KU law students capture regional title, advance in National Moot Court Competition

Thursday, December 01, 2016

KU Law students Ashley Billam and Sam LaRoque

LAWRENCE – A pair of University of Kansas School of Law students is heading to New York City after winning first place in the regional rounds of the prestigious National Moot Court Competition.

Ashley Billam, of Olathe, and Sam LaRoque, of Shawnee — both second-year law students at KU — defeated the University of Oklahoma to capture the title during the regional competition Nov. 18-19 at Washburn University School of Law. They also won the award for best petitioner brief. Billam and LaRoque will represent KU at nationals Jan. 30-Feb 2, 2017, in New York.

“We both poured a lot into preparing, and I’m very glad it paid off and we get to move on to nationals,” LaRoque said. “Arguing the final round in front of a panel that included the chief justice of the Kansas Supreme Court was a real thrill.” Kansas Supreme Court Justices Lawton Nuss and Dan Biles and Kansas Appeals Court Judge Steve Leben presided over the final round. Judges do not learn which schools the teams represent until the competition concludes.

More than 120 schools compete each year in the National Moot Court Competition. Sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers and the New York City Bar, it is one of the oldest and most prestigious moot court tournaments in the nation.

“Competition in our region is fierce,” said team coach Pam Keller, clinical professor of law and director of KU’s Moot Court Program. “Placing first really speaks highly of our KU team’s talent. Sam and Ashley worked very hard and deserve this success.”

Third-year law students Kriston Guillot, of Shawnee, and Erica McCabe, of Emporia, also broke into the quarterfinals in Topeka. During the competition, KU students bested teams from the University of Oklahoma, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Nebraska.

Billam gained confidence from the experience.

“Moot court was an extremely challenging but fun experience that helped me overcome my fear of public speaking,” she said. “As 2Ls competing for the first time, we never expected to get past regionals.”

Photo: From left, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, KU Law students Ashley Billam and Sam LaRoque, Kansas Appeals Court Judge Steve Leben, and Kansas Supreme Court Justice Dan Biles.

Professor's book to assist students, lawyers in 'alternative dispute resolution'

Monday, November 07, 2016

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas professor has authored a new edition of a book designed to help law students and lawyers develop important practical skills and learn the law governing disputes resolved outside of court.

Stephen Ware, professor of law, has written “Principles of Alternative Dispute Resolution,” now in its third edition. The book is a concise guide to the three main processes of what lawyers call “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” or “ADR”: arbitration, negotiation and mediation.

“Lawyers call these three processes ‘alternative dispute resolution’ because they are our most common alternatives to courts deciding cases,” Ware said. “While cases resolved by courts — judges and juries — typically get the most media attention, a great many cases are resolved by arbitrators, or by the disputing parties’ agreement reached through negotiation or mediation.”

Arbitration is like litigation in court because both arbitration and litigation allow disputing parties and their lawyers to present evidence and arguments to neutral decision-makers. However, those decision-makers in arbitration are neither judges nor jurors, but arbitrators chosen by the parties and usually paid by the parties. So an arbitration is basically a private-sector court created by the disputing parties’ contract.

Negotiation is the most common process of dispute resolution and is widely used by lawyers to settle cases that would otherwise be resolved by litigation or arbitration.

“Negotiation skills are among the most important skills a lawyer can have,” Ware said.

Mediation is a closely related skill because a mediator is a neutral person who assists parties in reaching a negotiated settlement.

“The idea behind increasing use of ADR was that courts were too crowded, litigation was too expensive, and that hopefully through alternative methods we could get better, cheaper resolution of disputes, or both,” Ware said.

The book has been used as the primary text for Alternative Dispute Resolution courses in several law schools. The book is suited for that role because it clearly and concisely explains the theory, practice and legal doctrine relating to arbitration, negotiation and mediation. This enables law school instructors using the book to save time “learning the law” so more class time can be devoted to students working with the law to develop practical skills in an experiential manner. For example, many ADR courses involve students negotiating or mediating the settlement of a hypothetical case or drafting a hypothetical arbitration agreement.

Ware emphasizes this sort of skill-building when he teaches ADR and, more broadly, in his other teaching. He also chaired a KU Law committee that led the law school to curricular innovations expanding opportunities for law students to develop a range of practical skills through experiential learning.

“This book is part of that effort to keep legal education practical and serve students by preparing them for their careers, and to serve practicing lawyers as well,” he said.

