LAWRENCE — An attorney, a legal scholar and a federal judge will be recognized with the University of Kansas School of Law’s highest honor.
Great Bend attorney Larry Keenan, Class of 1954; KU Law Professor John Peck, Class of 1974, and U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil, Class of 1975, will receive the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award, which celebrates graduates for their professional achievements, contributions to the legal field and service to their communities and the university. The awards will be presented at a private dinner April 16 in Lawrence.
After completing his joint undergraduate and law degree in 1954, Larry Keenan served for three years in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. He returned home to Great Bend in 1958 to practice with his older brother at the Keenan Law Firm, where he still practices today. Keenan served as Barton County Attorney for four years and is a past chairman and member of the Farmers Bank & Trust Board of Directors. He currently serves as president of Globe Exploration Inc. in Great Bend. Keenan is an avid supporter of his alma mater and a past president and lifelong member of the KU Law Board of Governors.
John Peck received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Kansas State University in 1968. After working for three years for the U.S. Public Health Service and the EPA in Washington, D.C., he began law school at KU, where he was an articles editor for the Kansas Law Review and graduated Order of the Coif in 1974. Peck practiced for four years with Everett, Seaton, Peck in Manhattan, then joined the KU Law faculty in 1978. A recognized authority on Kansas water law, Peck teaches contracts, land transactions, water law and family law and has received numerous teaching accolades. He is a member of the KU Law Dean’s Club and a past Medallion recipient and serves as chair of the Rice Scholarship Committee. In addition to his tenured faculty position, Peck is special counsel to Foulston Siefkin LLP, where his focus includes water and real estate law. He has been listed in the Best Lawyers of America in the areas of natural resources law and water law since 2003.
Judge Kathryn Vratil graduated from KU with an American studies degree in 1971. She completed law school in 1975 at KU, where she served on the Kansas Law Review and was named to the Order of the Coif. Following graduation she clerked for Judge Earl O’Connor for three years on the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, then practiced commercial and business litigation law for 14 years with Lathrop & Gage, serving as municipal judge for Prairie Village for two years. In 1992, Vratil was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas by President George W. Bush, becoming the first woman to serve on the court. She was named chief judge in 2008 and served in that capacity until she assumed senior status in 2014. Vratil is an active member of the legal community and devoted supporter of her alma mater. She has served two terms on KU Law’s Board of Governors, was named to the KU Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013 and has served on the advisory board for the Emily Taylor Women’s Resource Center (now the Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity) since 2009.
View previous Distinguished Alumni Award recipients on the law school’s website.
Distinguished Alumni Award recipients will be honored along with James Woods Green Medallion honorees and members of the Dean’s Club. Named after the school’s first dean, the Medallion recognizes the school’s major financial supporters. This year’s honorees include:
- Bion J. Beebe, Class of 1976, and Vicki Storm Beebe
- The Belin Foundation
- Judge Daniel D. Crabtree, Class of 1981, and Maureen Mahoney, Class of 1984
- Steve Davis and Kim Bowen Davis, Class of 1978
- Jeanne Gorman, Class of 1978
- Ross Hartley, Class of 1974, and Christine Ness Hartley
- Mark Hegarty, Class of 1990, and Janelle Hegarty
- Martin, Pringle, Oliver, Wallace & Bauer LLP
- S. Lee Meigs Taylor, Class of 1982
- Patrick Stueve, Class of 1987, and Janna Stueve
- James Walters, Class of 1975, and Mary Clayton Walters.
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law ranks 21st in the nation for offering the best practical training for future lawyers, according to National Jurist magazine.
The rankings, which recognize “schools that go above and beyond in preparing law students for the real world,” appear in the spring 2016 issue.
“Since KU Law offered its first clinic more than 50 years ago, hands-on learning opportunities that allow students to represent real clients or practice the skills of a working lawyer have continued to grow,” said Stephen Mazza, dean and professor of law. “We are pleased that this ranking recognizes our ongoing efforts to expand opportunities for students to prepare for the practice of law and proud of the many ways our students have helped their clients and communities in the process.”
A few success stories:
- Students in KU Law’s Project for Innocence helped free a man after 16 years in prison for a murder his brother eventually confessed to committing. They also earned the exoneration and release of a woman unconstitutionally convicted of murder through a coerced confession.
- A student in KU Law’s Medical-Legal Partnership helped a victim of human trafficking obtain a T visa, providing her with a foundation to begin a new life in the United States, free from fear of retribution.
- A student in the Legislative Clinic conducted legal research, wrote memos and presented his findings to the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee – work that contributed to the passage of legislation that increased penalties for drunk drivers whose actions injure victims.
KU Law offers 12 clinics and externships in a variety of practice areas, a robust moot court and mock trial competition program, and simulation courses that teach students the art of taking and defending depositions, examining expert witnesses and performing due diligence in business transactions. The Best Schools for Practical Training rankings measure which schools have the greatest percentage of students participating in such programs.
