of DLA Piper and president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association.

WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay campus keynote speaker Fredrick McClure, managing partner at the Tampa Bay office of DLA Piper and president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association.

WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay campus keynote speaker Fredrick McClure, managing partner at the Tampa Bay office of DLA Piper and president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association.

On Saturday, August 15, the Tampa Bay campus of WMU-Cooley Law School held its graduation commencement ceremony at the University of South Florida’s School of Music Concert Hall. The keynote speaker was Fredrick McClure, managing partner at the Tampa Bay office of DLA Piper and president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association.  McClure is a member of the board of trustees for Earlham College, the former president of the Tampa Club, and the former chairman of the board for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. His practice areas include litigation, arbitration and class action, and employment disputes.

Every graduate has a story of how they decided to be a lawyer.  Some always knew they wanted to be a lawyer, and some discovered a love for the law in a different way.

Fredrick McClure

Fredrick McClure

As Frederick McClure stated in his keynote address, “Some of you have known since birth that you would become a lawyer; some of you decided in elementary school or high school.” McClure decided in college.

“However or whenever it was you arrived at your decision, you now have received a quality legal education and gained the right to seek admission to the bar and membership in this great and noble profession. Because of that education, however, you have also lost some rights. You have forever given up the right to be an ‘ist’.

“As I look out onto this beautiful rainbow of a class, I smile broadly, because I see hope for the future.

  1. “Because this class is such a rainbow, you have given up the right to be sexist, believing that intellect and the capacity for greatness resides only in those of your sex;
  2. Because this class is such a rainbow, you have given up the right to be racist, believing that intellect and the capacity for greatness resides only in those of your race and/or ethnicity;
  3. Because this class is such a rainbow, you have given up the right to be a phobist (yeah, I know, the correct word is “phobe,” but work with me here! ) believing that intellect and the capacity for greatness resides only in those who share your sexual orientation or gender identification.

“None other than Dr. Martin Luther King warned that ‘Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.’

“Because of Cooley, you have forever lost the ability to be sincerely ignorant on these matters;

“So, if you adopt and/or hold on to such foolish ideas, you are, I am afraid, conscientiously stupid.  Just remember, you are Cooley, and you are better than that!”


Matt Marin receives his doctoral hood for his LL.M. degree in IP law by Dean Jeff Martlew and Professor Kathy Gustafson during the graduation ceremony on Aug. 15, 2015.

Matt Marin receives his doctoral hood for his LL.M. degree in IP law by Dean Jeff Martlew and Professor Kathy Gustafson during the graduation ceremony on Aug. 15, 2015.

WMU-Cooley LL.M. graduate Matthew Marin also found his passion for the law later in life.

When he was growing up, and even though his dad was a lawyer and his sister always dreamed of becoming a lawyer, Matt Marin felt he wanted to do something different than pursue a job in the profession of law. In fact, he obtained a science degree in biology, from Lawrence University, with the intention of going to medical school. However, he wasn’t sure medicine was the right fit for him.

“My sister, Marybeth, knew that I was having second thoughts about attending medical school, so she encouraged me to take the LSAT,” remembered Matt. “Next thing you know, I was starting law school at WMU-Cooley, and my sister started three months later at WMU-Cooley too!”

Matt loved the challenge of law school and realized that he truly enjoyed learning the law and being a part of academia; in fact, he decided after graduating from law school to accept a position at WMU-Cooley’s Tampa Bay campus.  A year later, Matt decided that he wanted an advanced degree in law – an LL.M. in Intellectual Property – which could dovetail into his science background.  He applied and was admitted into the Intellectual Property LL.M. program at WMU-Cooley’s Auburn Hills, Michigan campus. What made this nearly perfect for him was that he could pursue his teaching career in WMU-Cooley’s Academic Resource Center while wrapping up his WMU-Cooley LL.M. classes online.

With his WMU-Cooley LL.M. degree in one hand and his WMU-Cooley Juris Doctor degree in the other, he is thrilled to continue teaching law students what it takes to succeed in the classroom and how to pass the bar exam.  When asked if he ever thought of joining the family business in Marquette, Michigan, which his sister has since taken it over, he takes a stand:

“I have thought about going back to Marquette to work in private practice with Marybeth, but then I think about those 200 plus inches of snow that Marquette gets in the winter. Coupled with the students, my fantastic colleagues at the Tampa Bay campus, and of course the tropical weather, it makes the decision to stay here pretty easy.”


GRADUATION PHOTOS FROM JOHN MCLEAN CLASS COMMENCEMENT – WMU-Cooley Tampa Bay campus, Aug. 15, 2015

GRADUATION NEWS RELEASE

 

 

 

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WMU-Cooley law students continue to serve the Michigan Veterans and Military Community

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

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

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

Michael C.H. McDaniel 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.