The three major processes of alternative dispute resolution are very pervasive in law, which makes knowledge of them useful to practicing lawyers in nearly every field and specialization of law. For example, the book is a quick resource for practicing lawyers looking to reach a negotiated settlement, whether in business, family, personal injury or numerous other areas of law. As a research tool, the book can introduce lawyers to areas of alternative dispute resolution they may not be familiar with, such as confidentiality requirements in mediation, and point them to relevant statutes and court decisions in those areas to help set the foundation for their research.

“Good legal research often begins with ‘I need a concise overview of the big picture of a given area of law,’” Ware said. “Then it moves to ‘I need leads to find the law in my jurisdiction about my specific legal issue.’”

Ware’s book provides both the concise overview and the leads for further research.

The new edition expands largely on arbitration. As international business has grown in recent years, international arbitration has grown as well. In addition, arbitration of consumer and employment disputes has grown and become increasingly controversial. The Supreme Court and other courts across the country have issued a number of decisions in the area, and the book has updated its research to reflect the changes and new rulings.

Ware has written extensively on ADR for more than 20 years and said seeing the many connections between ADR and other areas he has expertise in — such as contract, consumer, commercial and bankruptcy law — make alternative dispute resolution an especially rewarding area of law in which to work.

“One of the great, fun things about my career is the ability to teach a wide variety of areas and write on a wide variety as well, to be able to view law as a whole rather than focusing more narrowly,” Ware said.

Alumni fund center to prepare students for careers in transactional law

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

LAWRENCE – The Polsinelli law firm and its University of Kansas alumni attorneys have committed $250,000 to create the Polsinelli Transactional Law Center at the KU School of Law.

The Polsinelli Transactional Law Center capitalizes on its namesake’s distinguished reputation to cultivate a new generation of lawyers with the practical skills necessary for successful careers. The center will serve as the umbrella for transactional law courses, symposia and programming related to mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, stock offerings, financing, real estate and other business transactions.

“KU students work extremely hard learning the foundations of law, then getting the hands-on experience necessary to begin their careers ready for practice. It is important that graduates enter the workforce with the ability to understand clients’ business challenges and context,” said 1972 KU Law graduate Thomas Kokoruda, a shareholder in Polsinelli’s health care litigation practice group. “The new Polsinelli Transactional Law Center will help KU Law students become business-minded and go beyond technical lawyering.”

The center was established with $250,000 in gifts and pledges from 67 KU Law alumni and friends employed by Polsinelli – representing a 100 percent alumni participation rate.  

Stephen Mazza, dean and professor of law, expressed gratitude for the gifts.

“This generous support from Polsinelli allows us to expand practical opportunities for KU Law students, maximizing their ability to hit the ground running right out of law school,” he said. “These gifts help us build on our exceptional Far Above fundraising success, and they create a program that will benefit law students immediately and for generations to come.” 

Over the past 30 years, Polsinelli has funded KU Law moot court teams, diversity scholarships and classroom remodeling. And the firm’s commitment extends beyond financial support. As part of the Polsinelli Transactional Law Center, firm attorneys helped teach an intensive simulation course on Due Diligence in Business Transactions this spring, and the firm will sponsor and help prepare KU teams for the National Transactional LawMeet.

“The center bridges legal knowledge with the actual practice of law,” said Lisa Schultes, a 1985 KU Law alumna and a Polsinelli corporate and transactional law attorney who coordinated the center's inaugural course. “The KU Law students were excited to be involved in an actual business acquisition and to learn the real-world steps necessary to successfully close a transaction. The Polsinelli attorneys enjoyed the opportunity to share their expertise and to give back to the law school. We were impressed with the students’ legal skills, business acumen and enthusiasm.”

“Polsinelli is invested in the quality of the KU law school,” said Jack Kilroy, a firm shareholder and 1973 KU Law graduate. “We are proud to employ more than 65 KU Law grads, and we interview on campus planning to hire more.”

Law professors Webb Hecker and Virginia Harper Ho will serve as co-directors of the center. “Having spent a career teaching doctrinal business law, I am excited to participate in an endeavor that will enable KU students to integrate that law with practice,” Hecker said. “The Polsinelli Transactional Law Center will benefit aspiring transactional lawyers in multiple significant ways not previously possible.”

That outcome aligns with Polsinelli’s commitment to education.

“A steadfast partner to the academic community, Polsinelli has invested in universities across the country by providing sponsorships, in-kind and pro bono services. To sponsor the Transactional Law Center was a natural fit for us,” said Edward “Trip” Frizell , Polsinelli Business Services division chair, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and juris doctor from KU.