KU Law also rose two spots in the 2017 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Graduate Schools guidebook, ascending to 65th among all law schools and maintaining its 36th-place rank among public schools. KU has increased its standing for four consecutive years.
KU Law’s innovative simulation courses are also featured in the guidebook’s article on “Law Schools that are Breaking with Tradition.”
There are roughly 200 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association.
LAWRENCE — U.S. News & World Report has ranked 49 graduate programs at the University of Kansas in its 2017 edition of the magazine’s “Best Graduate Schools” rankings, more than any other school in the state.
Ten KU programs are ranked in the top 10 among public universities nationally, and 42 are in the top 50.
“Our students and scholars should take pride in this recognition of our graduate programs,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “As we celebrate our successes, we also remain focused on ways we can continue to educate leaders, build healthy communities and make discoveries that change the world while continuing to improve the quality and reputation of our programs relative to our peers.”
The School of Education increased its overall graduate ranking into a tie for eighth among public universities, and KU’s special education program climbed one spot into the top overall ranking.
KU’s city management and urban policy program also earned a No. 1 ranking among all universities. The city management program has maintained its top ranking since 1998.
The KU School of Law continued its positive momentum in the rankings, increasing two spots among all universities to 65th while maintaining its 36th place rank among public schools. The school has increased its standing for four consecutive years.
KU’s social work program jumped three spots among public schools into 12th.
The graduate programs at KU ranked in the top 50 among public universities include:
1. City Management and Urban Policy
1. Special Education
3. Public Management Administration
4. Occupational Therapy
5. Speech-Language Pathology
8. School of Education
8. Environmental Policy and Management
9. Petroleum Engineering
9. Physical Therapy
10. Public Affairs
11. Medicine – Family Medicine
12. Clinical Child Psychology
12. Social Work
13. Public Finance & Budgeting
14. Curriculum and Instruction
14. Nursing – Midwifery
14. Nursing – Anesthesia
21. Clinical Psychology
22. Medicine – Primary Care
25. Healthcare Management
28. Nursing Practice (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
30. Aerospace Engineering
31. Nursing (Master’s)
31. Political Science
33. Civil Engineering
36. School of Law
37. Medicine – Research
37. Fine Arts
37. Earth Sciences – Geology
38. Biological Sciences
46. Chemical Engineering
46. Part-time MBA
49. School of Business (MBA)
Additionally, in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of online programs, KU’s nursing master’s degree program ranks 20th among public university programs.
LAWRENCE — March Madness hasn’t even started, and KU has already won a national championship. A KU Law team brought home first-place honors from this year’s National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition.
Ashley Akers, of Casper, Wyoming, and Maureen Orth, of Prairie Village, won the competition and received the best brief award. Orth was named the second-best oral advocate and received the first-ever G. William Rice Advocate Award for the highest cumulative points in the competition. Corey Adams of Wichita and Nathan Kakazu of Madison, Wisconsin, placed third and received the second-place brief award. Nick Hayes of Lawrence and Jason Vigil of Las Cruces, New Mexico, also represented KU at the competition, held March 5-6 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.
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 conflict between a state and tribe related to the growth and sale of marijuana on the tribe's reservation,” said Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner, team coach and director of KU’s Tribal Law and Government Center. Students considered whether the state could apply laws prohibiting some forms of marijuana against the tribe. Akers and Orth argued on behalf of the state in the final round, defeating the University of Oklahoma to win first place.
Team members prepared for the competition by researching and preparing briefs and participating in practice rounds judged by KU Law faculty, alumni and peers.
“Our experience at the NNALSA competition was nothing short of amazing,” Akers said. “Nearly every professor at the law school took the time to judge one or more of our teams as we prepared for this competition. It's an honor to bring home this recognition for our school after it has provided so much time, energy and resources to help us succeed.”
“It feels amazing to win, but the best thing to come out of the competition is how much we learned from our coaches, the KU faculty and each other,” Orth said. “We had so much support from the whole team.”
The final rounds were judged by a panel of esteemed Indian law scholars and practitioners, including tribal judges, tribal law professors, a Michigan Supreme Court justice and a D.C. circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals.
“The competition is an excellent way for students to learn federal Indian law, which is especially valuable given the close proximity of so many tribes to Kansas and the important relationship between tribes, the federal government and states,” Kronk Warner said. “Students learn and improve upon their legal research, writing and oral advocacy skills.”
This is the second year in a row that KU Law advanced to the final round of the NNALSA competition. A KU Law team brought home second place from last year’s competition at the University of Arizona.
LAWRENCE — American Indian law scholars and advocates will gather in Lawrence this week to discuss legal issues surrounding the use of images of American Indians as sports mascots.
The 20th annual Tribal Law & Government Conference, Examining and Reconsidering Indian Mascots in the 21st Century, will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, March 11, at the University of Kansas School of Law. The conference is open to the public, but registration is required.
