Professor George Mocsary Releases Updated Online Chapters of “Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights, and Policy”

As a Second Amendment scholar and business law connoisseur, University of Wyoming College of Law Professor George Mocsary has made significant contributions through his research and savvy legal analysis in both fields. Among many of his accomplishments, Professor Mocsary recently offered an updated version of the supplemental chapters to his co-authored publication, “Firearms Law and the Second Amendment: Regulation, Rights, and Policy” (2nd ed. 2017).

The first casebook on its topic, it provides a comprehensive history of firearms law and expands into modern case law; serving as both a traditional textbook for the growing demand of firearms law classes throughout the nation, as well as a treatise for those looking to expand their knowledge of a variety of topics within firearms law.

The casebook is available as a hard copy and offers supplementary chapters that are available online.

The release of the updated chapters is timely in the current, politically charged environment, serving as a go-to resource on important issues happening in the world. The online chapters cover a range of related topics surrounding firearms law, including a comparative analysis between U.S. firearms laws and other nations, and an in-depth look of firearms culture and policy as it relates to important social issues. The newly revised online chapters are available for free on SSRN and on the Firearms Regulation Website.

Touted as a leading expert in the field of Second Amendment issues, Professor Mocsary has also served as a value asset to a multitude of outlets, including academic institutions, publications, and mainstream media.

Professor Mocsary has established a special relationship with the newly created Duke Center for Firearms Law. The goals of the Center are to promote firearms law as a distinct area of scholarship, to serve as a resource in providing reliable and balanced scholarship, and to encourage non-partisan debates on the Second Amendment. As a recognized scholar in the field, Mocsary has been regularly approached to offer his insights and research to the Center. Most recently, he was featured in the latest episode of the Center’s Scholarship Highlight Series. The Full interview can be viewed here where he discusses his contributions to the updated online chapters in greater depth.

His work has also been cited in the other legal scholarship publications. In the past year, he has been cited in the Yale Law Journal, the Harvard Law Review Forum, the William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal, and the Duke Law Journal Online.

Mocsary has also served as a resource to national media outlets seeking to understand the nuances of firearms law as it applies to current affairs. In areas of lively debate involving firearms, he offers his explanations on how the law applies to the situation. In the current climate of protests and riots, the use of force and the right to bear arms is again at the forefront of many discussions. Over the past several months, Professor Mocsary has been sought for his professional opinion on these matters, and has been quoted in several news outlets.

Beginning in December of 2019, Mocsary was quoted in the New York Times about the prospect of multiple firearms cases appearing before the United States Supreme Court. As a follow up, he was quoted again by Route Fifty when the Supreme Court declined to hear a variety of firearms cases.

His expertise was requested once more to fact check headlines when tensions were high involving protestors and the use of force. He served as a voice of reason from the fallout of escalated tensions and remedies. He also addressed a conundrum experienced in D.C. regarding the public transfers of federally licensed firearms.

In addition to his scholarly works focused on the Second Amendment, Mocsary is an accomplished business law scholar and specialist. He serves as the Director of the College of Law’s Entrepreneurship and Business Law Practicum, as well as teaches courses in Contracts, Corporations, Securities Regulations and Agency and Partnership. 

He was a driving force in the organization of the Ostrom Discussion Colloquium with the Institute for Human Studies at George Mason University in March 2020. Offering input and guidance at the event, the Colloquium was a success in discussing the intersection between economics and law. It is the first of what is planned to be a series of law and economics colloquia.

He is currently publishing in the area of insider trading. His co-authored article “Public Perceptions of Insider Trading,” which is forthcoming.

Mocsary joined the College of Law in July of 2019 and has already made a substantial impact as a leading scholar and in elevating the profile of the college. Un-phased by the uncertainty surrounding the nation and particularly institutions of higher education, Mocsary remains steadfastly on the path to serve as an important resource through his academic research. The College of Law is extremely proud of all that his has accomplished in his short time on our faculty.

Professor Tara Righetti Publishes in Yale Law Journal and Other High Ranking Law Review Journals

Professor Tara Righetti

Professor Tara Righetti of the College of Law recently released a myriad of articles published by top law journals nationally and internationally. Regionally renowned for her expertise in the field of oil & gas and energy law, she has further gained national notoriety with her publications in the Yale Law Journal Forum, the Ohio State Law Review Online, and the Utah Law Review. Additionally, she published with the International Journal of the Commons in a special guest-edited edition.