Polsinelli was established in 1972 in Kansas City, Missouri. Today the firm employs more than 800 attorneys in 20 offices, serving corporations, institutions and entrepreneurs nationally. Polsinelli attorneys provide practical legal counsel infused with business insight, and focus on health care, financial services, real estate, intellectual property, mid-market corporate and business litigation. Polsinelli attorneys have depth of experience in 100 service areas and 70 industries.

The firm’s gifts were managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

KU lecturer proposes feminist legal reforms to reduce sexual violence against Native American women

Monday, October 24, 2016

Sarah Deer, Fall 2016 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor

LAWRENCE – A MacArthur Fellow nationally recognized for her expertise on sexual violence in Indian country will offer legal strategies to improve outcomes for Native American women during a lecture at the University of Kansas.

Sarah Deer, the Fall 2016 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor at KU, will deliver “Gendering Federal Indian Law” at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 2 in the Kansas Union Ballroom. The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow.

“Native women suffer from the highest rates of violence in the United States,” Deer said. “I have been studying this phenomenon for the last two decades and have ultimately concluded that a broken legal system is to blame. Under current law, tribal nations are not able to take appropriate action when violent crime occurs. I plan to explain how a feminist approach to these legal problems will yield more positive results.”

Deer is a graduate of both KU, 1995, and KU Law, 1999. She is currently a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. This fall, Deer is co-teaching the Sex Crimes course and the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic at KU Law. She is also teaching a class on Feminist Jurisprudence.

“The Langston Hughes Visiting Professor program has done an outstanding job of bringing top minds to the University of Kansas,” Provost Neeli Bendapudi said. “Sarah Deer is bringing the full force of her expertise and reputation to the entire KU campus and leading challenging, timely and enlightening conversations.”  

A citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Deer has documented in her scholarship a history of inadequate protection for victims of physical and sexual abuse in Indian country. She has simultaneously worked with grassroots and national organizations to reform federal policies that hinder the ability of tribes to prosecute offenders. Her efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In 2014, she was named a MacArthur Fellow by the MacArthur Foundation.

Deer recently published a book, “The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America,” and she participated in a conference hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls.

“Since receiving the MacArthur fellowship in 2014, I have been focused on scholarship and activism that amplifies the voices of Native women – particularly those affected by violence and abuse,” she said. “During the last year, I co-authored two Supreme Court amicus briefs on behalf of Native women’s organizations.”

Deer’s next book project will feature the writings of young Native women who are working on social justice issues. Down the road, she plans to publish a book on indigenous feminist legal theory in American law.

“Having the opportunity to co-teach Sex Crimes and teach Feminist Jurisprudence at KU will provide even more foundation for that project,” Deer said.

The Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship was established at KU in 1977 in honor of the African-American poet, playwright and fiction writer who lived in Lawrence from 1903 to 1916. The professorship attracts prominent or emerging ethnic minority scholars to KU. This is the first Langston Hughes appointment for the law school.

KU lecture to imagine ‘journey out of the racial divide’

Thursday, October 20, 2016

LAWRENCE — Overcoming racism, xenophobia and other identity-based conflicts requires a deeper understanding of the nature of our humanity, suggests a psychology scholar set to speak this month at the University of Kansas.

Michael Penn, professor of psychology at Franklin & Marshall College, will explore “The Journey Out of the Racial Divide: Reflections on the Reclamation of the Human Spirit” during a free public lecture at 3 p.m. Oct. 31 in the Commons at Spooner Hall. Penn’s talk is sponsored by the University of Kansas Libraries, KU School of Law and Peace & Conflict Studies in KU’s Humanities program.

For 25 years, Penn has focused his research and teaching on the world’s most challenging problems, including violence against women and girls, racism and intergroup conflict, hopelessness and the challenge of relational authenticity.

As part of this ongoing work, Penn’s lecture will provide a rational account of the nature of the human spirit and will explore how humanity can move forward in this tumultuous time.

“Modern movements designed to overcome the 500-year legacy of racism must better understand, embody and exploit a more universal notion of what it means to be human,” Penn said. “Social movements must be grounded in the recognition that the long-term protection of humanity requires respect for and cultivation of those universal moral, intellectual and spiritual capacities that are embodied in the notion of the human spirit.”

Organizers hope Penn’s presentation will help advance campus dialogue.

“Led by its students and supported by faculty and staff, the KU community has been working hard to fully accept and understand the modern implications of race and racism on campus, in America and in the world,” said Lua Kamal Yuille, associate professor of law. “Dr. Penn will help us push these conversations to a new level by asking, ‘What’s next?’”

This lecture is part of the Framing the Dialogue series, presented by The Commons in collaboration with campus partners and visiting scholars.

KU law school earns top-20 Best Value ranking for 3rd straight year

Monday, October 17, 2016

LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas School of Law is the No. 17 Best Value Law School in the country, according to National Jurist magazine.

The ranking highlights affordable law schools whose graduates perform well on the bar exam and have had success finding legal jobs. National Jurist ranked the top 20 schools and assigned a letter grade to the other 38 honorees. This is the third consecutive top-20 finish for KU Law.

“Attending a Best Value Law School means having the freedom to pursue your career goals, no matter what direction they may lead,” said Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school. “We provide an outstanding legal education with ample opportunities for students to explore different practice areas through hands-on clinics and field placements. KU Law ranks among the top 25 percent of all law schools for employment, and our graduates are able to choose careers that aren’t defined by excessive financial burdens."

National Jurist gives employment success the greatest weight in the Best Value rankings. The magazine also looks at a number of other academic and financial variables, including price of tuition, bar passage rate, cost of living and student debt accumulation.

U.S. News ranked KU Law 30th in the nation among law schools whose graduates finish school with the least debt. More than 75 percent of the incoming class receives scholarships.

See the complete list of Best Value honorees and review the ranking methodology

 

Legal scholars explore evolution of the modern class action

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

LAWRENCE — Fifty years ago, the modern class action lawsuit was born. When the U.S. Supreme Court amended Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 1966, it radically transformed the way plaintiffs could sue on behalf of a group. Half a century later, legal scholars will gather in Lawrence to discuss the changing effects of the guidelines. 

The 2016 Kansas Law Review Symposium, “50th Anniversary Perspectives on the Modern Class Action,” will run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the University of Kansas School of Law. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Register and preview the complete schedule online.

Speakers will discuss the ascertainability of class members, post-Comcast heightened scrutiny of class damage models, dual certification of money damages and injunctive class actions, application of the cy-pres doctrine to class actions and the expansion of class actions globally.

“Class actions involve high-stakes litigation, potentially millions of plaintiffs, and important consumer and civil rights,” said Laura Hines, a KU law professor who studies aggregate litigation. “This symposium brings together nationally prominent class action scholars, judges and attorneys from both sides of the bar to discuss recent Supreme Court cases, emerging trends and the global expansion of class actions.”

Speakers will include:

  • Myriam Gilles, professor of law, Cardozo School of Law
  • Suzette Malveaux, professor of law, The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law
  • Robert Bone, G. Rollie White Teaching Excellence Chair in Law, University of Texas School of Law
  • Laura Hines, professor of law, KU School of Law
  • Deborah Hensler, Judge John W. Ford Professor of Dispute Resolution and Director of Law and Policy Lab, Stanford Law School
  • Adam Zimmerman, professor of law, Gerald Rosen Fellow, Loyola Law School

A judges’ panel will feature Judge Robert Dow of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Judge John Lungstrum of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas and Judge Laura Denvir Stith of the Supreme Court of Missouri.

A practitioners’ panel will feature Eric Barton of Wagstaff & Cartmell; Molly Carella of Shook, Hardy & Bacon; Robert Coykendall of Morris Laing; Rex Sharp of Rex A. Sharp PA; Holly Pauling Smith of Shook, Hardy & Bacon; Victoria Smith of Stinson Leonard Street and Patrick Stueve of Stueve Siegel Hanson.

Scholarship associated with the symposium will be published in a spring 2017 issue of the Kansas Law Review. For more information, contact Symposium Editor Skyler Davenport at kulawrevsymposium@gmail.com.

KU law alumnus, state budget commissioner makes the case for progressive taxation

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

LAWRENCE — As the 2016 presidential candidates outline their tax plans and revenue shortfalls prompt Kansans to consider the effects of recent tax cuts, tax policy has become a central issue in this year’s national and state elections. 

A public administrator and University of Kansas School of Law alumnus will examine these themes Thursday at the inaugural Dean Martin Dickinson Tax Policy Lecture. Myron Frans, a 1983 graduate of the KU School of Law and management and budget commissioner for the state of Minnesota, will return to Lawrence to present “Progressive Taxation: Historical Context and Contemporary Examples,” at 4 p.m. Oct. 13 in 104 Green Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the event.

Experts regard progressive taxation, a system in which tax rates increase with income, as the most equitable and economically effective tax structure. While some states have developed a more progressive tax structure in recent years, others — including Kansas — have established more regressive policies. Frans will examine the historical case for progressive taxation and share contemporary success stories of progressive tax policies in action.

Myron Frans was appointed commissioner of Minnesota Management & Budget in 2015. He previously served as Minnesota commissioner of revenue and has three decades of private practice experience in tax law. Frans served as president of Leeds Precision Instruments, a company in Golden Valley, Minnesota, that designs, manufactures and sells forensic microscopes around the world.

The Dean Martin Dickinson Tax Policy Lecture pays tribute to Dickinson’s 48-year legacy of teaching KU Law students and providing excellent analysis of tax policy and changes in tax laws in Kansas and beyond.  

Tribal law can provide examples of innovative ways to address environmental challenges

Monday, October 10, 2016


LAWRENCE — New environmental challenges continue to threaten the air, water and lands Americans depend on, yet innovative federal government initiatives to combat them have disappeared in the last 30 years, a University of Kansas professor has written in a new article. In this void, tribal law can provide inspiration in new ways to develop and enforce laws to address issues such as climate change, as well as water, air and solid waste pollution.

Elizabeth Kronk Warner, professor of law and director of the Tribal Law & Government Center at the School of Law, has authored an article, forthcoming in Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law, in which she surveyed nine sovereign tribes in four states about environmental laws they have enacted and how they enforce them. The article also examines how such tribal laws can provide guidance for local, state and federal governments looking to address environmental threats.

Consideration of tribal environmental law is important because federal innovations in environmental law have stagnated since the 1980s, Kronk Warner writes. That comes after the 1970s, arguably the most innovative decade in the country’s history in terms of environmental advancement, with the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency and measures like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

There are 567 federally recognized tribes within the United States, sovereign and capable of developing their own laws, and many may be experimenting with new environmental laws. In her article, Kronk Warner surveyed tribes in Arizona, Montana, New York and Oklahoma to find out what laws they have on the books and how they are enforced, as well as provide an account of what tribes are doing in the words of their own people.

Kronk Warner notes several similarities among tribal, federal and state laws. Tribal laws often use many of the same tools as federal laws, such as requiring permits for certain actions, issuing fines and making arrests for those who violate them. Where they differ are in instances where tribes may close off tribal lands in order to protect areas with vulnerable water, lands or areas of spiritual significance.

“Laws that are originally tribal can provide inspiration for ideas at other levels,” Kronk Warner said. “I think that’s important to consider in this era when the federal government has stalled in environmental law innovation. One interesting way of dealing with environmental law enforcement is restricting who can and cannot access lands. That’s something we don’t typically see in federal law.”

Another unique enforcement tactic Kronk Warner found in her review of tribal law was banishment. If a non-native person has been found to commit violations of tribal environmental law, they can be banished from tribal lands under civil authority, giving tribal police the right to remove them if they return. Such practices are also uncommon on state and federal lands, but it would be worthwhile to see agencies try the approach under the right circumstances, she added.

The reason a lack of innovation is especially troubling now is because new environmental challenges have arisen since the 1970s. While measures enacted then are still effective at preventing disasters such as rivers being so polluted that they catch fire like the Cuyahoga in Cleveland, there are new challenges. Climate change was not well understood in the ‘70s, and forms of pollution such as non-point source water pollution, agricultural runoff and many air pollutants were not addressed in the Clean Water and Clean Air acts.

“We still have challenges today, though, and new challenges that weren’t even contemplated in those acts,” Kronk Warner said.

Tribal law can be an effective example for new innovations for several reasons.

Kronk Warner has published research on tribal law serving as an incubator for climate change policy and how climate change often affects indigenous populations around the world first and sometimes most severely, forcing them to take action. Meanwhile, political gridlock has prevented progress on a federal level.

However, states and local governments have shown more willingness to act on climate change and environmental protection laws. Nearly one-third of the tribes in the survey are taking action on water and air pollution, and more are enacting new laws regulating solid waste, all with enforcement guidelines. Many more around the country that were not contacted for the survey are likely doing the same, she said.

The most important step in turning tribal examples into inspiration for larger laws is simply to make more people aware of them and expand the conversation to those in power to make changes, Kronk Warner said. One of the best examples of new approaches is from tribes that have created assessments of natural resources and made hierarchies of what they want to protect. She’d like to see the federal government create such an assessment designating what is most important for the United States to protect, whether it’s water designations such as the Ogallala Aquifer or the Great Lakes and consider new ways to enforce existing in new laws to ensure they are effective.

“I think that would be a wonderful exercise to see the federal government engage in,” Kronk Warner said. “You can’t protect everything everywhere, but it would be worthwhile to establish priorities for our most precious resources. I’m sure it would be heavily debated, but it is certainly worth considering.”

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