Mock Trial Winners Announced For WMU-Cooley Evidence Competition

The Mock Trial Board at WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus recently awarded Mackiesch Taylor and Mayra Puerta winners of the term’s Evidence Competition. The competition featured 10 teams of two students who each had to display their skills introducing evidence as a prosecutor, or defending a client against the evidence that had been introduced.

Mock Trial participants

WMU-Cooley Mock Trial Board recently held its Evidence Competition for the current term at the law school’s Tampa Bay campus. Pictured (left-right) are competition winners Mayra Puerta and Mackiesh Taylor with John Scott, professor and presiding judge for the competition; and runners up Nathan Tamulonis and Trevor Persenaire.

Using the “Hunger Games” as a theme, the case presented during the competition involved a defendant name Katniss Everdeen, who was charged with murdering Peeta Malark by bow and arrow.

WMU-Cooley Professor John Scott, who advises the Mock Trial Board and served as the court’s judge during the competition, said, “Members of the board did a superb job organizing the competition and the event was a great way for students to get practice applying rules of evidence.”

The finals of the competition were held on June 17. Students Trevor Persenaire and Nathan Tamulonis were runners-up for the competition.

Mock Trial participants

WMU-Cooley Law School Mock Trial Board members and competition participants from the law school’s Tampa Bay campus. Pictured (front row, left-right) Nathan Tamulonis, Justin Sblano, Sarah Marin, Mayra Puerta, Mackiesh Taylor, Kim Canals, Thomas Yi, Shederis Lakin, (back row, left-right)Mock Trial Board President Clyde Barrow, Rob Johnson, Andrew Yaktman, Professor John Scott, Tim Saitta, and Trevor Persenaire.

Leave a comment

Filed under Student News, Uncategorized

The “Stand Your Ground” Defense Just Got Easier to Use in Florida

“If ‘stand-your-ground’ laws weren’t controversial enough, Florida has enacted new legislation (backed by the NRA) that has prosecutors fuming and criminal defense lawyers salivating. There was a time in American jurisprudential history when the law favored de-escalation over a more Wild-West approach to antagonistic interactions among humans.” – WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery.

Listen to Professor Beery  in an interview with Bay News 9.

WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery

So the rule used to be that, even if someone else was the aggressor, a person had a duty to retreat before using deadly force; if the person (the non-aggressor) exhausted all reasonable possibilities for escape and had no reasonable alternative, then (and only then) that person was justified in using deadly force. Note the word “reasonable” sprinkled through that rule: that’s an objective test, meaning that a person could only use deadly force in self-defense if a person of ordinary intelligence and temperament would have done the same. In other words, “I’m a hot head” was no defense.

There was a common-sense exception to this rule (this duty to retreat) called “the castle doctrine.” One had no duty to retreat in one’s own home – a burglar-beware sort of rule. After all, if one is already in one’s safest environment – one’s home – then where is one to retreat to?

As a Miami judge, Milton Hirsch, recently pointed out, the “stand-your ground” rule that has since been adopted by many states essentially expands the castle doctrine to apply everywhere; even in a public place, if one is not the aggressor in an affray, then one no longer has any duty to retreat. And that “reasonable person” standard has diminished to the point of near extinction. In other words, if a person fears that he or she is at risk of death or serious bodily harm at the hands of a perceived aggressor, regardless whether a person of normal intelligence and temperament would also harbor such fear, that person may use deadly force against the perceived aggressor. (Although one still sees the word “reasonable” in some of these stand-your-ground laws, it is now largely ignored.) De-escalation is decidedly not the policy objective underlying this new approach.

When Florida first adopted this “stand-your-ground” approach, the state’s Supreme Court created rules for its implementation: since this was a defense that would be raised by the defendant in a criminal case, when the defendant raised a stand-your-ground defense, a trial court would hold a pretrial hearing at which the defendant would have the burden of showing, by a mere preponderance of the evidence (just a slight tipping of the scales in the defendant’s favor) that he or she was in fear of death or great bodily harm – and therefore justified in using deadly force. To most lawyers, this seemed an entirely predictable and appropriate approach; the burden is almost always with the party raising a defense, and the relatively easy-to-meet preponderance standard made sense in light of the policy choice Floridians had made to render the use of deadly force an acceptable means for resolving a brawl, no matter where it occurs.

As forgiving as the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard is, pro-NRA conservatives were not satisfied. So the Florida legislature changed the rules earlier this year: now, instead of the defendant having to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was entitled to use deadly force, the prosecutor must show by clear-and-convincing evidence that the defendant was not entitled to use deadly force. Not only has the legislature placed the burden on what lawyers call the “non-moving party” (i.e. the party arguing against the claim, not for it), but it also elevated that burden well above the preponderance standard, making it harder to meet.

The upshot is that, when a defendant raises the stand-your-ground defense, a prosecutor must put on his or her evidence twice: once to overcome the stand-your-ground defense at a pretrial hearing, and again in front of a jury or judge at trial. To make matters worse for prosecutors, they must also, at the pretrial hearing, essentially prove a negative: not that something did happen, but that something did not happen.

As my colleague Professor Jeffrey Swartz points out, this is a criminal defendant’s dream in any case where the defendant used deadly force – with a gun or without a gun – and there was no witness to the alleged crime. In such a case, a defendant who produces any evidence that he or she feared death or great bodily harm can put a prosecutor through the proverbial ringer: the prosecutor will have to show that the crime happened as the prosecutor said it happened – first by clear-and-convincing evidence, and then beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judge Hirsch has refused to apply the new rules shifting and increasing the burden of proof, stating that under the Florida Constitution, such procedural rules for resolving cases must be set by the Florida Supreme Court, not the Florida legislature. Other judges disagree. Ultimately, the Florida Supreme Court will have to address that issue. In the meantime, welcome to the Wild West.

