KU Law team finishes second in environmental law moot court competition

Monday, March 30, 2020

LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas School of Law students were finalists at the 2020 Jeffrey G. Miller National Environmental Law Moot Court Competition (NELMCC) last month in New York. The team of third-year law students Hannah Lustman, of St. Louis, and Diana Stanley, of Wichita, tied for second place in the competition. Lustman won the award for Best Oralist in all three preliminary rounds.

Fifty-five teams from law schools across the country competed. Lustman and Stanley tied for second place with a team from American University Washington College of Law.

 “The achievement of making it to the final round of the NELMCC cannot be overstated. This competition — renowned for its challenge — gives our students a chance to argue in front of judges of the highest caliber,” said Uma Outka, team coach and KU Law’s associate dean for faculty.

NELMCC was held at Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law on Feb. 20-22. In preliminary rounds, Lustman and Stanley argued before a former general counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the current ranking member of the environment committee in the Connecticut legislature; FEMA attorneys; the mayor of White Plains, New York; and a United Nations environmental law consultant.

“The KU Law team was nothing short of excellent – a credit to Hannah and Diana’s hard work and talent, as well as to the strength of KU Law’s moot court program,” Outka said.

The NELMCC competition tests students’ knowledge of environmental law by evaluating their legal writing and oral advocacy skills while providing a firsthand experience in environmental litigation. This year’s competition involved a hypothetical problem related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The KU students had the opportunity to reference an important law review article on the ESA, which was written by recently deceased KU Law Professor Emeritus George Coggins.

“This was a special competition in that not only were we citing to Coggins in our brief and arguments, but we were in the unique position of having other teams quote a KU Law professor right back to us,” Stanley said. “All in all, participating in the competition was probably the most rewarding educational experience I have had in law school.”

Team members prepared for the competition by researching and preparing briefs and participating in practice rounds judged by KU Law faculty, alumni and peers.

“Competing at Pace was the highlight of my time at KU Law. Diana and I got to prepare with so many KU Law professors and alums we admire and respect, and we took something from each of them into our arguments,” Lustman said. “That preparation was critical because the judging at Pace is top-notch.”

KU students defeated teams from Texas, Maryland, North Carolina, California and Florida. The final rounds were judged by federal judges and environmental law experts, including Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith of the southern district of New York and Environmental Appeals Board Judge Kathie Stein.

“The competition rewards deep knowledge of the legal issues. The judges are extremely knowledgeable in their field and they ask hard questions,” Stanley said.

Photo: From left, third-year KU Law students Hannah Lustman and Diana Stanley.

U.S. News & World Report lists KU Law in top 40 among public law schools in 2021 rankings

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas has nine graduate programs in the top 10 and 48 programs ranked in the top 50 among public universities in the 2021 rankings from U.S. News & World Report, released today.

KU’s local government management program retained its top spot among all universities, and its special education program ranked first among public schools. The local government management program has held that spot since 1998.

Some of the programs with the largest increases in rank among public schools include audiology, up 10 spots; public finance and budgeting, up seven spots; environmental/environmental health engineering, up six spots; civil engineering, up six spots; and medicine – research, up five spots.

Graduate programs at KU ranked in the top 50 among public universities include:

1. Local Government Management
1. Special Education
6. Physical Therapy
6. Public Management and Leadership
6. Speech-Language Pathology
9. Occupational Therapy
9. School of Education
10. Audiology
10. Public Affairs
11. Nursing-Midwifery
11. Petroleum Engineering
13. Dispute Resolution (J.D.)
14. Family Medicine
14. Public Finance and Budgeting
15. Clinical Child Psychology
18. Elementary Education
20. History
22. Medicine - Primary Care
22. Social Work
23. Legal Writing (J.D.)
23. Pharmacy
24. Curriculum and Instruction
26. Contract - Commercial Law
30. Clinical Psychology
30. Psychology
31. Medicine - Research
33. Criminal Law
33. Environmental Law
34. Aerospace Engineering
35. Fine Arts
36. Law
37. Constitutional Law
37. Environmental/Environmental Health Engineering
38. Business-Corporate Law
38. Earth Sciences (Geology)
38. Clinical Training (J.D.)
38. Political Science
39. Civil Engineering
39. Full-Time MBA
39. Mathematics
40. Biology
40. English
41. International Law
41. Tax Law
44. Chemistry
44. Economics
44. Intellectual Property Law
49. Mechanical Engineering

Book outlines how agriculture can be revolutionized, supported by new international bodies

Monday, March 16, 2020


LAWRENCE — Revolutionizing the way humans practice agriculture by implementing new practices supported by international bodies might sound like a radical idea. Yet it's possible, according to a University of Kansas legal expert whose new book shares how similar international bodies have already moved beyond the 16th century idea of sovereignty. A global corporate trust for agroecological integrity could help prevent a collapse in the systems humans use for food production.

Climate change, soil degradation, erosion and poor farming practices have put agriculture and ecosystems around the world in peril. John Head, the Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law at KU, has written a new book and a pair of law review articles outlining how institutional changes could form entities that oversee agricultural concerns in what he calls “eco-states” instead of nation-states. Those could usher in a change from current extractive agricultural methods to natural-systems agriculture featuring grains and legumes that are perennial and grown in polycultures.

A Global Corporate Trust for Agroecological Integrity: New Agriculture in a World of Legitimate Eco-States” outlines not only how such a massive transition is possible but how the formation of eco-states that govern ag concerns across borders can be done and how similar bodies already exist.

“We have such an urgent problem right now of soil erosion, soil degradation and climate change. To reverse that, there has to be some way of coordinating a type of entity such as ecological states,” Head said. “With the weight of climate change and the pressure that this puts on agriculture, there have to be points of departure and a ‘taking of the bull by the horns’ to make change.”

Head uses his extensive experience in law, international organizations and farming to make his case through three propositions. The first is that the extractive form of agriculture humans have used for about 10,000 years can and should be replaced with natural-systems forms of agriculture, known as agroecological husbandry. He acknowledges that this requires major changes in agricultural philosophy and practices, but he also points to remarkable progress already made in developing perennial grains as a result of research in places such as the Land Institute in Salina. Head also cites gains in African and East Asian nations, including perennial rice in China. Such an approach could ultimately produce the grains that make up about 67% of the human diet without requiring land to be turned annually and without requiring nearly the amount of fossil fuels currently used.

“I think there’s enough momentum already built up on the shift to perennial polycultures that it’s time to develop legal reforms to facilitate that shift,” Head said. “The science is underway. I’m saying we need to make the legal and institutional changes to support the transformation.”

In his second proposition, Head outlines how supporting that transition would require reforming the notion of sovereignty that humans have held since it was developed in the 16th century. States and nations frequently have disputes about agricultural issues such as pumping water from a river for irrigation. Ecological states with “pluralistic sovereignty” could be formed to give authority to govern ag concerns in areas of the world with similar agricultural production. According to the World Wildlife Fund, Earth has 14 terrestrial biomes, or areas with similar climate, soil type, crop growing conditions and other factors. Eco-states could govern these concerns and ag transitions more effectively than current political, state-based approaches.

“Political boundaries mean nothing to a river. All the so-called nation-state boundaries you see on a map are artificial, from an ecological standpoint,” Head said.

Eco-states could be protective of such biomes and ecosystems and their concerns such as land use and conservation in a manner parallel to the structure of nation-states, he said.

The third proposition calls for the formation of a global corporate trust for agroecological integrity, which would represent a “fourth-generation international organization designed to ensure that our species recognizes and discharges its responsibility as trustees for generations to come, whose well-being turns on agricultural reform and ecological restoration.”

Head acknowledged it may sound like a radical idea to form such international bodies but points out multiple examples already exist overseeing a number of concerns around the globe. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Greenpeace and nonsovereign organizations such as the International Olympic Committee and International Chamber of Commerce all work across political borders. For a more local example, Head cites how a city such as Lawrence, home to KU, is under the auspices of four levels of sovereignty: the city, Douglas County, the state of Kansas and the United States.

“There’s nothing here that doesn’t build on precedent,” Head said. “There are examples everywhere. Let’s expand on that and improve that.”

Given his extensive experience working for international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Head outlines how a global corporate trust could be formed while avoiding the problems that plague the existing institutions, most of which are now over a half-century old. One example is a very different voting structure giving equal weight to interested parties governed by each eco-state.

The book is the second in a series of three on transforming the world’s agricultural practices and the resulting necessary legal reforms. “International Law and Agroecological Husbandry: Building Legal Foundations for a New Agriculture” was published in 2016 and outlines the legal changes necessary, while the second book addresses institutional reforms.

Head also recently wrote two law review articles that delve further into the legal aspects of transforming agriculture. In one, published in the University of Kansas Law Review, Head reviews the ages-old concept of sovereignty as exercised by nation-states, and how legal reform could address the issues and global challenges that have relevance in Kansas. A second, published in the Kentucky Journal of Equine, Agriculture, & Natural Resources Law, outlines how legal and policy initiatives, both currently underway and those that could take place in the future, could put Kentucky at the forefront of agricultural advances and innovative ways of producing food crops.

