Clinic Highlight: Civil Legal Services

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Civil Legal Services Clinic Students: Michael Malone, Joel Defebaugh, Colby Sturgeon 

As the fall semester at the College of Law is coming to an end, we would like to highlight some of our student victories in the Civil Legal Services Clinic.

Mid-November brought third-year law student Michael Malone before the Wyoming District Court of the Seventh Judicial District in Casper, Wyoming. for a permanent guardianship hearing.

The case was accepted into the Clinic for representation a mere three weeks prior to the set court date, leaving precious little time for preparation. Not only did Malone dedicate an incredible amount of time and attention to the case in order to be court-ready during that three week period, he won the guardianship for his client.

“The experience was invaluable,” he says. “To actually put into practice what you have been studying for the last two years feels very validating. Arguing in court before I even have a license has given me the confidence that I’ll be able to do this once I’m out in the world.”

Though under the supervision of the Civil Legal Services Faculty Director, Danielle Cover, Malone did the argument solo – including the opening statement, closing argument, and direct and cross examination.

“Mike was exceptionally committed to preparing for the hearing in a time crunch,” explains Cover. “We entered our appearance in the case on October 30th and the hearing was scheduled for November 16th. His fact investigation, trial preparation, and trial execution were excellent.”

Originally from Casper, Malone graduated with his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice through the University of Wyoming Outreach School in 2014. During law school, he has participated in the Wyoming Law Students for Equal Justice, the Multicultural Law Student Association, and has competed in the Richard E. Day Client Counseling Competition, the WTLA Voir Dire Competition, and the ABA Negotiations Competition. He has also been a regular attendee at the Ewing T. Kerr Inns of Court, and currently serves as the President of the Potter Law Club.

In the classroom, Malone has honed his practical skills by utilizing the many experiential opportunities offered in the College of Law curriculum. In addition to the Civil Legal Services Clinic, Malone interned for the Defender Aid Clinic and participated in an externship with Legal Aid of Wyoming. Malone was also one of 16 students that recently took the Summer Trial Institute course in Anchorage, Alaska.

Malone believes the skills gained through trial practice in particular, paired nicely with his work in the Clinic.

“Taking trial practice was extremely helpful,” he says. “It gave me the confidence and procedural knowledge to advocate in the courtroom, while the Clinic has afforded me an entirely different skillset interacting with the actual client.”

After graduation, Malone hopes to remain in the Rocky Mountain region and continue to do trial work.

Spending time in the courtroom is only one of the resolution remedies employed by the Civil Legal Services Clinic.  Students in the Clinic work on a diverse range of cases that touch on many different areas of civil practice, and require different tactics and skills. Student Clinic Director Joel Defebaugh, recently resolved two different cases for clients seeking assistance in other areas outside of the courtroom.

In the first case, Defebaugh successfully negotiated with a local landlord to allow a tenant to have an emotional assistance animal in their apartment due to a disability. The situation had grown contentious between the client and the landlord. Over the span of three days, Defebaugh did extensive research on the Fair Housing Act and Wyoming Statues, and carefully crafted a letter to the landlord outlining why the animal should be allowed.  In light of the professional dialogue and legal persuasion offered by the Clinic, the landlord acquiesced.

“This case was really enticing for me,” says Defebaugh. “The areas of the law that deal with issues of discrimination such as housing or employment, have roots in constitutional law. It was really interesting for me to draw on that background and use it as a framework for helping the client.”

In a separate case, Defebaugh worked with fellow student Colby Sturgeon to negotiate a property line dispute between two neighbors in which one neighbor erected a wall that effectively blocked the access to the client’s front door. Defebaugh and Sturgeon immediately filed for an injunction and a declaration of easement to use the shared sidewalk and reopen access to the front door. Though a court date had been scheduled, the students were able to successfully negotiate with the neighbor, who then agreed to the designation of an easement for the benefit of their client’s property.

“This case was a little outside the norm, so it was an interesting challenge for us,” comments Defebaugh. “Because of the easement issue it took a little more work than a normal property dispute. But again, it is really gratifying to be able to utilize that core legal education, and put it to work to find real solutions.”