WMU-Cooley Law Professor Brendan Beery

Blog author, Constitutional Law expert and WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery  is a summa cum laude graduate of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School and teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure. Professor Beery is a frequent legal expert in the media.

Leave a comment

Filed under Faculty Scholarship, Latest News and Updates, Uncategorized

WMU-Cooley ReNita Antoine Makes Law and Leadership Life Priority

The youngest of eight, and a first-generation college graduate and first lawyer in her family, ReNita Antoine has always had a desire to help those who cannot help themselves and be the change people want to see. In high school, she participated in the YMCA’s Youth and Government program, drafting a bill and competing against students in her hometown of Houston, then against students around Texas.

“It was then I realized I could make laws that would affect the entire state,” she says. “I knew getting a law degree would give me a better understanding of how the law works and a ticket to help those who have become victim to unfair, unequal, treatment.”

Antoine earned her undergrad degree in Criminal Justice from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. As a student, she was heavily involved on campus and in the community; she was initiated into the Eta Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; and interned at the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office.

“I wanted to get an understanding of how the criminal justice system works and why so many individuals fall victim to the luring nature of crime,” she says. “The misfortune that plagues individuals almost forces them to experience the system and in turn creates a cyclical effect on the generations to follow. Fortunately, with hard work and commitment, this generational chain can be broken.”

After working as a clerk/receptionist at a Houston firm, and as a co-producer for a local TV show, “Truth & Justice with Vivian King,” Antoine headed to the WMU-Cooley Law School campus in Lansing.

“WMU-Cooley has some of the most knowledgeable, experienced, and engaging professors, who have practical experience coupled with the theory of the law,” she says. “The professors have an open-door policy which allows students to have candid conversations about the law. They are truly there for students. I developed lasting relationships with some professors that will extend beyond law school.”

While in law school, Antoine competed in the National Black Law Student Association Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition, that she believes prepared her for an 11-week internship with the Prosecutors Attorney Association of Michigan (PAAM) in southwest Michigan’s Berrien County.

“I believe this competition is one of the best mock trial competitions in the world,” she says. “It challenges you to think quickly on your feet, make sound arguments, and hone your public speaking skills.”

At PAAM, where her internship involved working as an assistant prosecutor, Antoine counseled with individuals to provide them with appropriate charges and negotiated with defense attorneys for plea deals.

“I received actual trial experience and was exposed to the daily workings of a prosecutor’s office,” she says.

In addition to her studies, she served as the head representative for the WMU-Cooley-Lansing campus for Barbri Inc., a bar preparation company that has been helping students for five decades. She also worked as a data specialist for the State Court Administrative Office Trial Court Services Division, traveling throughout Michigan to collect data for the Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program (SSSPP) — a program that targets high-risk felony offenders with a history of probation violations or failures.

“I saw first-hand how someone who would otherwise serve a lengthy prison sentence earns a second chance for a new life,” she says. “I found this position enlightening. I could see how this program worked. Sometimes, all one ever needs is a second chance and this program affords them that opportunity.”

Outside of school, Antoine volunteered with the Building Child and Family Initiatives – MAGIC of Reading Program (MOR), helping children in grades K – 6 hone their reading comprehension skills.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with this program,” she says. “MOR allowed me to be an active participant in the Lansing community and work with the future generation of leaders.”

In her final semester at WMU-Cooley Law, Antoine externed with the Resolution Services Center of Central Michigan (RSCCM) in Lansing. She observed civil and domestic mediations, co-mediated small claims disputes, and conducted intake interviews.

“I believe mediation is one of the best ways to resolve a case, and it allows parties to come to an agreement on their own,” she says. “Equally important, mediation is more economically feasible than a trial, which is good for the judicial system.”

At WMU-Cooley’s honors convocation, Antoine was honored with the Leadership Achievement Award.

Associate Dean Michael McDaniel presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Leadership Award

Associate Dean Michael McDaniel presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Leadership Award

“It was unexpected, yet welcomed and appreciated,” she says. “I was just doing what I was supposed to do, leading. I was not expecting to be awarded for my passion of service. When I took on duties and responsibilities, I did what was right for the student body. So, to be honored with this achievement was a blessing.”

She received further kudos in being awarded the Otis M. Smith scholarship at the 20th Annual Davis-Dunnings Bar Association Otis M. Smith Scholarship Banquet.

Davis-Dunnings Bar Association President and WMU-Cooley graduate Takura Nyamfukudza presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Scholarship Award

Davis-Dunnings Bar Association President and WMU-Cooley graduate Takura Nyamfukudza presents WMU-Cooley student ReNita Antoine with Scholarship Award

The Houston native is taking the Texas bar exam this upcoming July and plans to return to her hometown. Interested in bankruptcy law, estate planning, negotiation/mediation, and politics, she plans to advocate for clients and her community on a local and national level.

This article about WMU-Cooley graduate ReNita Antoine was written by Legal News writer Sheila Pursglove originally published by the Legal News on June 28, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of The Detroit Legal News. 

1 Comment

Filed under Alumni Stories and News, Awards, Uncategorized

Valerie Smith: Law School Teaches Law and Life Lessons

“I wanted to go to law school as long as I can remember,” recalled WMU-Cooley law student Valerie Smith. Yet it wasn’t until the single mother of three got the go ahead from her children that she had the courage to pursue her dream.

“I remember coming home one day from my job as a paralegal,” said Smith. “I remember being frustrated. I was 40-years-old. A single mother of two daughters and a son. I was struggling to pay bills, even though I was working very, very hard.

“My kids sat me down to talk. They reminded me of my dream of going to law school and becoming an attorney. My oldest daughter said, ‘Mom, it’s never too late, and you’re never too old.'”