“Advocates have been challenging the use of Indians as mascots for decades, and there have been some notable recent developments in the last few months – such as court decisions related to the Washington, D.C., NFL team,” said Elizabeth Kronk Warner, director of KU Law’s Tribal Law & Government Center. “By exploring this topic, KU Law hopes to make a valuable contribution to the nationwide debate surrounding the appropriateness of such mascots.”
Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, a national Native American rights organization, will deliver the keynote address. A poet, writer, lecturer, curator and policy advocate, Harjo has helped Native people recover more than 1 million acres of tribal lands. She served as congressional liaison for Indian Affairs during the Carter administration and later as president of the National Council of American Indians. Since the 1960s, Harjo has worked to convince sports teams to drop names that promote negative stereotypes of Native Americans. In 2014, Harjo received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor.
Harjo’s address will be followed by a panel considering mascots from a Native perspective. A second panel will explore intellectual property and sports law perspectives on Native mascots. The program will conclude with a panel exploring ethical considerations when representing tribal nations.
- Cornel Pewewardy, professor and director of Indigenous Nations Studies, Portland State University
- Rebecca Tsosie, Regents’ Professor, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; vice provost for inclusion and community engagement, Arizona State University
- Dan Wildcat, director, Haskell Environmental Research Studies Center; dean of the College of Natural and Social Sciences, Haskell Indian Nations University
- Marc Edelman, associate professor, Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, City University of New York
- Jasmine Abdel-Khalik, associate professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law
- D. Michael McBride III, director, Crowe & Dunlevy
Two-and-a-half hours of CLE credit, including one hour of ethics, are approved in Kansas and Missouri. Register and preview the schedule on the conference website.
LAWRENCE — A Nigerian scholar and chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee will discuss sustainable development and its implications during the 2016 Diplomat’s Forum next week at the University of Kansas School of Law.
Obiora Chinedu Okafor, professor & York Research Chair in International and Transnational Legal Studies at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada, will present “International Legal Accountability and the Right to Development: An African Perspective” at 4 p.m. Monday, March 7, in 107 Green Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public. A reception will follow the event.
“The right to development is poised to take center stage in the international human rights agenda,” Okafor said. “This raises a number of important questions. What are the socio-political and economic factors which have shaped policy and action? What kind of accountability mechanism, if any, has been instituted? What is the role of law? The presentation examines these and related questions from a broad African perspective.”
Okafor has published extensively in the fields of international human rights law and immigration/refugee law. He is the author of three books: “The African Human Rights System, Activist Forces, and International Institutions”; “Legitimizing Human Rights NGOs: Lessons from Nigeria”; and “Re-Defining Legitimate Statehood.” Okafor has served as an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, a Canada-US Fulbright Scholar at MIT and as a visiting professor at universities in France, Uganda and Nigeria. He holds law degrees from the University of Nigeria and an LL.M. and doctorate from the University of British Columbia.
Okafor currently serves as chairperson of the United Nations Human Rights Council Advisory Committee. He has also served as an expert panelist for the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee and United Nations Working Group on People of African Descent. He has consulted for a variety of international organizations, governments and law firms.
The Diplomat’s Forum is the law school’s most prestigious annual international and comparative law event. Its aim is to provide a platform for an open sharing of thoughts on international law and relations and the United States through the perspective of a professional with notable diplomatic experience in the service of a foreign government.
Past speakers have included:
- General counsel and legal director of the International Monetary Fund
- Managing director of TA Trade Advisory Group
- China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations
- Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of commerce and industry and chief World Trade Organization technical negotiator
- Consul general of Japan
- Consul general of Austria
- Economic counselor of the Royal Dutch Embassy.
LAWRENCE – With presidential election season in full swing and voting laws in flux in states around the country, legal scholars will gather in Lawrence next week to explore election law and its effect on citizens’ right to vote.
The 2016 Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy Symposium, “The Right to Vote: Examining Election Law,” will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 19 at the University of Kansas School of Law, 1535 W. 15th St. The program is free and open to the public, but registration is required.
“Examining election law, and issues related to election law, is important because the ability to elect our representatives is a vital component of our democracy,” said Cody Branham, third-year KU Law student and senior symposium editor for the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. “This event brings together some of the leading authorities in election law and provides an opportunity to analyze whether our voting system is working as intended. Election laws that promote equal representation have helped this nation evolve into a more just democracy and ensure that it continues to do so in the future.”
The symposium will examine election law over time and consider future developments. Panels will cover: 1) The History and Future of Contested Elections, 2) The Conduct of Election and Protection of Voting Rights and 3) Kansas-Specific Election Law Issues.
- Dean Joseph Aistrup, Auburn University
- Doug Bonney, ACLU of Kansas
- Beth Clarkson, Wichita State University
- Professor Derrick Darby, University of Michigan
- Professor Ed Foley, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
- Mark Johnson, Dentons, KU School of Law
- Professor Richard Levy, KU School of Law
- Mike O’Neal, Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Scholarship from the symposium will be published in a 2016 issue of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy.