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Oxford, Miss.–On May 19, a group of University of Mississippi School of Law alumni were sworn in as members of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.  After Court convened that morning, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read an opinion on Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., Et Al., a case involving entertainment/copyright law.  Following the opinion, Dean Richard Gershon moved before Chief Justice John Roberts that members of the school’s group be admitted to the Court’s bar.  Chief Justice Roberts accepted Dean Gershon’s motion and granted admission.

Following the admission’s event, several members of the group took a tour of the U. S. Capitol.  Fellow Ole Miss law alumnus, Congressman Gregg Harper (JD 81), provided a personal tour of the Capitol that included stops not normally provided on general tours.

The day concluded with a reception for law alumni in the Washington, DC area.  Hosted by the BGR Group, law alumni Lanny Griffith (JD 76) and Haley Barbour (JD 73) welcomed the school’s alumni and friends to the rooftop of the Homer Building (home to the BGR Group), for hors d’ouevres, beverages and socializing.

To view all photos, visit http://olemiss.smugmug.com/Alumni-Events/Other-Events/Law/2014-SCOTUS-Bar-Admissions/.

 

Oxford, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law is pleased to announce the hiring of John Festervand as the new senior director of development. Festervand officially assumes his role beginning July 1.

Festervand comes to the law school from the University of Mississippi Foundation, where he served as assistant director of development for the Meek School of Journalism and New Media and the School of Education.

Festervand was the only director to oversee fundraising efforts for two schools at the university.  For Journalism, he helped establish the Overby Center Speaker Series initiative, a $1 million endowment project to bring industry leaders to campus as speakers and guest lecturers.  Festervand also recently closed a $1.5 million dollar chair position for the Integrated Marketing Communications program for the school.

While leading the annual giving efforts for the School of Education,  Festervand helped launch the One Eleven Initiative, whose annual giving goal is $111,000 for 2014 based on it being the 111th year of teacher training for the school.

In total, Festervand’s efforts have accumulated over $1 million in cash, endowments and gift planning.

“During his time at Ole Miss, John has made great strides in building relationships with alumni and friends, promoting the work of the schools of journalism and education, building private support and using innovative ideas to steward donors,” said Richard Gershon, dean. “We are very excited to have him at the law school and we look forward to his continued success.”

Prior to Ole Miss, Festervand worked at Texas Christian University, where he was the assistant director of athletics marketing and sales. At TCU and as a graduate student at the University of Alabama, he solicited gifts and built relationships with donors, as well as developed marketing plans, implemented promotions, partnered with foundations on events and assisted with collegiate licensing.

“An important goal I have here is to raise scholarship funds for law students,” Festervand said.  ”I look forward to getting started, meeting our alumni and working towards that effort.”

Festervand holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Middle Tennessee State University, and a master’s degree in human and environmental sciences from the University of Alabama. John lives in Oxford with his wife Shevaun, who works in human resources at Ole Miss. He is an avid football fan, and also enjoys traveling in his spare time.

Oxford, Miss.—The University of Mississippi School of Law will host “Systems, Principles and Practice of Lobbying and Advocacy in the U.S.” June 2 at the law school.  The program is designed for mid-level Ukrainian public officials and will improve their understanding of government accountability and transparency.

The symposium will be co-sponsored by the Ukrainian Catholic University’s Public Administration Program in the Institute of Leadership and Management, the International Steering Committee of the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA), and the International Committee of the American Bar Association Section of State and Local Government Law.

 The lecture will cover the following topics:
  • recent developments in the field of post-Communist Civil Societies by using the building blocks of advocacy and lobbying,
  • the Building of Civic Societies as a means of strengthening independent nongovernmental organizations,
  • the critical need to help voluntary Civic Societies and organizations develop legal, financial and regulatory frameworks,
  • the role of increased public engagement and accountability in democratic development and sustaining democracy, and
  • examples of how to establish and maintain networks of advocacy organizations that facilitate increased access to justice in the areas of healthcare, employment, property rights, economic development, and governance.

The lecture will be presented by Ole Miss Law alumni Ben Griffith, who also serves as an adjunct professor in the law school’s Skill Session.  Griffith practices in Cleveland, Miss. where he focuses on federal and state civil litigation, with emphasis on voting rights and election law, civil rights, public sector insurance coverage and environmental law.  He will be joined by the law school’s Senior Associate Dean Matthew Hall as well as Ukranian Catholic University.