Both agricultural challenges and the legal reforms necessary to address them are near and dear to Head’s heart. Having grown up on a northeast Missouri farm, which he and his brother still own, he saw both the rewards of farming and the challenges it presented. As a legal scholar with extensive experience in international organizations, he knows both the good they can do in addressing multinational problems as well as the pitfalls such organizations can present. In his scholarship, he approaches the problem by asking what the alternative is. Doing nothing to change the way humans grow their food could be catastrophic, and in fact, momentum is already building to make such changes.

“I think it makes sense to consider what types of new designs we can use,” Head said. “I’m saying take those examples of federalism and overlapping sovereignty and expand them into something that can really make a difference in international agriculture reform.”

Image credit: Pexels.com

KU Law team claims top advocacy prize at Indian law moot court competition

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas School of Law team received the highest advocacy honors at the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition in Berkeley, California.

Second-year law students Karen Fritts, of Olathe, and Zachary Kelsay, of Independence, Missouri, received the competition’s first-place award for Best Overall Advocates on Feb. 23 at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Law. Kelsay and Fritts also placed in the top three out of 68 teams in the competition.

“This team continued KU's long tradition of excellence in the NNALSA competition and has represented the law school and our Indian law program with class and grace,” said Shawn Watts, director of Tribal Law & Government Center and team co-coach.

This is the fifth time in the past six years that KU Law has placed in the top three at the NNALSA competition. KU Law teams brought home the national championship in 2016 and 2019 as well as second-place finishes in 2015 and 2017.

“NNALSA allowed me to educate myself to the legal, social and rhetorical challenges facing tribes. I learned to be an advocate for tribal interests and became a more socially aware student of the law,” Kelsay said. “I am thankful for the community that came together to help Karen and I succeed at the competition.”

The NNALSA competition tests students’ knowledge of Indian law by evaluating their legal writing and oral advocacy skills. Students submit written briefs and participate in a simulated courtroom experience. This year’s competition involved a hypothetical problem related to complex administrative law and federal Indian law.

“What impressed me most about this team was their humility and willingness to learn. Most were engaging with federal Indian law for the first time, so it was truly an inspiration to watch them grow into effective, yet culturally competent legal advocates,” said Becky Howlett, an adjunct professor of federal Indian law and a 2014 graduate of KU Law. “By prioritizing cultural awareness, professionalism and humility, our students are cultivating true leadership skills that will serve them well in the law and in life.”

NNALSA Moot Court Competition 2020Three additional KU teams competed at the event, including David Biegel, of Anchorage, Alaska; Michelle Brady, of Omaha, Nebraska; Austyn Caisse, of Santa Cruz, California; Aidan Graybill, of Scottsdale, Arizona; Shaye Maetzold, of Wichita; and Benjamin Ramberg, of Topeka.

“Federal Indian law is as complicated as it is important,” Fritts said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to learn about the challenges tribes face with the help of the KU team and our coaches.”

With 68 teams, this year’s competition was one of NNALSA’s largest ever. The final rounds were judged by a panel of esteemed Indian law scholars and practitioners, including U.S. Circuit Judge William Cameron Canby Jr. of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Judge Diane Joyce Humetewa of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

Other highlights from the 2019-2020 moot court season thus far:

Alumnus pledges $1 million for future needs at School of Law

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

LAWRENCE — When Michael Davis was a professor at the University of Kansas School of Law in 1971, he made a big impression on law student Christopher “Kit” Smith — so big that Smith and his wife, Diana, have pledged $1 million to create a fund at KU Law in Davis’ name.

“When I was in law school at KU, I had the advantage of an incredibly strong faculty,” Smith said. “The professors’ offices in old Green Hall were small, but the doors were always open. And if you went in, you got personal attention.” That special support allowed him to launch a career in Washington, D.C.

Smith lives in Evergreen, Colorado. He grew up in Fairway and attended Shawnee Mission North High School. He earned his undergraduate degree at Wabash College in Indiana before entering KU Law School. After graduation in 1972, Smith joined the law firm Arent Fox in Washington, D.C. Twenty-five years later, he was elected managing partner of the firm. Smith then moved in 2003 to Dentons, the largest law firm in the world, where he continues his 48-year legal career as a senior partner.

Davis, a native of Clay Center, lives in Lake Quivira. He received his undergraduate degree from Kansas State University and his law degree from Michigan. Davis joined the KU Law faculty in 1971. In 1974 he was named the first general counsel of the university, a position he kept until he was appointed dean of the law school in 1980.

During his nine years as dean, Davis recruited key faculty members, raised the entering class profile and chaired the Committee of (Lawrence campus) Deans. His fundraising efforts quadrupled the prior annual giving total, increased the number of distinguished professorships from one to five, and led a successful capital campaign of which Smith was a key committee member. As dean, Davis spent a great deal of his time “out of the building,” traveling across Kansas and the country representing KU Law.