As the Student Clinic Director, Defebaugh sees all of the cases that come through the Clinic doors. He believes that the variety of cases, clients, timelines, and needs is one of the strengths of the Civil Legal Services Clinic, and the clinical programs at the College of Law in general.

“The general practice experience we gain is so incredible,” he says. “We have to be prepared for anything that comes through the door, and I feel like we are really given the skills and ability to be able to navigate that successfully. We may not have immediate answers for everything, but because we have a reliable base in our legal education, and skills in different remedies to employ, we are able to effectively find solutions and advocate for our clients.”

Professor Cover echoes his sentiments.

“These cases are prime example of how the Clinics offer both rigorous learning experiences for students and high quality representation to clients with whom private bar attorneys do not necessarily have the capacity to work,” she says. “The students work extremely hard for the clients and I am exceedingly proud of their efforts.”

Joel Defebaugh is a native of Casper, Wyoming. He attended the University of Wyoming for his undergraduate degree in Political Science, graduating in 2013. While at UW, Joel has excelled in leadership roles, serving as ASUW president, an orientation leader, an admissions representative to new incoming students, as well as a student ambassador. He is currently exploring the possibility of joining the JAG Corps following graduation.

Colby Sturgeon is also a third-year law student, and a native of Torrington, Wyoming. He earned his undergraduate degree from UW in Ag Business in 2014 and also took courses from Eastern Wyoming College. During his undergraduate days, he was also a member of the UW Rodeo Team. He is the first person in his family to attend law school and plans to take his knowledge to serve rural areas in Wyoming following graduation.

The College of Law is pleased to recognize the accomplishments of our dedicated, caring, and knowledgeable students!

Faculty Highlight: Tara Righetti

Professor Tara Righetti is serving as an invited speaker at the annual Arkansas Law Review Symposium this Friday, October 27, 2017.Righetti-pic-2

Hosted in conjunction with the University of Arkansas School of Law and the Arkansas Law Review, the Symposium is designed to explore an area of the law from many perspectives. Guest scholars from institutions around the nation are invited to participate in panel discussions and contribute to the symposium issue of the Arkansas Law Review. This year’s Symposium is entitled Environmental Sustainability and Private Governance.

An Associate Professor at the University of Wyoming, Righetti teaches courses related to oil and gas, energy and commercial law for the College of Law. She teaches additional courses for the College of Business as well as the School of Energy Resources where she serves as the Director of the Professional Land Management Program. Her research interests include split estates, royalty payments, subsurface trespass and energy development on public land. Prior to joining the University of Wyoming, Righetti served in counsel and executive management positions in the oil and gas industry where she represented clients in oil and gas, corporate, securities, commercial, mergers and acquisitions and environmental matters.

With her experience and expertise in the energy industry, Professor Righetti will be serving on a panel exploring energy and climate change at the Symposium. Additionally, she will be contributing an article to the Symposium Edition of the Arkansas Law Review about surface use agreements as a vehicle for private environmental governance (publication forthcoming).

The panel, as well as the rest of the Symposium is available to watch via live stream or after the conclusion of the event on the Arkansas Law Review Symposium webpage.

Faculty Highlight: Danielle Cover

The University of Wyoming College of Law is pleased to announce that Professor Danielle Cover is the recipient of a University of Wyoming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Award.  The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards recognize and reward the efforts of faculty, staff, students, and community members to create and support an environment where diversity, equity, and inclusion are valued both on campus and in the community.DSC_7892

Professor Cover is the Faculty Director of the Civil Legal Services Clinic (CLSC) at the College of Law. Under her supervision, student enrolled in the CLSC represent low-income and marginalized individuals across the state who could not otherwise afford legal representation. With a dedication to public services, Professor Cover applies a social-justice based instructional design in the Clinic, as well as in the other courses she teaches at the College of Law and across campus.

In addition to putting in countless hours to provide legal representation to an under-served population throughout the state of Wyoming, Professor Cover simultaneously trains law students in authentic legal practices, and helps them to become thoughtful, responsible, and reflective lawyers.