 

Oxford, Miss.—P.J. Blount, law professor for the LL.M. program in Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, testified before congress recently about space traffic management.  Specifically, he spoke about the legal aspects of space traffic and debris.

Watch the video on C-SPAN below.

The Magnolia Bar Association recently honored the Assistant Director of Career Services, Karen T. Peairs, Esq., at its Thirty-Second Annual Convention held

Assistant Director of Career Services, Karen T. Peairs, Esq.

May 1-4, 2014 in Biloxi, Miss.  Peairs was named “District Director of the Year” for her work as Northeast District Director during the 2013-14 association year.  Each district director serves on the Executive Board of the Magnolia Bar providing input into Association initiatives.  Further, the district director is charged with implementing those programming initiatives in their individual districts.  The Northeastern District of the Magnolia Bar Association covers a 26-county area to the north and east of Jackson.

This year, Peairs hosted the first district-wide “Meet & Greet” event in September 2013.  African American attorneys from her district connected with members of the University of Mississippi Black Law Students Association.  She also coordinated  Lafayette County’s version of an Expungement Clinic in conjunction with the UM Pro Bono Initiative, UM BLSA and Mississippi Volunteer Lawyer’s Project.

 

The University of Mississippi School of Law seeks elite practitioners as instructors for its third annual Skill Session in January 2015.  These instructors earn the title of adjunct professor and professional skills fellow.

The Session is a two-week long professional skills training program for all law students, 1L to 3L.   Each instructor teaches a three-credit course focused not on substantive doctrine, but on the performance of lawyering tasks – drafting transactional documents, arguing motions, interviewing clients, preparing expert witnesses, etc.    The classes meet four to five hours per day for ten days:  Monday through Friday from January 5 to 16 of 2015.

“The Skill Session embodies the law school’s commitment to graduating students ready to serve clients immediately and effectively,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean.  “Along with our range of clinical programs, our journals and our advocacy programs such as moot court, the Skill Session ensures that our graduates leave the law school prepared to engage in the real work of lawyering.”

The law school is looking for practitioners interested in teaching courses in the Skill Session.  Requirements include being committed to train the next generation of lawyers, possessing deep experience in a particular professional skill, and possessing the ability and enthusiasm to translate that experience into a series of concrete exercises.  Those practical exercises must involve the students in a skills “performance” for each day of the Skill Session.

All first year students enroll in Contract Negotiation and Drafting, while second and third year students choose from a variety of electives.  The electives range from Discovery Boot Camp to How to Do a Film Dean and from Lawyers as Entrepreneurs to Municipal Law Practice, allowing upper level students to focus on litigation, transactional work or public service lawyering, and any number of areas including estate planning, real estate, sports law, entertainment law and intellectual property.

“The Skill Session represents a fundamental shift in the law school’s focus – law professors and elite practitioners working side by side to train the next generation of attorneys,” Hall said.

If you are interested in teaching in the January Skill Session, please contact Associate Dean Hall at mrhall@olemiss.edu

For more information and for an application form, please visit our Skill Session page.

Rep. Lewis tell class that using law to bring justice and fairness is their ‘moral obligation’

OXFORD, Miss. – Famed civil rights leader U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) urged 2014 graduates of the University of Mississippi School of Law to use their law degrees to make a difference in the world.

U.S. Rep John Lewis (D-Ga.) spoke to UM School of Law graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony Saturday, May 10 in the Grove.

“I am so pleased and happy to be here,” he said. “As graduates of Ole Miss law, you can play a powerful role in building a better nation and a better world.”

Lewis, often called one of the most courageous people of the civil rights movement, was the featured speaker for the law school’s graduation Saturday in the Grove.

Lewis told the 182 graduates to find a way to be bold and to give back.

“You must find a way to get in the way, to get into trouble, good trouble,” he said. “That is your moral obligation. That is your responsibility. You don’t have a right to be silent. You must speak up. You must bring justice and fairness to our region and to our country.

“Don’t just do well, do good. Be brave, be bold, be courageous. And never, ever give up. Never, ever give in. Never, ever give out. Keep the faith, hold on and keep your eyes on the prize. This is your day.”

Known for his efforts in protecting and securing human rights and civil freedoms, Lewis is a nationally recognized leader and was one of the main players in the 1963 March on Washington. He is the winner of numerous awards, including the highest civilian honor granted by President Barack Obama, the Medal of Freedom, as well as the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence and the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Dean Richard Gershon said the law school was honored to have Lewis.

“Congressman Lewis is a hero of the civil rights movement,” he said. “I know his words will resonate with our graduates as they prepare to enter their legal careers.”

Lewis concluded by reiterating for graduates to use their degree to bring about change.

“Use law as a tool to bring about a nonviolent revolution of values, a revolution of ideas,” he said. “You can do it.”

This year marks the 149th commencement for the School of Law. For more information on the school, visit http://law.olemiss.edu.

Professor Mercer Bullard was quoted in a recent Morning Edition on National Public Radio. He discussed current developments in the drafting of new rules for raising capital online. Professor Bullard has previously before Congressional committees on this issue.

Professor Debbie Bell was honored today by the Mississippi Commission on the Status of Women as their Woman of the Year.  The Commission honors exceptional women from around the state every year at a spring luncheon.  Bell’s award recognizes women for outstanding service.

Professor Debbie Bell

In addition to teaching, Professor Bell is currently the associate dean for clinical programs, overseeing all of the law school’s clinical learning opportunities.  She is also recognized as the foremost expert in family law in Mississippi, having written “Bell on Mississippi Family Law,” which is widely used by chancellors and family law practitioners.

Learn more about Debbie Bell.

 

Oxford, Miss.—The final moot court rankings are in and the University of Mississippi School of Law is 14th in the nation for 2014.  With three national championship teams, and two other squads finishing as national semifinalists and quarterfinalists, the law school expected a strong finish to the year.

2014 Ole Miss Law School National Champions

With a top 16 ranking out of approximately 175 law schools with moot court programs, the School of Law earned an invitation to the Moot Court National Championship in Houston, Texas, in January 2015.

“Being ranked among the top programs in the country demonstrates that our students can compete with anyone,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean and faculty advisor to the moot court board.  “Earning this ranking with five separate teams demonstrates the extraordinary depth of talent at Ole Miss.”

The ranking, compiled by University of Houston Law Center, is based on scores from moot court competitions around the country.  In moot court, law students submit written briefs and then perform mock supreme court arguments to panels of expert judges.

This year’s nationally-ranked teams:

  •  National Champions at the Pace National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition
  • National Champions at the Gabrielli National Family Law Moot Court Competition
  • National Champions at the National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Competition 
  • National Semifinalists Prince Evidence Moot Court Competition
  • National Quarterfinalists Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition

“This has been an amazing year for the moot court board and our ranking as 14th best program in the country would not have possible without the help of so many truly dedicated people,” said Irving Jones, chair of the school’s moot court board.

For each competition, two or three students spend weeks writing the brief.  Then, with the help of student, professor and practitioner coaches, the team practices for the oral arguments.

“Winning three national championships and placing well in several others has been incredibly rewarding and I could not be prouder of the way we represented Ole Miss on a national level,” added Jones.

In addition to the teams that earned points in the ranking system, the moot court board fielded seven other teams and claimed a semifinalist spot at the National Cultural Heritage Law Moot Court Competition and a quarterfinalist spot at the Rendigs Products Liability Moot Court Competition.

The moot court board is not the only program at the School of Law enjoying success.  The school’s negotiation board also won a national championship at the Transactional LawMeet – the country’s largest contract negotiation and drafting competition.  Students on the law school’s three journals have also enjoyed success, producing approximately 40 student articles in journals at the school and 20 student articles in law reviews around the country in the last two years.

“There is a lot of talent here at the law school and given the support for our advocacy programs, I am certain our success will continue,” Jones said.

 

 

 

OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law VITA Tax Clinic continues to provide valuable work and service to the Oxford community, with this tax season bringing more success than ever.

Students at work in the VITA Clinic.

According to Adrea Watford, student director of the Clinic, there were 199 Federal e-files, 55 federal paper returns and 254 total returns for a refund amount of $212,145, figures which are up from last year.

“I think our number is slightly higher this year because last year was our first year operating as a full service VITA site, and word about our service hadn’t had the opportunity to spread,” she said.

Watford serves as the liaison between the school and its Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent.  She plans, organizes, supervises and promotes all aspects of the Clinic.

The VITA program is an overall initiative of the IRS, with the law school’s Clinic managing this particular site.

“This is truly an amazing accomplishment for 12 students and one professor,” Professor Debbie Bell said, who manages all clinical programs at the law school.  “It returns money to the community and provides a much-needed service.”

The Clinic services those in Oxford with a combined household income of $52,000 or less.  It files Federal and state returns electronically.