It may seem, to the casual observer, that there has been a recent surge of manuals for the practitioners of military and veterans law. In 2014, the Michigan Department of Attorney General simultaneously published the Michigan Guide to Military Family Law with WMU-Cooley Law School and the Michigan Military and Veterans Legal Service Guide with University of Detroit Mercy Law School.

This year, WMU-Cooley law students have assisted in developing two publications for Michigan judges on laws affecting Servicemembers and Veterans: The 2015 Revised Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and the soon to be released Veterans Treatment Courts in Michigan: A Manual for Judges.

All of these publications were vitally needed, however, in the  post-conflict legal environment with a resultant sharp increase in the need for services for servicemembers and veterans.  The 2015 Revised Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act will assist practitioners greatly in this area.

2015 Edition of the Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

2015 Edition of the Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

When this country was ramping up to engage in World War II, Congress enacted the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA) to provide protection to those called to serve in the nation’s armed forces. Enacted in 1940, with a few changes after the Gulf War in 1991, the SSCRA was largely unchanged until 2003. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) was written to both acknowledge the decades of judicial interpretation of the SSCRA since enactment in 1940 as well as to update the law to reflect the changes in American life. The SCRA, can be found at 50 U.S.C. App. § 501 et seq.

Courts generally construed the original act, the SSCRA, liberally to protect those in uniform.  The U.S. Supreme Court has said that the statute should be “liberally construed to protect those who have been obliged to drop their own affairs to take up the burdens of the nation” Boone v. Lightner, 319 US 561, 575, (1943) and should be read “with an eye friendly to those who dropped their affairs to answer their country’s call.” Le Maistre v. Leffers, 333 U.S. 1, 6 (1948). The same spirit and intention is reflected in the SCRA.

A 2009 case in Michigan, Hurley v Deutsche Bank Trust Co  2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20261 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 13, 2009) ultimately reinforced that principle. The ripple effect from an unpublished decision on a motion for reconsideration in western Michigan caused waves in many directions: the decision was the first in the nation to find a private cause of action on behalf  of the harmed servicemember, it resulted in Congress creating an explicit cause of action, as Section 802(a) of the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (VBA-2010), Public Law 111-275, amended the SCRA, and it compelled Matt Cooper, SGT Hurley’s attorney, to volunteer to update the existing Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

The 2015 edition of the SCRA Guide is vital to every attorney and judge as it continues the template of annotations based on Michigan and other states’ decisions which interpret each section of the Act, or noting where state statutes may be limited by the SCRA. There is a substantial increase in the number of annotations, as one would expect. It also continues the use of “Michigan Practitioners’ Notes” which emphasize key areas of concern or of potential distinction from Michigan practice. Finally, the 2015 edition contains two new key points of discussion: the private cause of action by servicemembers created by the Hurley decision and the subsequent amendment, and it expands the discussion on the Act’s limitation on the concept of paramount title.

The original Michigan Judge’s Guide to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was created by the Honigman firm with substantial assistance from WMU-Cooley Law students through its Service to Soldiers Legal Assistance Program.

The 2015 Guide was shepherded by Matt Cooper, of Schuitmaker, Cooper, Cypher & Knotek. Sean Crotty of the Honigman firm assisted and assured continuity with the original guide. WMU-Cooley students Heather Spielmaker, Nathan Chan and Matthew Flynn continued the WMU-Cooley tradition of the practical application of legal skills and of service to the community by ably assisting in the research and drafting of the 2015 edition.

Aug. 18, 2015 news release: Students Work to Update Michigan Guide to Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

 

 

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Part-time Law School Students Can Participate in Study Abroad Programs

Oxford, England Professor Francis Grimal with WMU-Cooley Foreign Study students, Kirk Seleski, Janelle Wicker, Eula Bacon, and Susan Watts.

Oxford, England Professor Francis Grimal with WMU-Cooley Foreign Study students, Kirk Seleski, Janelle Wicker, Eula Bacon, and Susan Watts.

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School student Eula T. Bacon participated in WMU-Cooley’s Australia and Oxford, England foreign study programs. Her story is posted with permission of the Michigan International Lawyer and appears on page five in the Summer 2015 edition.


Perhaps the most significant lesson I relearned from my study abroad experience is not to make assumptions by completing your research before making a decision. During my first year at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School (Cooley), a faculty member suggested I consider Cooley’s Australia Study Abroad Program. I thanked her for the information and continued walking to my 6:00 p.m. class. I attend law school part-time, work full time, and commute to Cooley’s Tampa Bay campus. How could I study abroad? The faculty member knows of my part-time status, so why did she think I should consider studying abroad. Perhaps she knew something I did not.