That was it. Smith took the LSAT, then applied and was accepted to WMU-Cooley Law School.

“That day changed my life forever,” declared Smith.

WMU-Cooley student Valerie Smith

Advocate for Other People

“I will never forget the day I was accepted to WMU-Cooley Law School,” exclaimed Smith. “I had been really busy because I had just moved, and hadn’t checked my e-mail for several days. During a break at work though, I decided I would take a look. I saw an email from WMU-Cooley Law School congratulating me on my seat! I started screaming in my office and one of the attorneys came running over to me and said, ‘Valerie, are you alright?’ And I said, ‘Yes!’ as I burst into tears. ‘This is one of the happiest moments of my life. I just got accepted to law school, counselor!’ And he said, ‘Well, congratulations, future counselor!'”

Since starting law school, Smith confesses that she has learned as much about life and herself as she has about the law.

“My first day at WMU-Cooley,” recalled Smith, “the professors told our class that attorneys have others’ lives in their hands – just like a doctor does with our physical well-being, an attorney has others’ lives in our hands – maybe not physically or medically, but financially, emotionally, mentally, situationally, and legally. It is a huge responsibility. We need to be their advocates.”

Smith says she has never forgotten that lesson. She comes to class every day prepared and ready to be another’s true advocate.

“I value my legal education here at WMU-Cooley,” stated Smith. “I never take it for granted. I am here to help my colleagues, and they are always here to help me. Even my 20-something-year-old classmates support, help and encourage me. I’ve never felt like an outsider, but that I belong.

“The professors have been so encouraging and have given me so many opportunities. They made it possible for me to participate in the law school’s study abroad program in New Zealand, which was an experience of a lifetime that I never thought would be possible. And I was also given the opportunity to be a professor’s teaching assistant.”

WMU-Cooley Vibe

Smith believes the WMU-Cooley curriculum and people are second to none.

“The curriculum at WMU-Cooley is so challenging, amazing, interesting, and intriguing, but it’s the people that stand out,” declared Smith. “There is a vibe here at WMU-Cooley that I don’t think you will find at most other law schools. That vibe includes enthusiasm and due diligence. It includes positive attitudes and commitment. And the encouragement you receive among the staff, professors, and students is contagious.

“We are an energized, diverse group of people who all have the same goal. We just want to be lawyers and save lives.”

WMU-Cooley student Valerie Smith

1 Comment

Filed under Student Experiences, Student News, study abroad, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

Sacred Beginnings Founder Leslie F. King Tells Powerful Survivor Story to WMU-Cooley Law Students

WMU-Cooley Law School students were gripped listening to Sacred Beginnings Founder and Executive Director Leslie King tell her life story about how she, a human trafficking survivor, was able to transform her life after over 20 years of being exploited, addicted, and trapped. The WMU-Cooley Lunch & Learn education program called Addiction and Human Trafficking was held at WMU-Cooley on Wednesday, June 14. WMU-Cooley law students, in conjunction with the American Bar Association Student Division, hosted the event.

Sacred Beginnings Founder Leslie King tells WMU-Cooley law students her life story of being exploited, addicted, and trapped, until she found the courage to turn her life around.

Sacred Beginnings Founder Leslie King tells WMU-Cooley law students her life story of being exploited, addicted, and trapped, until she found the courage to turn her life around.

“Leslie King was captivating,” declared WMU-Cooley Assistant Dean Mable Martin-Scott. “She was intense and real. This was a rare opportunity for our students to see the impact crime has on victims and to hear first-hand how human trafficking destroys lives. This was a teachable moment. Law school is not about laws, it is about people. When the students heard Leslie’s story, they were initially shocked, but then they started thinking like an advocate, and talk about ways the law could or should protect her. Priceless and excellent seminar.”

WMU-Cooley law student and event organizer Nakita Haynes was grateful to have Ms. King come to WMU-Cooley’s Lansing campus to speak.

“I had the opportunity to listen to Ms. King at another conference I attended, and was moved to tears,” recalled Haynes. “I knew if I brought her here to speak, my fellow students would be charged by her energy and inspired by her story of perseverance, strength, and justice; especially as law students and soon-to-be lawyers.”

King talked about the struggles she had endured, until she found the strength and courage in 2000 to break free and commit her life to rescuing and rehabilitating women just like her.

“I went to rehab and kicked my addictions,” stated King. “It was hard. Really hard. But I graduated and went to work as a counselor at the rehab center — the first graduate to do that. God opened doors for me to work with the police department as an advocate for women trapped in the life I once lived.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Today Leslie is an award-winning and sought-after expert, speaker, and trainer. In conjunction with her mission at Sacred Beginnings, she works alongside law enforcement and legislators to affect lasting change.

Read Ms. King’s story HERE.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News and Updates, Student Experiences, Student News, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

WMU-Cooley graduate Maurice McDaniel: Parachute Accident Opens Up New Career in the Law

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. This month’s military feature is WMU-Cooley graduate Maurice McDaniel, a retired imagery and intelligence analyst working for the military’s Seven Special Forces Group. After a parachuting accident, Maurice decided it was time to fulfill his lifelong goal of becoming an attorney.

Military rank and title: Military Intelligence Attachment of the Seven Special Forces Group

Tell us about your military experience: I was an imagery and intelligence analyst working for the military’s Seven Special Forces Group. We worked on target packages in Central and South America doing a lot of work with the president’s war on drugs at the time. I was involved with the planning and execution phases of some large operations. I spent time in the Pentagon working with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Drug Enforcement Administration, along with doing counter-insurgency activity in Peru.