In addition, student preparers can be certified at three levels:  basic, intermediate and advanced.  In conjunction with coursework, students are required to be certified through the advanced level.  They may then receive additional certification for more complex returns, including cancellation of debt, health savings accounts, military, international and foreign student certifications.

“This year, we had volunteers who received each certification, so we were equipped to prepare a multitude of returns,” Watford said.

At the clinic, clients were asked to complete an intake form.  They then sat with a preparer, whose work was checked by a quality reviewer.  Once that was complete, the e-file was created, the return was printed, and the client authorized the e-file.

“This is incredibly beneficial for Oxford because there are several low-income residents who are intimidated by the tax filing process,” Watford said.  “We were able to alleviate some of that pressure and make return filing easier for them.”

In addition to the community service aspect, the Clinic is also one of Ole Miss Law’s many programs to provide students with hands-on experience.

Professor Donna Davis, who helps supervise the Clinic and who teaches Tax I, elaborates on this fact.

“The Clinic gives these students an opportunity to build so many new skills,” she said.  “They are applying and explaining what they are learning in a tangible way.”

The Clinic requires dedication from its students, who engage in class time plus certification, as well as the actual work hours spent in the clinic.  This year’s group prepared returns every Tuesday and Thursday from February to April, from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

“This year’s group was fantastic,” said Davis.  “I was impressed with their commitment, their willingness to work and their compassion.  I am just so proud of them.”

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When the University of Mississippi School of Law Clinical Externship Program led her to Mobile, Ala., UM law student Ginger Lowery Harrelson began work in the district attorney’s office.  The externship allowed her to experience real-world law from the beginning when she worked on a Winn Dixie robbery case that left a Mobile police officer in critical condition. For her next assignment, Harrelson never imagined she would be sitting second chair to Mobile District Attorney Ashley Rich, prosecuting one of the most heinous cases in recent history.

Ginger Harrelson, third year law student

The case was the state of Alabama v. Brandon Estle.  Estle had been accused of beating Justin Hasty, a former high school friend, to death with an aluminum bat.  Estle would later be convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison.

“I felt excited and honored that she [Rich] trusted me enough to let me try the case with her,” said Harrelson. “I also felt a little bit nervous because I knew this was going to be a highly publicized trial and that many people were depending on me to perform well.”

 Harrelson participated in selecting the proper jurors and conducted direct examinations of several witness, whose names she had starred on a detailed packet for Rich to refer to during the trial.

“[I] attribute my ability to attack the defendant on cross examination to Ginger’s perseverance listening to jail calls and in preparing such an excellent summary of the conversations that I could use to impeach the defendant and his family members,” said Rich.

Harrelson also admitted multiple pieces of evidence, including aluminum bats found in Estle’s home.  The actual bat he used the night of the murder was never found.

“It [the trial] was unreal at the time,” said Harrelson. “The judge even called me over to ask if I was OK afterwards, because he saw me shaking.” Harrelson laughed as she recalled the first time she admitted a piece of evidence and her hands would not stop trembling.

“I knew we had won the case when Estle described how Hasty had hit him initially with the bat,” said Harrelson.

Estle’s argument was that he had killed Hasty in self-defense.  He claimed Hasty had attacked him with the bat first.  When Estle explained the first blow from Hasty to the courtroom, he did not take into account that Hasty was right handed.  To have hit him the way Estle described, Hasty would have had to have been left handed.  During closing arguments to the jury, Harrelson assisted Rich in a live demonstration of how the attack happened.  This ultimately helped the jury to secure a guilty verdict.

“I felt relief for the victim’s family members who had endured months of anticipation and a week of grueling testimony waiting for the verdict. I felt accomplishment because realization set in that as a second-year law student, I was able to try a case with the district attorney and obtain a guilty verdict,” said Harrelson.

“Ginger managed to mask all of her nerves and lack of experience and appeared composed and seasoned to the jury,” said Rich. “She handled herself as if she had been doing this for many years.  I am proud of her hard work on this case.  It was my pleasure to have her as an extern, and I sincerely thank the University of Mississippi School of Law for allowing her to extern with our office.”

Harrelson is set to graduate this May with an accomplishment very few law students can add to their resumés.  She hopes to be officially employed at the DA’s office, and she aspires to one day be a part of the “murder team” there.

Harrelson says she would not do anything differently, and she enjoyed gaining practical skills and experience through the UM externship program.

Hans Sinha, law professor and director of the externship program said Harrelson’s externship was unique, because she actually tried the case alongside the district attorney.

“When I speak with prosecutors across the state, many tell me that one of the best things they did while in law school was spend a semester with their local prosecutor’s office as a third year student,” said Sinha, “[The program gives] students the opportunity to put their theoretical classroom knowledge to work as they observe and participate in the actual practice of law.  Ginger definitely rose to the occasion and did a great job.”

With both the knowledge and practice, Sinha believes this helps students go into their careers more prepared.  Since 2002 when he became director of the program, Sinha said they have placed hundreds, if not thousands of students in public service, judicial and governmental offices as for-credit externs.

“Though law classes allowed me the knowledge to be in the courtroom, I learned more through the externship than I could have in classes alone,” said Harrelson, “Very few students graduating from law school can say that they’ve tried an entire criminal case, from jury selection to the sentencing hearing, so I think the fact that I got to do this through UM’s externship program puts me ahead of the game for future opportunities.”

 As for the job after graduation, Rich is very impressed with Harrelson’s performance during her externship.  Harrelson hopes to continue working as a prosecutor in Mobile.

“With more experience and training, Ginger will become an excellent trial attorney. Having sat second chair in State of Alabama vs. Brandon Estle, she is well on her way,” said Rich.

Sam Maddox, second year law student, successfully removed debt from a client’s credit report recently as part of his work with the law school’s housing clinic, one of eleven clinical programs at the school.  The client’s report said she owed a more than $5,000 to an apartment complex where she previously lived, though the landlord never provided notice of the alleged debt and never sued for or received a judgment against her.

“Sam studied and familiarized himself with the nuances of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and filed a formal dispute on behalf of his client,” said Desiree Hensley, supervising professor of the low-income housing section clinic.  “This is a great outcome for his client, who needs good credit to pursue her professional and personal goals.”

In the housing clinic, students like Same have the opportunity to bring and defend cases, negotiate settlements and offer advice and counsel to individuals and families facing conflict with their landlords, eviction and foreclosure.

For more information about clinical programs, visit their website.

OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law has won its fourth national championship this year, and one has to wonder, what are they doing right?

The latest championship, coming at the hands of Brad Cook and Drew Taggart, both third year law students, was captured at the 2014 National Transactional LawMeets Competition March 4 in New York City.

Cook and Taggart, from Stonewall and Madison, respectively, beat 13 other national finalist teams including Boston College, Cornell, Emory University, University of Tennessee, and won one of seven regional competitions involving 84 teams to earn a spot at nationals.

“This victory powerfully reflects the strength of the student body at the School of Law — as you can see from the quality of the other teams at the national finals in New York,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean and advisor to the moot court board.

“It represents an enormous success for Brad and Drew, who poured hours into this competition, but it is also a product of the efforts of the entire Negotiation Board, Professor Mercer Bullard and

From left: Patrick Everman, chair of the Negotiation Board and student coach; Drew Taggart; Brad Cook; and Professor Mercer Bullard, faculty coach

of the team.  We are so proud of all of them.”

The national rounds were hosted by Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s New York office.  The competition asked teams to represent one of two sides in drafting and negotiating an acquisition of a biotechnology company. Over the past several months, the students drafted agreements, interviewed their clients and marked up opposing teams’ drafts. The national rounds of the competition culminated with rounds of face-to-face negotiations Thursday and Friday, April 3rd and 4th.

“The problem was released mid-December and alot of work was put in speaking with attorneys figuring out what to put in the acquisition,” said Taggart.  “It was one of the most effective practical experiences I’ve had as a law student.”

Fourteen senior practitioners served as judges at the national rounds, hailing from workplaces such as Safeguard Scientifics; Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University; Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Pfizer; Rothschild, Inc. and Bloomberg Law, among others.

“One of the most encouraging words we received were from the judges who said they were willing to put us up against some of their fifth and sixth year associates,” Taggart said.  “That was unbelievably encouraging.”

The law school’s Business Law Institute provides Taggart and other UM law students with opportunities like this. The Institute, whose mission is “to train great business lawyers,” ties together a number of initiatives including:

  • A Business Law Certificate
  • Negotiation Board that fields several intercollegiate competition teams
  • 1L Skill Session course devoted to Contract Drafting and Negotiation
  • Upper level courses on Lawyers as Entrepreneurs and Client Interviewing and Counseling and How to Do a Film Deal
  • Transactional and Taxpayer Assistance Clinics
  • Externships with governmental agencies that regulate business
  • The Mississippi Business Law Reporter, a brand-new journal
  • Business Law Network, a student group that has just organized the first annual Business Law Conference

This structure, in combination with victories like Brad and Drew’s, seem to set Ole Miss law students apart.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students to work with faculty very closely, to write and to argue,” said Richard Gershon, dean.  “This fourth championship was at Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the top law firms in the world, and our students were chosen to be the best.  That says a lot.”

Taggart agrees with the significance of the win.

“My favorite part about this whole experience was learning that we can compete with anyone nationally,” he said.  “I definitely learned people respect us.”

Housing Law Clinic students Tabitha Bandi and Cynthia Lee appeared in Grenada County Justice Court on March 28 on behalf of a client whose former landlord sued him for unpaid rent, late fees and for the cost of changing the locks. Based on their argument, the judge credited their client with his security deposit, (which the landlord had refused to do), disallowed the landlord’s late fees and reduced other charges, saving the tenant $500.

“This case illustrates of the importance of legal assistance in the not-so-glamorous cases,” said Debbie Bell, associate dean for clinical programs.   “It’s not a headline-grabber or a class action. It is a small case in justice court, where the judge is not even required to be a lawyer. The dollars at stake are relatively small. Even the legal principles are not terribly complicated. But without an attorney, the legal rights often mean little.”

Bandi and Lee were supervised by Desiree Hensley, supervising professor of the low-income housing section clinic.  The Housing Clinic is one of 11 clinical programs at the University of Mississippi School of Law.  Students in the clinic bring and defend cases, negotiate settlements and offer advice and counsel to individuals and families facing conflict with their landlords, eviction and foreclosure.

“If Desiree and her students had not been there, this tenant probably would not only have been out his $500, but might have ended up further in the hole,” Bell said.  ”It’s hard to know what other fees might have been tacked on that were not brought up because they were there.”

The clinic works to provide tenants with certain legal rights and sees those right are enforced.  The right to get your security deposit back or to have it applied to debts are common examples. But those rights are often useless without an advocate who can insist that the law be applied, according to Bell.

“Without these students’ work, the outcome would have been very different,” she said.  ”To someone who has just lost their home, $500 may be the difference in his or her ability to get another place to live. It may be the equivalent of half a month’s income to some tenants. An eviction or loss of home is often the beginning of a spiral that pushes a family further into poverty and homelessness.”

OXFORD, Miss.–U.S. Congressman John Lewis will be the featured speaker at the University of Mississippi School of Law’s graduation Saturday, May 10th in the Grove on the Oxford campus.   Lewis will speak at the law school’s individual ceremony, which follows the main university commencement at 9 a.m.

“Congressman Lewis is a hero of the civil rights movement,” said Richard Gershon, law school dean.  ”He is a great speaker, and I know our graduates will benefit from him being here.”

Lewis, often called “one of the most courageous persons the Civil Rights Movement ever produced,” is known for his efforts in protecting and securing human rights and civil liberties.  He is a nationally recognized leader and was one of the main players in organizing the March on Washington in 1963.

He is the winner of numerous awards, including the highest civilian honor granted by President Barack Obama, the Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford’s Theatre, the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence, and the Preservation Hero award given by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, among others.

He is currently Senior Chief Deputy Whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and Ranking Member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.

“As a member of congress, he has had an impact on the law and has worked to make sure that every citizen enjoys the rights and protections afforded by the US Constitution,” Gershon said.

“The Congressman has spoken at Ole Miss before, and he was excited to be asked to come back to campus to speak at our law school graduation.”

 

 

 

Win makes third this year, first in law school history

OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law made history this weekend by grabbing its third moot court national championship this year, a feat never attained by the law school.

From left: Team Coach Professor Ben Cooper, David Fletcher, Brett Grantham and Will Widman.

Second-year students David Fletcher of Jackson and Brett Grantham of Corinth, along with third-year Will Widman of Birmingham won the National Professional Responsibility Moot Court Competition at Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis.

“This level of repeated success is really an extraordinary testament to both the depth and quality of our advocacy programs and our student body,” said Richard Gershon, dean. “Further, it demonstrates the commitment of our faculty to national caliber instruction — and not just in the traditional classroom.”

The win came just weeks after national championships were obtained at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition and the Gabrielli National Family Law Moot Court Competition, both in New York.  Ole Miss has won the environmental law championship three times in the past four years.

“This year has been a true testament to what we can accomplish when we work hard together from beginning to end,” said Irving Jones, chairman of the law school’s moot court board.  “I am very proud to be a part of this organization and also very proud of how we have represented this university.”

The professional responsibility team competed against several nationally ranked moot court teams, including Chicago-Kent, Stetson and Florida Coastal in the final round.  Widman won the Best Oralist Award in the final round and the team won the Best Brief Award for the respondent, which made them first seed going into the elimination rounds.

“We had been working on this problem since November, so it was a relief that all of the work that the team put in definitely paid off,” said Fletcher.  “We’ve been mooting every day since February, twice a day during spring break, and even in Indianapolis with each other. If anything, I’ve learned what people mean when they say you can never be too prepared.”

The competition included a brief submission and oral arguments.  Each brief was scored by a panel of judges to compile an average brief score, which was used throughout the competition. During the preliminary rounds, each team’s score was determined by combining the brief (35%) and oral argument (65%) scores.  During the elimination rounds, teams were scored solely on their oral argument performance, which were judged on reasoning and logic; ability to answer questions; persuasiveness; knowledge and use of the facts; knowledge and use of the controlling law; and courtroom demeanor and professionalism, according to McKinney School of Law.

“These three guys worked incredibly hard for weeks, through spring break, and beat Florida Coastal in the final round,” said Jones.  “Winning this competition is an amazing achievement and we are so proud of them for their success and dedication to the Board.”

From bottom left: Trey Lyons and Eric Duke pictured with the competition judges.

Win Marks Second National Championship This Year

OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law won its second national moot court championship this year, this time in family law.  The win was secured March 1 by second year students Trey Lyons and Eric Duke at the Gabrielli National Moot Court Competition at Albany Law School in New York.

The student pair defeated Seton Hall School of Law in the final round.  Over 20 other schools participated including LSU School of Law, Florida State University School of Law, New York Law School and Wake Forest.

“The family law national championship demonstrates concretely the depth of talent we have at the law school — many students capable of top flight advocacy,” said Matthew Hall, senior associate dean for academic affairs and faculty advisor to the moot court board.  ”But it also shows the institutional commitment we have made to the students — we have multiple professors dedicated to providing students with the time and expertise needed to prepare for success on the national stage.”

For the competition, the students argue unresolved issues in family law by submitting a brief and through oral arguments the weekend of the competition.

Two preliminary rounds proceeded eliminations, and the 16 teams with the highest scores (50% brief and 50% oral argument) advanced.  Scoring for the semi-finals was based on 90% judges’ score and 10% brief score, and the finals were based solely upon the votes of the judges.

“We knew we had to beat them [Seton Hall] flat out in oral argument,” said Lyons.  ”These judges and justices who judged the competition actually wrote the opinions of these cases.  They were the absolute best captive audience you could hope for.”

The students were coached by Sam Davis, professor of law and Jamie L. Whitten chair of law and government.  A handful of others helped the team, including Matthew Hall, senior associate dean; Debbie Bell, associate dean for clinical programs ; Jack Nowlin, associate dean for faculty development ; and Scott DeLeve, public services law librarian.  Rhodes Berry, who’s the Moot Court Board’s appellate advocacy chair and who’s a third year student, also helped and accompanied the team to New York.

“I am extremely proud of them,” Sam Davis said.  ”Rhodes deserves much of the credit because of his hard work, as well as the faculty members who did practice rounds.”

The competition honors the late Associate Judge Domenick L. Gabrielli of the New York State Court of Appeals, who supported moot court advocacy for many years.

“I know the single most important thing to take away from this is the way I present myself in the courtroom,” said Lyons, who’s from Mooreville, Miss.  ”Dean Hall told us the best way you can ever win is by a hair’s worth of difference, not by being a bulldog.   I learned he’s absolutely right.”

The School of Law’s Environmental Law Moot Court team also won its third national championship in four years this year at the Pace Environmental Law Moot Court Competition in White Plains, N.Y.

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Caroline Shepard, Professor David Case, and Irving Jones at the Pace competition.

OXFORD, Miss.–The University of Mississippi School of Law took first place Feb. 22nd at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition at Pace Law School in White Plains, N.Y.  The victory marks the third national championship in four years for the law school.

The school’s team, comprised of second-year law student Caroline Shepard of Milton, Ga. and third-year law student Irving Jones of Washington, D.C., defeated 75 other law schools, including Yale and Indiana University in the semifinal round and LSU and the University of Utah in the final round.