The following year, Cooley launched its Oxford, England Study Abroad Program. Students would live and study at the internationally renown University of Oxford, a university steeping with tradition, located in England, and the origin of American jurisprudence, my new profession. This time I did not let perceived obstacles deter me. I did my research: met with the financial aid and foreign studies staff and discussed a leave of absence from work with my supervisor. Everything came together and on June 28, 2014; I boarded a flight to London, England with great expectations, and two bags each just under the 50-pound weight limit.

I arrived on a Sunday and quickly learned that Oxford is a pedestrian town. I walked from the bus station to campus (with my two bags in tow) on the cobblestone sidewalks present throughout Oxford. My first meal was one hundred percent English: fish and chips at a neighborhood pub. I settled into what would be my home for the next five weeks on Hertford (pronounced “Heartford”) College campus, a comfortable room located in a 100-year-old building near Radcliffe Camera.

Classes started on Monday. Two courses were taught by Professor Jonathan Black-Branch (Magistrate in Oxfordshire, Oxford graduate, international business owner, author and Barrister). He told the class that studying abroad has a different rhythm from the traditional law school campus. The schedule allows students more time to consider possibilities. He was right. While in Oxford, we discussed my options including operating an international business based in Florida, completing an externship abroad and using my law degree to advocate for human rights.

Eula in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Eula in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

My foreign studies schedule was packed: three classes, trips to Bath, London and Paris, high tea, a criminal trial, tours of Middle Temple, Bodleian Library, and Ashmolean Museum, concert at Christ Church, cookout in the park, Catholic mass in Latin (I’m Baptist) and an outdoor matinee performance of the play, As You Like It. The long summer days, with sunrise around 6:00 a.m. and sunsets around 10:00 p.m., gave me time to explore the city. I started each day with an English breakfast of croissants, tomatoes, baked beans, fresh fruit, and of course, hot tea. Learning alongside a German student, attending courses taught by English professors and countless other study abroad experiences, have given me a panoramic view of the world. I am a better law student and a more enlightened individual because of my time in Oxford. I encourage all law students to consider the learning experience of a lifetime. It is within reach; even part-time law school students can study abroad.

Eula hangs out with her foreign study program classmates.

Eula hangs out with her foreign study program classmates.

About the Author: Eula T. Bacon is a part-time law school student in her third year at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School – Tampa Bay Campus. She lives and works full time for a non-profit agency in her hometown of Sarasota, Florida. Ms. Bacon is an active member in the Tampa Bay Inn of Court, Vice Chief Justice of the Moot Court Board, and Associate Editor for the Journal of Practical and Clinical Law. Her community service activities included helping with community legal redress workshops and the Walk to End Lupus Now.

 

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Advocating for animals is a passion and commitment for WMU-Cooley law student Alicia Prygoski.

Alicia Prygoski hugs her dog, Patches.

Alicia Prygoski hugs her dog, Patches.

Alicia Prygoski is a third-year law student at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School and serves as the president of her Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter. Most recently, she received an Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship from the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The national scholarship is awarded to law students based upon their demonstrated commitment to the mission of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which is to advance the interests and protect the lives of animals through the legal system. Alicia was one of four ALDF award recipients nationwide.

Alicia with Chris Green, legislative director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Pam Frasch, executive director of the Center for Animal Law Studies, after the NALC award ceremony.

Alicia with Chris Green, legislative director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Pam Frasch, executive director of the Center for Animal Law Studies, after the NALC award ceremony.

Alicia was thrilled to win an Advancement of Animal Law Scholarship, but was even more excited about the opportunity to compete and network in the annual National Animal Law Competitions held in March 2015.

Students compete in one of three areas; either the Closing Argument Competition, the Moot Court Competition, or Legislative Drafting and Lobbying Competition. All of the competitions challenge students with an animal law topic and the judges are various experts in the field. This year, the competitions were at Harvard, and Alicia competed in the Legislative Drafting and Lobbying Competition.

According to WMU-Cooley Professor Dennis Cichon, “Alicia is a very professional young woman who displays an exceptional commitment to her studies.”

That commitment especially extends to her love and passion for animals. The competition really gave her a flavor for the kinds of things she may encounter in a career dedicated to animal advocacy.

“I was tasked with drafting and lobbying for an anti-animal bill in a mock situation where I was a Representative for a fictional Farm Bureau type organization,” Alicia explained. “Once I made it to the final rounds, the problem’s author turned the tables on us, and then I had to lobby as a representative of an animal welfare organization to kill the very bill I had drafted! I ended up getting second place overall, and an additional award for the ‘best bill and fact sheet.’ The competition was a great experience and I got to network with several individuals who have successful careers in animal law. I even got an offer to complete my externship with the Humane Society of the United States Farm Animal Protection Policy Team in Washington D.C.!”

Alicia plans to use her law degree to advocate for animals through the legislative and policy arena, lobbying to pass animal protection-oriented legislation. Alicia is passionate about helping all animals, but she would like to focus her efforts, in some capacity, on advocating specifically for the welfare and protection of farmed animals.

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