As well as teaching a full, faculty course load, Professor Cover has participated in the Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning’s (ECTL) Institute on Active and Engaged Learning, volunteers her time on campus to serve on the Shepard Symposium Planning Committee, and has presented in several conferences about pro bono services and the importance of problem-based learning and social justice.

Professor Cover was enthusiastically nominated for this award by her colleagues on campus in recognition of her service and dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“It’s humbling both to have been nominated for the award and to receive it,” says Cover. “The work of my fellow clinicians in the College of Law and my University colleagues informs so many of my choices – the best work any of us can do builds from the foundation of our collective commitment to building community. To be formally recognized for my teaching choices and the impact they can have in a classroom is an honor.”

The University of Wyoming Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards are sponsored by the Committee on Women and People of Color, the Good Mule Project, the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice, the Social Justice Research Center, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Days of Dialogue.

Professor Cover will be recognized at the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards dinner on October 17, 2017.

Clinic Program Update

family and Immgrant justice clinicThere have been some recent changes in the clinical programs at the College of Law this semester. A new clinic, the Family and Immigrant Justice Clinic (FIJC) has been created as a hybrid clinic, replacing the existing Family and Child Legal Advocacy Clinic and the merging it with family and domestic violence based immigration cases that were previously housed in the International Human Rights Clinic. The main focus of the FIJC, is to work with organizations and individuals on projects and cases that aim to advance justice for victims of gender-based violence both at home and abroad.

Students in the Clinic will continue to represent low-income victims of gender-based violence in traditional areas of family law, including: divorce, custody, termination of parental rights, and court appointed guardian ad litem cases. Additionally, they will represent low-income victims of gender-based violence and family violence in the immigration area, including immigrant petitions under the Violence Against Women Act, U visas for victims of crime and T visas for victims of human trafficking, domestic violence-based asylum claims, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status Petitions for children fleeing family violence in their country of origin.

The FIJC is part of the College of Law’s family law, immigration law, and international law curriculum. Through taking on direct representation and advocacy work in addition to participation in a critical skills-based seminar, students in the Clinic continue to gain practical experience, advanced client-counseling techniques, and integrate public service in their practice skills. Students are also able to effectively examine and engage in local, national, and global efforts to combat gender-based violence and discrimination.

The merger of the clinical components seemed a natural fit since so many of the cases in the former clinics had overlapping features and similarities in their caseloads. Through participation the FIJC, students will come out with a globally-informed skill-set allowing them to effectively represent more clients in their general practice once they embark on their careers.

The FIJC is supervised by Professor Suzie Pritchett.  Pritchett joined the law faculty in 2012 and has become a passionate advocate for immigrant justice throughout the state of Wyoming. In addition to representing hundreds of non-citizens with law students through the Clinical Programs, Professor Pritchett is also a strong advocate for victims of gender-based violence. She is on the Board of Directors for the Albany County SAFE Project and a regular contributor to the Wyoming Humanities Council. Most recently she was honored for her pro bono services as the “Champion of Justice” by the Wyoming State Bar Association.

The International Human Rights Clinic, which is operating as a practicum during the 2017-18 academic year, remains a part of the Center for International Human Rights Law & Advocacy. Students opting to participate, will continue to work on international and domestic cases under the Direction of Professor Noah Novogrodsky, the Director of the Center for International Human Rights Law & Advocacy.

Faculty Highlight: Step Feldman

Professor Stephen M. Feldman, the Jerry W. Housel / Carl F. Arnold Distinguished Professor of Law and Constitutional Law expert at the University of Wyoming College of Law, recently published a new book, The New Roberts Court, Donald Trump, and our Failing Constitution (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).step feldman book

The book traces the evolution of the constitutional order, explaining Donald Trump’s election as a symptom of a degraded democratic-capitalist system. Beginning with the framers’ vision of a balanced system—balanced between the public and private spheres, between government power and individual rights—the constitutional order evolved over two centuries until it reached its present stage, Democracy, Inc., in which corporations and billionaires wield herculean political power. The book further explores what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and Judge Neil Gorsuch’s appointment means for the future of democracy in America.