WMU-Cooley graduate Maurice McDaniel

Why did you decide to go to law school: I decided to go to law school after a military parachuting accident. I realized that I just wasn’t able to physically perform all my duties in my law enforcement job. I also realized I needed to change directions in my career. I knew I had always been interested in a legal career; ever since I remember. Now was the time to act on that goal. I looked into law schools and decided to attend Western Michigan University Cooley Law School for several reasons. One was the convenience. WMU-Cooley offered flexible schedule options, which included offering classes three times a day; plus weekend classes. I also liked that the campus was geographically close to where I lived. It made it that much easier to get to my classes. And once I started law school, I knew I had made the right decision. I really enjoyed the all staff and faculty of the law school.

Career Goals:  I currently enjoy working in my own private practice in High Springs, Florida, downtown Historic District. My goal is to see my firm expand and to hire more employees and associates into my successful practice.

Tell us a little about you: I am married, and we have five children between us. My wife is the county attorney for Alachua County, in Gainesville, which is also the county I practice in. Our children range from nine to 27 years of age. The 27-year-old is an engineer. Two others are attending college at the University of Florida. One child is a senior at Santa Fe High School, and our youngest is going into the fifth grade this fall. We enjoy living on a little mini ranch of around 56 acres, along with several horses, cows and other farm animals. We love being a part of this small rural community. My daughter is involved in horse riding and jumping. I enjoy watching her competitions, as well as the being involved in the other children’s sports activities.

WMU-Cooley graduate Maurice McDaniel with his wife, Michele Lieberman, County Attorney for the Alachua County Attorney's Office

WMU-Cooley graduate Maurice McDaniel with his wife, Michele Lieberman, County Attorney for the Alachua County Attorney’s Office

1 Comment

Filed under Alumni Stories and News, Military Feature, Uncategorized

Graduate Aaron Sohaski: WMU-Cooley Law School felt the most like home for me

My first year of law school, I actually didn’t spend at WMU-Cooley. I was at another law school out of state, and while I had a good experience there, it wasn’t the educational outcome that I had desired. It wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. It was disheartening because I usually consider myself a very wise consumer. After my first year there, I had to re-evaluate. This was the first time in my educational career that I had to look again at a school. I know that attending WMU-Cooley was ultimately the happiest decision I could have made. – WMU-Cooley 2016 graduate Aaron Sohaski

I started looking at law schools in the Detroit Metro region because I was offered and took a full-time job there. It was a wonderful opportunity to return to the area. I ultimately decided to transfer to WMU-Cooley Law School. It felt the most like home for me. It felt grounded. I could see that the professors really cared about the students. And the honors scholarship also made it the right economical decision for me.

WMU-Cooley graduate Aaron Sohaski, Lansing campus

Once classes started, and despite coming in a little scared as a transfer student, I felt ingratiated and part of my class right from the get go. As a non-traditional student, I appreciated that there were a lot of other students who also worked full time. It was a refreshing change from where I previously came from. Most of the students were enrolled full-time, just coming out of undergrad, and had no previous work experience. It was different at WMU-Cooley. While there are plenty of traditional students, there were also many students like me.  I especially admired those second career students who balanced work and family while going to law school. It was inspiring.

My time at WMU-Cooley was highly punctuated by strong relationships with my professors. If I ever had a question after class, I knew that I could contact a professor at any time. They were dedicated about their career and their tenure as a professor. What really set them apart from any other professor I had was the fact that many of the professors were working professionals, with many years of practice experience. I knew going into a Contracts II class, for instance, I would hear war stories about something that was going on now and was relevant to the class. That’s how I personally learn the law best – through those examples. I would take a professor’s teachable moment in the classroom and apply them to my life – learning how not to make the same mistakes.

WMU-Cooley graduate Aaron Sohaski, Lansing campus

The professors also understood that people had lives and believed in the law school’s mission of giving students practical skills and experience. Despite my work and law school schedule, I was able to still participate in the estate planning clinic for two semesters. What a wonderful experience. The professors encouraged me to try different things and to ask questions –  to reach outside the box. Professors supported you every step of the way.

I’ve always been somebody who wants to take on forms of leadership in my life, so I immediately became involved during law school. There are so many different organizations, plus tons of opportunities to be involved in your local or state bar associations. The law school really encourages that kind of involvement. And I am still very involved as first-year attorney, including being a member of the Detroit Bar Association, Inns of Court, New Lawyer’s Council for the Oakland County Bar Association, and the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section Executive Council.

My sense is that WMU-Cooley students have a confidence, and they aren’t afraid to venture into anything. And do it at 110 percent, as do all the professors. WMU-Cooley imparted in me to be a lifelong learner. I use my law degree every single day.

It amazes me how many WMU-Cooley grads are involved in organizations and pro bono work.  And it’s not just in Michigan. I’ve met fellow graduates in New York, Florida, California,  just about everywhere. We touch all corners of the United States. It makes me proud to be a part of the WMU-Cooley network.

WMU-Cooley graduate Aaron Sohaski

Aaron Sohaski is a January 2016 graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School. He works for the Henry Ford Health System as an attorney focusing on regulatory compliance and regulatory affairs within the health system. He enjoys learning the ever-changing new healthcare laws and regulations, and focuses on contracts and business association agreements, third party payer agreements, and works directly with others across the healthcare system. Henry Ford is the fifth largest employer in the city of Detroit with over 28,000 employees.

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Stories and News, Cooley's Great Locations, Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

Supreme Court Sets Up a Travel-Ban Punt

WMU-Cooley Law Professor Brendan Beery

Blog author, Constitutional Law expert, and WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery explains in layman’s terms what the Supreme Court’s preliminary order in the travel-ban case really means and who it will most immediately affect. Professor Beery, a summa cum laude graduate of the law school, teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure at WMU-Cooley Law School, and is a frequent legal expert in the media.

It’s all about the numbers – or the dates, to be precise. Lawyers, pundits, and prognosticators will do a deep dive into what the Supreme Court’s preliminary order in the travel-ban case (agreeing to hear the case in October and allowing the Trump Administration to partially implement the ban in the meantime) means about the Court’s view of the ban’s legality. But the discerning reader can see what the Court (per Chief Justice Roberts, in all likelihood) is really up to. The Court is wriggling out of having to address the ban’s legality in the first place.

The Court’s ruling was a mixed bag for people from the six banned countries wishing to enter the United States. The Court kept in place a lower-court injunction forbidding Trump Administration officials from excluding people with close family ties or legitimate business or educational concerns involving travel to the United States. The bad news for opponents of the travel ban is that, because the Supreme Court lifted the injunction on part of the ban, it will now operate to bar entry into the U.S. by anybody without family or business ties here. That impact is leavened, of course, by the reality that very few people without family or business ties to the U.S. wanted to come here anyway. (In other words, this is not the total victory that Donald Trump will likely represent it to be.)

The people most immediately and directly harmed by the Court’s order are would-be refugees. Refugee designation alone will no longer entitle refugees from the six affected countries to entry into the U.S. They too will have to show some kind of family or business interest to get around the travel ban.

But here’s the rub: the travel ban (contained in Section 2(c) of Trump’s executive order) has an expiration date built into it. Trump’s stated purpose for imposing the travel ban (which lower courts called pretextual) was to give the federal government time to analyze other countries’ immigration controls, make findings of fact, allow other countries to respond, and then adopt appropriate screening protocols for use by federal agencies. No lower-court order stopped the administration from doing any of that while the travel ban portion of the executive order was being litigated.

Since the supposed purpose of the travel ban was to buy time to study a problem and implement solutions, the ban was only to last 90 days “from the effective date” of Trump’s executive order. The original effective date was March 16, so the ban would have lapsed by mid-June. Once that date approached, however, Trump issued a new directive purporting to amend the effective date; he said that the new effective date would be 72 hours after the injunction against his travel ban (the one imposed by lower federal courts for the last few months) was lifted.

It’s not clear that the Supreme Court has bought into Trump’s new effective date; the Court, without any prompting, ordered the parties to the lawsuit to draft arguments about whether the legality of the travel ban became moot on June 14 – the date the ban was originally to expire. The justices must be considering, then, whether Trump’s attempt to extend the ban was valid.

But notwithstanding the question whether the extension was valid, the Court did today lift the injunction against the travel ban – at least in part. That means that the clock starts ticking on Trump’s new 90-day time period on Thursday morning – 72 hours after the injunction was lifted. The Court is set to hear arguments in the case in early October. By then, just over 90 days will have elapsed, meaning that even under Trump’s new timetable, the ban will have expired yet again.

Look where that leaves us: whether the ban’s legality was rendered moot when it was originally set to expire (June 14) or by the expiration of the new timeline (in late September), by the time October rolls around, the Court will be in a position to say that the administration has had ample time to get its act together as to screening immigrants, every conceivable deadline for ending the ban has passed, and the case is moot. This assumes, of course, that the wild card in all this – Donald Trump – doesn’t try to change the effective date again by October, or issue a new executive order altogether. If he does that, though, the Court will likely lose its patience with him.

By inviting the parties to address the mootness issue without prompting, the Court clearly signaled that it will use the issue of mootness to avoid having to address the merits of the case. One can see why the Court would do that: were it to rule on the merits, the Court would have to address whether the sitting President was behaving lawlessly and whether he was acting with animus in discriminating against Muslims. While those are fair subjects for public debate, the Supreme Court usually likes to stay out of such unseemly political fights. By giving each side in the fight half a win and running out the clock, the Supreme Court has signaled what it is likely to do on the merits of the travel ban: punt (and hope that Trump’s mischief-making in this regard is at an end).

Watch Brendan Beery’s Salon.com interview.

Listen to Professor Beery’s interview on the Tom Sumner Program (Interview starts at 6:58).

Leave a comment

Filed under Faculty Scholarship, Uncategorized

Rafael Diaz combines his love for the criminal justice system and the law

Rafael Diaz, a lieutenant with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and a 2010 WMU-Cooley Law School graduate, knew from an early age that he wanted to go to law school. Every decision, from high school through college, was made to position himself for a career in the law.

But, as he was coming to the end of his time in college, he looked at law school again. Married, and with a young daughter, Diaz decided it was not the right time to make a commitment to law school.

“Life kind of creeps up on you,” he remembered. “I had to look at other things. I was volunteering for the Holland Police Department as a reserve police officer and wondered about what to do for work. I reasoned that, since I planned to be a prosecutor in the criminal justice system, what better way to learn about its inner workings than from that vantage point. Well, lo and behold, I really enjoyed it! I loved the police-citizen interactions and I loved the law at that level. So I thought to myself, well, I love law; I love law enforcement; I think I would like to be a police officer. So that’s exactly what I did.”

After five years at the Holland Police Department, Diaz joined Kalamazoo Public Safety in 2005, giving himself more time for family and the opportunity to dream about law school again.

Diaz learned that WMU-Cooley’s many scheduling options could make pursuing his dream possible. In 2007, he started law school at WMU-Cooley’s Lansing campus taking classes during the day, knowing that if his work schedule changed, he could continue by taking advantage of other scheduling options the law school offered.

WMU-Cooley graduate Rafael Diaz

“For a person who was on the streets doing night patrol, the fact that WMU-Cooley offered classes in the morning, afternoon, evening, and even on weekends, was fantastic,” said Diaz. “So many doors opened for me. I don’t really know of another way I could have really done it, but for WMU-Cooley’s scheduling options. As you can imagine, it was hard working nights as a patrol officer and balancing everything else, but the flexibility I was afforded in Public Safety and the opportunity to teach through a joint relationship between Public Safety and a local educational association, gave me the lift I needed to start law school.”