During these travels, Davis, at the request of the chancellor, often represented the entire Lawrence campus and helped raise the profile of KU Law for alumni, law firm recruiters and potential new students. It was during these “missions” that Davis and Smith became a strong team for the growing number of KU grads interested in law firm, government or corporate jobs in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

Smith was the hometown coordinator of these efforts that paid off with dozens of KU placements in this fertile source of entrance and advancement. Similar efforts were successful in cities from Chicago to Los Angeles, again broadening KU Law graduate opportunities and alumni interest. Smith was Davis’ national role model for these endeavors as well as the creator of area alumni address and phone lists before computer data bases became available.

Davis remained on the faculty for 26 years after leaving the deanship. In addition to his teaching and writing responsibilities, he worked on two more capital campaigns and, in 2005-06, served as interim dean. He was a “go-to” accreditation leader for the American Bar Association, serving on, and usually chairing, more than 30 visits to American law schools and their foreign-based programs. He chaired both the ABA Accreditation and Standards committees, and he finished his career as a six-year member of the Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the highest regulatory body for American legal education.

Stephen Mazza, dean of KU Law, expressed his gratitude for the gift and recognized the influence Davis had on KU Law.

“Mike recruited some of KU Law's most recognized scholars who helped build a reputation for the school that we continue to protect and nurture,” Mazza said. “Kit’s gift also recognizes the important role Mike played in building the school's fundraising efforts and his level of engagement with the alumni base over the years. Mike was instrumental in explaining to the alumni base about the importance of private support at a time when many law schools did not see the need for an active fundraising effort. In that sense, Mike put KU Law ahead of the game.”

Former KU Chancellor Gene Budig reflected on his friendship and collaboration with Davis during their time at the university.

“Mike was dean of law when I first came to the campus, and over the next eight years we worked closely together. He was a highly effective leader for the school, which grew in both reputation and assets during his tenure. At my request he often spoke for the Lawrence campus at alumni occasions throughout the nation,” Budig said. “His work for the St. Lawrence Campus Center, Coach Roy Williams, the American Bar Association and the Douglas County Community Foundation further engrained him as a highly valuable faculty member and leader. Mike and I remain good friends, and I am pleased to learn that this generous gift will keep his name alive for further generations of KU students, faculty and alumni.”

Smith said, “My gift to the law school is a small way of trying to give back, particularly to those who trained me when I didn’t know the first thing about law, and who left a lifetime impression on me.”

Photo: From left, Christopher “Kit” Smith, Chancellor Douglas A. Girod and Michael Davis, professor emeritus of law.

Restatement: International commercial and investor-state arbitration

In his International Arbitration column, John Fellas discusses the Restatement of the U.S. Law of International Commercial and Investor-State Arbitration—a 12-year effort primarily concerned with the role of the U.S. courts with respect to arbitration proceedings. The author describes it as a "majestic, comprehensive, and clear account of the U.S. law of international and investor-state arbitration that belongs on the shelf of everyone involved those fields."

Law Journal symposium to explore ever-changing work environment

Monday, February 17, 2020

LAWRENCE — Legal scholars, academics, practitioners and policy experts will gather in Lawrence to discuss how changes to the work environment impact the legal landscape at the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy’s annual symposium.

The symposium, “The Future of Work,” will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 28 at the University of Kansas School of Law. The symposium will be held in 203 Green Hall. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Preview the complete schedule online.

“The symposium offers the unique opportunity to explore the innovations and challenges presented by artificial intelligence, automation and other technological innovations," said Symposium Editor Abbey Lee, a third-year law student. “It is the journal's goal that attendees gain a deeper understanding of how to effectively address issues that the lawyers of today and tomorrow will confront in their careers."

The program will feature a keynote presentation by Ngozi Okidegbe, a professor at Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law. Okidegbe will discuss the intersection of race theory and technology. Following the keynote presentation, the morning session will focus on changes for employees and employers. The afternoon session will address what changes in the practice of law mean for today’s attorneys.

Presenters include:

  • Annie Calvert, associate, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP
  • Hilary Escajeda, adjunct tax professor, University of Denver Sturm College of Law
  • Ngozi Okidegbe, Harold A. Stevens Visiting Assistant Professor, Yeshiva University Cardozo School of Law
  • Alan Rupe, managing partner, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP
  • Alan Salzberg, senior statistician and principal, Salt Hill Statistical Consulting
  • Adam Sulkowski, associate professor, Babson College
  • Thomas Ulen, research professor, University of Illinois College of Law
  • Corey West, senior manager, Litigation Analytics

Scholarship associated with the program will be published in a future issue of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. Contact Symposium Editor Abbey Lee at abbey_lee@ku.edu for more information.

“The Future of Work” symposium is sponsored by the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Center for Excellence in Advocacy at the University of Kansas School of Law.

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