Professor Feldman has been at the College of Law since 2002. He teaches Constitutional Law and Jurisprudence at the law school. Additionally, he serves as an adjunct professor for the Political Science Department.

speaker-feldmanBefore joining the University of Wyoming College of Law, Professor Feldman was a Professor of Law and Associate Member of Political Science at the University of Tulsa. In 1998, he was a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellow and in the fall of 1999, he was a Professor in Residence in London, England. He has also served as a Judicial Clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Office of Staff Attorneys. In the fall of 2016, he served as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School.

Professor Feldman has authored numerous publications, including several scholarly books on Constitutional Law and has written various articles and essay contributions on law, politics, and jurisprudence.

University of Wyoming Salt Creek Energy Scholar Lands Job with Holland & Hart

Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholar Megan Romano recently accepted an offer to join full-service, national law firm Holland & Hart as an associate in the firm’s Cheyenne office in the Fall of 2018. Romano recently concluded a summer clerk position in Holland & Hart’s Environment, Energy & Natural Resources practice, one of the largest environmental and natural resources teams in the country, as part of the firm’s Summer Associate Program.

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 Pictured Left to Right: Dean Klint Alexander (Salt Creek donor), Poe Leggette (co-founder of Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship), Megan Romano (law student, inaugural Salt Creek Scholar), Joe Evers (co-founder of Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship), Matt Hartford (Salt Creek donor), Alex Obrecht (co-founder of Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship)

Romano is the first Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship recipient at the University of Wyoming College of Law. The scholarship was created to financially award law students as they move forward in their academic endeavors towards a career in the field of energy and natural resources law, as well as to connect students to the scholarship’s industry network of friends and donors to facilitate employment opportunities. Recipients are selected by the Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship Committee comprised of the director(s) of the Center for Law and Energy Resources in the Rockies (CLERR), the Oil & Gas Professor, and no less than three of the donors to the fund as selected at random by the director(s) of CLERR and as approved by the Dean of the College of Law.

“We’re really proud to hear our first Salt Creek Scholar winner was offered employment at the nationally recognized firm Holland & Hart. She has proven herself to be an intelligent, hard-working scholar who is making a positive contribution in her community,” said Joe Evers, Corporate Counsel and Manager of External Relations at Westmoreland Coal Company.

Prior to law school, Romano developed a successful career as a landman for both upstream and midstream companies in Colorado and Wyoming. Romano was motivated to attend law school after working daily on contracts, negotiations, and with her companies’ outside legal counsel. She applied for the Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship: “because energy has been my work for nearly 10 years and I believe in the industry and the need for competent problem solvers. The energy industry is one our nation depends on, and with the challenges we face, we need manpower and people committed to working through those issues.”

About Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship

Established in 2015 by University of Wyoming alums and benefactors practicing in the areas of oil and gas and energy law, the Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholarship is awarded to students demonstrating academic achievement and a commitment to the study and practice of energy law. Salt Creek Scholars will be acknowledged at the scholarship dinner at the end of March or the beginning of April, honored at the annual Landscape Discussion on Energy Law and Policy, and promoted to potential employers throughout the Salt Creek Scholars donor network.salt creek logo

Faculty Highlight: Melissa Alexander

Associate Professor Melissa Ballengee Alexander recently spoke at the 40th Annual DSC_2240Health Law Professors Conference which took place June 8-10 in Atlanta, Georgia. Alexander presented her current work entitled, Autonomy and Accountability: Why Informed Consent, Consumer Protection, and Defunding May Beat Conversion Therapy Bans.  Professor Alexander’s article on the same subject will be published later this summer in volume 55 of the University of Louisville Law Review.

The annual Health Law Professors Conference is hosted by the American Society of Law Medicine & Ethics (ASLME) and is intended to serve as a forum for professionals who teach law and bioethics in higher education institutions to share strategies and ideas, as well as provide participants with updates on issues at the forefront of the law and medicine.

Professor Alexander join the law faculty at the University of Wyoming in 2015. Her areas of interest include bioethics and global health and human rights. In addition to those courses, she also teaches Intellectual Property, Civil Procedure II and Pre-Trial Litigation.