He continued to work with area high school students, teaching them what it might be like to be a police officer. He enjoyed working with the students, plus he found that this work schedule allowed him to attend evening classes and more time to study.

“The department really stood by me while I was in law school,” said Diaz. “The flexibility I received from work and law school, along with my family’s support and understanding, is how I got to where I am today.”WMU-Cooley graduate Rafael Diaz

Law school was tough, but all Diaz’ memories are positive. “My experience at WMU-Cooley was one of the best times of my life,” Diaz recalled. “Not only was I busy at work, I was busy in law school. I loved being challenged. I also met a lot of great people. I had a tremendous amount of interaction with people and have stayed in contact with many over the years and built lasting friendships.

“It might not have been the traditional approach,” smiled Diaz, “but it worked for me, and everything seemed to fall into place.”

For Diaz, the professors at WMU-Cooley stood out as exceptional teachers. They also made themselves available to help students.

“I have really grown an appreciation for their work and their care of the students,” said Diaz. “Coupled with the friendships and the relationships that I developed, law school was one of the best times ever. Even now I find time to stop by the law school just to say hello. I really loved my time at WMU-Cooley.”

How has a law degree helped in a career in law enforcement?

Diaz explained that his training and legal education have made him a better person, both personally and professionally.

“The law degree is what has broadened my eyes, my perspective, and my approach to so many different issues,” he stated. “I have gone up the ranks, and am now a lieutenant and I got there in a relatively short period of time. I believe it is because the work that I have done and the work that I can do is appreciated. By setting myself apart from other candidates, I have been allowed to progress quickly. It really is a wonderful intersection of my love of law enforcement and my love of law, and the practice of it as an attorney.

“WMU-Cooley set me up for success. They taught me how to look at a problem, any problem really, then apply specific set of skills to analyze the problem and come up with solutions, looking at many sides of an issue. Sometimes in law enforcement we get stuck in only seeing it from one side. That can lead to a lot of frustration when we only want certain outcomes.

“What law school has taught me to do is to examine things from all sides in different ways because people have different points of view. That’s very, very helpful. It gives you a greater understanding and compassion for different views. We may agree to disagree at the end, and that’s OK, but in examining it from all different angles we are able to really see those points and then mesh it in with what the law says about how we have to behave ourselves in society. Really, it is an academic exercise in understanding different folks. For me, that has been huge.”

Family Makes Perfect

Diaz knows that he owes much to the unconditional support and love of his family.

“I can go back to when I was registering for WMU-Cooley Law School,” recalled Diaz. “At the time, I was working as a patrol officer, assigned a night shift. I sat down with my wife and we talked about it. We knew that it was going to be a life-changing, life-altering event for several years. It basically came down to this, my wife said, ‘If you’re willing to do it and put the work in, I am willing to do everything else, and we will get it done.’ I knew right then that I had the support of my wife.”

But Diaz also had two children to factor into the equation.

“I asked my daughter Alana, who is now 20 and a junior at Western Michigan University, and my son, who is going to be 14, ‘How do you think or feel about me taking this on?’  I said, ‘I am going to need a lot of time to study.’ They both looked at me and said, ‘Dad, if that’s what you want to do, let’s do it!’ ”

Even with the full support of his family, Diaz knew there would times where his family would suffer.

“What I tried to do was balance life as much as I could,” suggested Diaz. “Anything that I had outside of school, work, and family was gone, and I still haven’t picked up the game of golf since, but that’s OK. I want dinner time with my family. I encourage anybody who is looking at law school to carve out time for your family, regardless of how busy you are at work or school. In my mind, if it doesn’t work with family, then it’s all wasted.

“During family time, you put the books to the side, sit down, eat dinner, or watch a show, then when they go to bed, get back at it. I tell you what, I got a lot of strength from my family. Even during those years, I coached my daughter in softball and soccer and my son in baseball and soccer, because I love coaching. You can really tackle anything when you have that family support.

“I was truly blessed because my wife, my daughter, my son have always stood behind me and given me pushes, like, ‘Hey dad shouldn’t you be studying? Why don’t you get after it?’ I am thankful every day for the tremendous support of my family, and at some level I believe it was good for them, modeling good study habits, punctuality, and dedication.

“So, it is a two-way street, and we have both benefited tremendously.”

A Day in the Life of Rafael Diaz

With Public Safety, Diaz believes he has one of the most exciting and rewarding careers in the world.

“In 2008, I had a great opportunity to take a class in crisis intervention and learn how to help mentally ill subjects in crisis,” said Diaz. “The concept was that you can de-escalate a situation and seek positive outcomes by having relationships in the community. We now have a crisis intervention team here in Kalamazoo where we link all the necessary resources. We regularly train large classes, 40 officers at a time, and have built a crisis intervention team trained in mental health issues, coupled with de-escalation training, which reduces the probability for violence.”

The efforts have, over the years, improved the treatment and care of the individuals in crisis.

“Those are really the hallmarks of a successful program,” stated Diaz. “We have even been taking our training methods across the state, including a jail diversion program. The overarching principle is, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ We can work on all the other things that go along with that, so long as we have an eye towards getting a good outcome. This model of policing is not only catching fire statewide, but nationally. We are touching lives and that’s really exciting work.”

Diaz may have taken the road less traveled to get him to where he is today, but he has succeeded at every turn, proving to one and all that there is more than one pathway to success.

This story is also published in the Summer 2017 Benchmark. CLICK HERE to see the story and to read about other interesting WMU-Cooley Law School graduates. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Stories and News, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized

Arthrex Sr. Vice President John W. Schmieding: Our Mission Drives Everything We Do

Naples, Florida is well-known as a great resort destination, with miles of white sandy beaches, calm waters, fishing, high-end shopping, golf courses, and even dolphin-watching. What’s less well-known is that Naples is a premier global research and training destination for orthopedic surgeons. John W. Schmieding (Moore Class, 1993) is the senior vice president and general counsel for Arthrex, Inc., a world leader in orthopedic surgical device design, research, manufacturing and medical education. Its mission is helping surgeons treat their patients better.

Since 1981, when Arthrex was founded by Schmieding’s brother, Reinhold, Arthrex has experienced tremendous growth and demand for its products. Its global headquarters in Naples is nothing short of impressive. The vibrant atmosphere of rapid product innovation, medical research and surgeon collaboration is noticeable on its sprawling campus. Surgeons come from around the world to learn about new products and techniques through hands-on surgical skills training programs at this premier medical education facility.

For the past 15 years, with his educational experiences and leadership acumen, Schmieding has been a steward of the legal framework which has facilitated Arthrex’s incredible growth and economic success in the Naples community and around the world.

Did you always know you wanted to be a lawyer?

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a lawyer. My earliest memory, and one of my favorite stories, is when I was a young boy sitting in the backseat of our car looking out the window and a bus passed. It wasn’t the bus so much, but something else. I remember turning to my mother and cleverly saying, “Mom, the school bus probably had wooden seats back in your day!” She quickly smiled at me and told me, “Absolutely, John. That’s very deductive of you. You should be a lawyer when you grow up!”

That was the moment I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, not because of the law but because of the analysis. Even today I encourage my own children to be inquisitive about history and to think about how things are developed and where things belong. Inquisitiveness is an invaluable quality.

How was your time at Western Michigan University? What was your undergrad focus?

I was focused at Western to find a degree that would give me a leg up in law school. I entered WMU’s Criminal Justice program, in addition to a Courts minor – which resembled prelaw courses. I finished the requirements within two years and my advisor told me I should pursue another major. I always loved writing, so I chose English and Creative Writing. Learning how to creatively think and express those thoughts in writing has helped me tremendously throughout my career. It is one of the skills that I find lawyers are often lacking – the ability to cogently write creatively to convince. The law has many opportunities for creative insight.

By my junior year, I was ready to apply to law school. It happened that my uncle knew Cooley Law School founder, Justice (Thomas) Brennan. He worked with him and went to University of Detroit Law School with him. He advocated for me to go to Cooley. I loved the idea of a practical legal education. My creative mindset loved the idea. I wasn’t looking for theoretical insight or theoretical application of the law. I wanted to practice law. I wanted to be of service to people. My father always inspired me to be of service. Growing up, I watched him help others and I wanted to do the same. I gravitated to Cooley and enjoyed it from the first moment I got there. 

Tell us about your WMU-Cooley experience.

Once I began law school at Cooley, I could tell it was going to be a drastic change from my undergraduate program. The intensity of real world operations and learning about how the world works was immediate. There are many moments that stick out in my mind. My first memory was standing in front of the class with a microphone, being grilled on our previous night’s assignments. You learned quickly to be prepared for class and never, ever come unprepared. That lesson has helped me throughout my career.

Law school was a tremendous challenge. I admit I was never an A+ student. That didn’t stop me though from embracing classes I wasn’t comfortable with or actually feared – like Tax Law. I remember making the conscious decision to dive into classes that challenged me. Surprisingly, I did well in those classes and even got an A in my Tax classes. It all gave me great confidence.

Receiving the blue book award for Constitutional Law II was the highlight of my law school career. Up to that point, I had never been very close to the top of the class, but I applied myself diligently to that class and wrote a wonderful blue book. I was honored to receive that award and it hangs in my office to this day.

One experience during law school is forever etched on my mind. I was hurrying to take an exam. I was walking too fast down those large marble stairs in the Temple Building. Justice Brennan was walking up just as I was hurrying down. I literally fell down the stairs in front of Justice Brennan! I’ll never forget that. I was so embarrassed. Yet, Judge Brennan helped me up and was very gracious. I’m sure he remembered what it was like to be a student taking exams. I appreciated him and respected him highly. Oddly, this was one of my fondest memories of my time at Cooley.

How did WMU-Cooley prepare you for a legal career?

My law school experience enriched me with confidence and the practical skills necessary in the professional world. The skills I gained in my research and writing classes were immediately applicable in my work after graduation. I worked for a small accounting firm in downtown Detroit before I started my legal career. I did a lot of research regarding bond fund accounting and arbitrage and really enjoyed it. I applied things I learned in law school directly to that job.

Then I hung out my own shingle, and then worked for a small firm, then a large firm, and now I am in-house at a large multinational corporation.

When I first practiced for myself, I was doing minor litigation matters. Yet within weeks, I had my first small district court trial. The opposing counsel walked into the courtroom and I handed him his trial book, tabulated and organized, just as I had learned in law school. He looked at me dismayed and said, “You are way too organized.” I ended up winning that matter, which was pretty gratifying. It was a thrill to actually apply all I had learned so quickly, and I didn’t even have a mentor at the time. I knew I would succeed as an attorney.

In early practice, I did a lot of civil procedure cases, and leaned on all I learned during Civ Pro. I represented a client who had a real estate matter go south. They hired me to try to iron out the deal. It ended up in litigation where we had to file suit against the sellers of the property. The sellers hired a very famous, well-respected, University of Detroit Civil Procedure professor. Here I am, out of law school only a couple years, and I am going up against someone known to be an expert in this area of law. Well, I ended up winning. The claims were based on a failure-to-disclose matter where the seller failed to inform the purchasers of some water damage to the residence. We ended up going through motion practice, and I survived all the complex procedural attacks seeking dismissal on procedural grounds from this professor. I won every motion, and before trial, the judge tacitly recommended both counsels to settle. The sellers ended up paying us for the undisclosed damage. What a great challenge and confidence builder!

Tell us about your path to Arthrex?

As my career progressed, I started working for larger firms, including a regional firm based out of Pittsburgh called Doepken, Keevican and Weiss. We did everything from commercial litigation to mergers and acquisitions. I was exposed to a wide variety of topics, but Cooley prepared me for that, too. By now I had a wealth of experience and could apply the depth and breadth of my experience anywhere, including as general counsel for Arthrex.

Since the 1990’s Arthrex was growing at a tremendous pace and the foundational legal frameworks needed to be established. Fifteen years ago, my brother asked me to join the team as his legal counsel. We had nearly 100 employees at the time. We now have over 4,800 worldwide, 2,800 in Southwest Florida. When I joined, it was a legal blank slate. It was an honor to have the opportunity to help foster and prepare this company for growth and to help with the great medical vision my brother created. We are a very unique organization. We make medical devices for orthopedics and are the largest sports medicine manufacturer of medical devices in the world. We are committed to doing things in a way that public companies simply don’t. We are on a medical mission, not a shareholder value mission, in everything we do.

It was a rewarding challenge to build ethical and legal frameworks responsive to the needs of our mission. I had to apply an entire range of legal thought and experience to make sure our business foundation was legally sound. I worked to assist in patent prosecution, handle product liability matters, oversee insurance issues, advise on FDA regulations, advise on compliance regulations, and handle all corporate governance, contracts and a variety of other things. I now have 10 attorneys who work for me globally.

The open canvas of the position has been a continual painting. Every day I assist in the growth of our worldwide expansion. What a tremendous experience and privilege it has been! I get to work with some of the best lawyers in the world, and it’s very humbling. What’s important for any attorney is to be open to learning new methods and creative ways of doing things, no matter how long we have practiced. I am excited to see what the future holds.

What is it about your career that makes it the perfect fit for you?

I believe my practice reflects my personality. I have had a wide variety of experiences and have never allowed myself to be type-cast into one role. I love that I am able to sit with a design team of engineers and help develop solutions to medical problems. I am actually an inventor on several patents. The diversity in my work allows me to explore new areas and challenge myself and others. A lawyer’s mind is essential in any problem solving group. Never underestimate your ability to enter a business discussion, a mechanical discussion, a failure or risk mode discussion, because it informs the conversation in a different way due to our legal training and experience. We are able to solve problems, critically look at things and apply knowledge in ways others cannot.

My personal life is also varied. While I spend most of my time with my four beautiful children and my wife, I am also involved with Leadership Florida where I am in “Class 35.” It is a wonderful program where we learn about issues the state is facing in order to help serve our local community better. I also sit on the board of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce, and am active in leveraging Arthrex’s needs for the betterment of our community. My current focus is on workforce training and housing.

My family is important to me and I spend a lot of time with my son in the outdoors and enjoying Florida’s natural beauty with my daughters. We also spend time in northern Michigan enjoying the beauty of the Great Lakes. Both states have so much to offer. I am also an avid reader and love intellectual pursuits.

Do you have advice for others?

Let me tell you a story about how I applied my education. I was at a charity event many years ago when I was just beginning my practice. There was a well-known attorney at the table who had been very successful in the Detroit area and I wondered about his story, so I asked, “I am just starting out, any words of advice for me?”

His advice for me was to find a corporation and obtain an equity interest in the company.

I sat back and thought that is not what I want to do. My goals have nothing to do with finance. My belief is that your passion should drive your pursuits, and my passion was our profession; serving as a pillar of democracy.

This is why the Arthrex mission is such a great fit. Focusing on passion drives innovation and creativity, not on a financial outcome of the matter. It turned out to be a wonderful business model for Arthrex, and we are extremely successful because we are focused on our goal of helping surgeons treat their patients better. But the success came after the mission. In that commitment, unlike many of our competitors, we are committed to building and manufacturing our products in the United States. Ninety five percent of our products are made here in the United States – 70 percent of those are made right here in Southwest Florida.

This is a purposeful commitment. Our mission drives everything we do.

Arthrex also continues to reinvest in expansion. We just built another 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility here in Southwest Florida and we are building a 300,000-square-foot facility on the main campus in Naples, which will employ another 1,000 people over the next five years. We are building for growth, and we are committed to keeping that manufacturing here in the United States.

Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates our business model and success. Some competitors have lost in the market to our innovation and creativity, and rather than working to better their business they have attempted to challenge us in court.

Patent law was not something I was very involved with in my private practice. I was only slightly involved in certain patent reviews and due diligence on patents. Yet when I arrived here, I was immediately aware of how industries in our field utilized patents to gain an advantage – an advantage not intended by the system.

Having the ability to overcome difficult situations is a necessary life skill. It is something I first learned in law school during Professor Roger Needham’s Civil Procedure class. There was no question in anyone’s mind that he was an extremely intelligent man, but he was extremely demanding and his classroom demeanor was nothing short of scary. It was a challenge to live up to his expectations. While I found it frightful, it was such a wonderful experience.

After a very tough term in Civ Pro, where half the students failed, I ended up with the second highest grade in his class – an accomplishment I never expected. Ultimately, what Professor Needham did for me, and for all of us, is teach us a world lesson – how to deal with difficult people. It was a wake-up call for many students. That classroom lesson has been practically applied throughout my career.

If you are looking for one last piece of advice, I suggest you strive to understand how to communicate and collaborate with others, and use your passion to understand your client’s mission and join them as a partner, not as simply a service provider. If you do, you will find great success in your career, and in life.

This story is also published in the Summer 2017 Benchmark. CLICK HERE to see the story and to read about other interesting WMU-Cooley Law School graduates. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Alumni Stories and News, The Value of a Legal Education, Uncategorized