According to Pace’s website, the competition is the largest interschool moot court competition in the nation, regularly attracting over 200 law schools to compete and 200 attorneys to serve as judges.

“The Pace competition is one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious law school moot court competitions in the country,” said David Case, coach of the team and associate professor of law at the law school.  “Winning a third national championship demonstrates that students of the Ole Miss Law School can compete at the very highest level nationally.”

The competition tests skills in appellate brief writing and oral advocacy on issues taken from real cases.  Before the competition, teams write and file a brief for one of three respective parties’ legal positions, and then the oral phase of the competition begins in February, where each team must argue all three sides, taking a different side during each of the three preliminary rounds.  Those teams with the highest combined scores for both the written brief and oral argument advance.

Shepard won the Best Oralist Award in first preliminary round, while Irving Jones won in the second and third preliminary rounds.  Judging the final round of the competition were the Honorable Lynn Adelman, judge of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Wisconsin; the Honorable Malachy E. Mannion, judge of the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania; and the Honorable Randolph Hill, judge of the Environmental Appeals Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The entire law school community is proud of this championship,” said Richard Gershon, dean of the University of Mississippi School of Law.  “Professors Case and Showalter-Otts have coached three different sets of students to the national championship at the National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition. This is an indication of the strength of our advocacy program, in general.”

Coaches include Case and Stephanie Showalter Otts, both professors at the University of Mississippi School of Law.  Case is a nationally recognized scholar on environmental regulation and management topics, and holds a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Interdisciplinary Studies: Environmental Law, Management and Policy.  Otts is the director of the National Sea Grant Law Center, a program which works to ensure the wise stewardship of marine resources through research, education, outreach and technology transfer.

For more information, contact Jenny Kate Luster at jkluster@olemiss.edu or 662-915-3424.

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By: Tiffany Odom

OXFORD, Miss. –In honor of Black History Month, the Constance Slaughter-Harvey chapter of the Black Law Student Association (BLSA) at the University of Mississippi School of Law sponsored an assortment of programs held throughout the month of February.  The purpose of the events was to educate students, faculty and staff about the role that African Americans have played in the history of the nation.

As an initiative passed down by the National BLSA, the UM chapter began the month with a day for HIV testing in attempt to combat an increasing problem affecting many Mississippians. In 2011, Mississippi ranked number seven nationally in HIV case rates. The following year, the state reported 547 newly reported HIV infections, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health.

“We sponsored the HIV testing to bring awareness to the epidemic not only affecting African Americans but the state of Mississippi at an alarming rate,” said Heather Horn, BLSA secretary.

BLSA also partnered with Mississippi Blood Services to host a blood drive and brought in Jennifer Stollman, Ph. D., academic director at the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, who spoke about judicial equity, race and the law to banish racial myths. The forum was titled “Active Bystander.”

“We put a lot of time and effort into planning and executing these events as an organization,” said Darryl Wilson, BLSA president, “We have learned that Black History Month is not only an African American celebration, but a celebration for all ethnic groups.”

UM law students and faculty weighed in with praise on the month-long celebration and expressed what it means to them individually.“The civil rights movement played an integral part in making sure that, while equality was an important focus, the movement was also about freedom and liberty to pursue your own goals without any hindrance from others just for the way you look or how you were born,” said Cory Ferraez, president of OUTlaw, an LGBT student law organization. “Black History Month is a reflection of opportunities that all Americans have, and we should celebrate that.”

With BLSA’s messages meant to honor the accomplishments of black Americans throughout history, Sandra Cox-McCarty, associate dean for administration and diversity affairs, thinks there is a lot to learn from that.

“Black History Month is also about American history. Every culture should be included,” said Cox-McCarty, “Once we learn about each others culture, we can appreciate each other and understand that we are all different.”

The celebration concluded with a two-part expungement forum and legal clinic on Feb. 22 and the BLSA annual Talent Show on Feb. 25.  BLSA hosted the expungement clinic with the Magnolia Bar Association, the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project and the School of Law’s Pro Bono Initiative to educate anyone interested in erasing a criminal record on the expungement process.

“The important thing that I have gotten, from being affiliated with the organization, is a continuing affirmation that African-American students and other minority students, when given an opportunity, can be successful and effective leaders who are an important part of this country’s future,” said Larry Pittman, BLSA faculty advisor.

 

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