According to the averaged top ranking entities of peer-reviewed law journals, the Yale Law Journal is ranked #1 in the nation. The Ohio State Law Journal is ranked 37th, while the Utah Law Review comes in closely behind at 52nd. Article submission to top 100 journals is fiercely competitive, with a rigorous vetting process.

With expertise in the areas of oil and gas regulation and split estate issues, Righetti’s articles are linked by their focus on environmental governance of oil and gas development, particularly with respect to opportunities for collaboration and private contracting. The first three articles focus on administrative law developments surrounding the changing landscape of environmental regulations, while the article in the International Journal of the Commons looks at split estates through the lens of mismatched property interests.

Her essay “The New Oil and Gas Governance” published in the Yale Law Journal Forum, which is the online version of the journal, examines how changes in oil and gas production have driven an overhaul of conservation regulation that has shifted from a focus on maximizing production to one that prioritizes minimizing impacts. The essay pays particular attention to the revolutionary Colorado Senate Bill 19-181, which prioritizes the protection of public safety, health, welfare, and the environment in the regulation of the oil and gas industry.

Her work in the Ohio State Law Review Online, entitled “Collaborative Pipeline Risk Governance: A Response to Professor Gosman,” responds to an article in the Ohio State Law Review by Professor Sara Gosman of the University of Arkansas. It suggests that providing landowners and communities more meaningful involvement in pipeline siting decisions could improve pipeline safety.

Her article “The Incidental Environmental Agency” in the Utah Law Review was released earlier this week. It examines the growing environmental regulatory function of state oil and gas conservation agencies, and the potential hazards of reforming conservation agencies into environmental regulators.

In addition to her local publications, Righetti published with the International Journal of the Commons in a special edition of the publication. The Journal is an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed resource, dedicated to the furthering the understanding of institutions for use and management of shared natural resources. It is an initiative if the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC).

Her article, “Liberating Split Estates,” examines split estates as a limited commons. It considers how legal evolutions have modified the scope of the common law implied servitude, and the mineral estate’s dominance and opportunities for exit. The publication is expected to be available in the next few weeks.

Righetti began working for the University of Wyoming in 2014 in a joint capacity with the College of Law, College of Business, and the School of Energy Resources. Prior to her career in academia, she was the CEO and general counsel of a privately owned upstream oil and gas company with operations in six states and on the outer continental shelf. In her time at UW, she has helped students advance their research and energy goals by facilitating multiple grant-funded opportunities, and has been regularly sought out for her expertise and aid on major energy-related projects in Wyoming. In 2018, she was appointed as a trustee-at-large with the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (RMMLF), and most recently, she was awarded tenure at the College of Law.

The College of Law recognizes how fortunate it is to have a faculty member of her caliber among its ranks. Professor Righetti has continued to raise the profile of the law school through her outreach, her dedication to her students, and through her impressive scholastic achievements.  

UW College of Law Postpones Visit by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (photo courtesy of U.S. Supreme Court)

As the public health situation continues to be of concern regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the University of Wyoming College of Law has made the difficult decision to postpone the much-anticipated visit of United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Originally scheduled to appear on campus Sept. 16-17 in honor of the College of Law’s 100th anniversary, the Justice will now plan to attend in the fall of 2021.

“We want to be mindful of the health concerns in our community, as well as the health of the Justice,” says College of Law Dean, Klint Alexander. “In order to be compliant with the current restrictions the state and the university have in place, we would need to drastically limit the attendees to each event. We hope that by postponing we will be able to accommodate a larger audience in the coming year and keep our community safe.”

The structure of the events will remain the same for the Justice’s visit in 2021 with a public event in the afternoon, and a Gala Celebration in the evening. More details on those events and tickets will be made available at a later date.

“We are grateful to Justice Gorsuch for graciously agreeing to postpone his visit to campus,” says Dean Alexander. “We are disappointed that these unforeseen circumstances prevented us from celebrating our 100 year anniversary of the College of Law in the year 2020, but we are excited that we will still be able to host the Justice next year as we begin a new century of legal education in Wyoming.”

For more information, call Christine Reed, UW College of Law communications director, at (307) 766-6562 or email christine.reed@uwyo.edu.

Criminal Law Clinics Close out Academic Year in Front of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Students in the Prosecution Assistance Program and the Defender Aid Clinic appeared remotely before the Wyoming Supreme Court during the June session of oral arguments. Both clinics were represented on separate cases in their respective clinics.

Recent graduates Emily Williams of Laramie, Wyo., and Christian Ryan of Deerfield, Ill., followed through on cases that had been active during the semester and argued before the Wyoming Supreme Court to finish their commitments to the clinics.

While there are ongoing cases in the clinical programs year round, it is always a thrill to see students who have dedicated so much of their time and effort on case guide it through its’ final appeal. This is especially true in the case presented by Emily Williams in the Defender Aid Clinic.

Emily Williams (J.D. ’20)

Williams made an argument on the case Davis v. State of Wyoming, which is a major juvenile re-sentencing case that the clinic has been pursing for over five years. After winning a landmark decision in the Wyoming Supreme Court in 2018 (read about that argument here), the case was remanded to the Wyoming District Court of the Fourth Judicial District for re-sentencing in 2019 (more about that here). At that point in time, Williams appeared for a full evidentiary hearing for re-sentencing and argued to drop the remaining sentence. The outcome of that hearing was less than favorable for their client, so the clinic appealed once more to the Wyoming Supreme Court with Williams at the helm. It is the hope that a final decision will be made on the case when opinions are released.

Faculty Director of the Defender Aid Clinic, Lauren McLane, weighs in on the argument.

“The Donald Davis case, in many respects, has been the heart and soul of this clinic since I arrived in July 2018,” she says. “While there are many issues the clinic has been working on in this case, it has really been the relationship that the students and I have developed with Donald that will outlast any principle of law that is either clarified or created by our courts.”

For Williams, it was a fitting way to end her time in the clinic, leaving a lasting impact.

“Mr. Donald Davis’ case was my first full case coming into the Defender Aid Clinic,” she says. “It was only fitting that his was the case to close out my time as a student. It has been a long road for Mr. Davis, as the juvenile sentencing area of the law has been changing and is not yet fully developed. Though I have enjoyed the unique issues presented, what I value most was getting to know Donald and becoming his advocate. His case, in particular, has changed the way that I view my role as a criminal defense attorney.”

Williams leaves her post as the Student Clinic Director a veteran in the courtroom. In her position, she appeared for hearings and arguments on several occasions, including two appearances before the Wyoming Supreme Court. Her spirit and perseverance in the arena led her to be voted by her peers as the Outstanding Graduate in her law class. She will now be starting her legal career as a Wyoming Public Defender.

Christian Ryan (J.D. ’20)

Meanwhile, the Prosecution Assistance Clinic saw Ryan make his first appearance before the Wyoming Supreme Court. Though it was his first oral argument, Ryan is no stranger to the courtroom. Ryan spent a summer as a legal intern with the Colorado District Attorney’s Office for the Fourth Judicial District where among his experience he tried misdemeanor jury trials. Additionally, he gained valuable experience in the Cheyenne City Attorney’s Office as a legal extern.

A transplant to Wyoming, Ryan earned his Bachelor’s Degree in History from the University of Wyoming in 2017. While in law school, he served as the President of the Federalist Society, Vice President of the Board of Advocates, and was a top student in the Summer Trial Institute.

After a semester in the Prosecution Assistance Program, Ryan appeared before the Wyoming Supreme Court under the supervision of the Attorney General’s Office. He argued against an ineffective assistance of counsel case on behalf of the State of Wyoming.

In the current state of affairs, the most challenging hurdle to over come in legal advocacy has been the drastic shift to online court proceedings and managing a caseload virtually. Ryan found the unexpected change in circumstances to be one of the strangest parts of his experience, having prepared for one scenario and ending up with something entirely different.

“The weirdest thing about this whole experience was writing the brief at the beginning of the total shut down, and not knowing when or if I’d ever get to do an argument for it,” he explains. “When we submitted the brief, the Court was still closed. We did moots over video conference, and the argument was via video conference so the whole experience felt very sterile compared to walking into the much anticipated Supreme Court chamber.”

Still, standing before the Wyoming Supreme Court Justices, even through a computer screen, proved to be humbling and inspiring for him. 

“It ended up not being too different from a regular argument,” he says. “At first it was strange to see the Justices so close on the webcam, but they were all very professional and courteous which made it easy to focus on the job at hand. I am very grateful that I was able to stand before them in any capacity and make a case for the state.”

Professor Darrell Jackson, Faculty Director of the Prosecution Assistance Program was very complimentary of Ryan.

“Chris really impressed me,” he praises. “I am used to seeing students prepare for their first appeal and need help to finesse their argument. From the very first moot, Chris was 90% already there. Not only did he write the brief and know the facts, I was really impressed with how quickly he grasped the law, and how eloquently he had crafted his technique and style. He is very natural in the courtroom and a confident advocate on his feet.”

On the best of days, a courtroom appearance is intimidating. Williams and Ryan have continued to demonstrate the resiliency of student attorneys and showcase the adaptability that is vital to legal profession. The College of Law is proud that they rose to the challenge in an unprecedented new situation to provide the best representation possible for their clients.

Wyoming Ranked 30th in the Nation for Federal Judicial Clerkships

The University of Wyoming College of Law is ranked 30th in the nation this year for students placed in federal judicial clerkships. Above the Law recently highlighted the top law schools where graduates get the highest proportion of federal judicial clerkships based on law school employment data for the class of 2019 compiled by Law.com. Wyoming came in at number 30 on the list, just above Georgetown University.

The ranking is an important recognition of one of the most prized features of the College of Law. The relationship that College of Law has with members of the Wyoming judiciary is second to none. While the ranking is a nod specifically to the federal bench, the overall number of Wyoming graduates that enter into clerkships is equally impressive, with students earning coveted positions in various Supreme Court clerkships, as well as trial court clerkships around the country.

The class of 2019 had an impressively high number of students enter into clerkships following graduation with 20% of the graduating class of 70 students placed in a clerkship position. Of that 20%, 5.71% account for federal judicial clerks. A list of the students in clerkships and the chambers they entered can be explored here.

The recently graduated class of 2020 is fairing even better with a total of fourteen students out of 67 earning top clerkship positions, accounting for 20.89% of the class. Of the fourteen, five students are entering into federal clerkships in Wyoming. With 7.46% of the class moving into a federal clerkship, the College of Law’s nation ranking will likely be even higher next year. Students moving into clerkships from the class of 2020 include:

  • Morgan Temte of Cheyenne, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Scott Skavdahl (J.D. ’92) Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming;
  • Adam Carman of Jackson, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Nancy Freudenthal (J.D. ’80) of the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming;
  • Kari Hartman of Cheyenne, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Alan B. Johnson (J.D. ’64) of the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming;
  • Meri Heneage of Lexington, S.C., who will be clerking for the Honorable Kelly Rankin (J.D. ’94) Chief United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Wyoming;
  • Brent Rhodes of Rock Springs, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Mark Carman (J.D. ’81), United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Wyoming;
  • Adelaide Myers of Saratoga, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Kate Fox (J.D. ’89) of the Wyoming Supreme Court;
  • Renee Leone of Jackson, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Lynne Boomgaarden (J.D. ’91) of the Wyoming Supreme Court;
  • Katelyn Krabbenhoft of Fargo, N.Dak., who will be clerking for the Honorable Jerod Tufte of the North Dakota Supreme Court;
  • Ashlee Morse of Huntsville, Utah, who will be clerking for the Honorable A. Andrew Peterson of the Alaska Superior Court;
  • Samuel Laffey of Memphis, Tenn., who will be clerking for the Honorable Marvin Tyler (J.D. ’81) of the Ninth Judicial District of Wyoming;
  • Benjamin Peterson of Cheyenne, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable Thomas Campbell of the First Judicial District of Wyoming;
  • Shayla Fosmo of Douglas, Wyo., who will be clerking for the Honorable F. Scott Peasley of the Eighth Judicial District of Wyoming;
  • John “Jack” Day of Grosse Point, Mich., who will be clerking for the Honorable David R. Wallace of the Third Judicial District of Alaska; and
  • Christian Marsh of Carson City, Nev., who will be clerking for the Honorable Leon Aberasturi of the Third Judicial District of Nevada.

A notable addition this year to the list of judges hiring Wyoming law grads is United States Magistrate Judge Mark Carman with his exceptional hire of Brent Rhodes into a federal clerkship position in Yellowstone. This is the first year that Magistrate Judge Carman has hired a College of Law student.

Something that is very unique to Wyoming is that our judges and justices really take the time to get to know the students that they plan to hire, frequently volunteering in multiple capacities at the law school where they can see students perform in programs like the Summer Trial Institute, student competitions, or serving on prestigious scholarship committees. Additionally, a large proportion of Wyoming judges and justices allow students an equal glimpse inside the inner workings of their chambers by hiring them as externs, or allowing them to shadow through the Legal Liftoff Program. Often, students also appear in court arguing a case for one of the legal clinics.

Candidates for clerkships are highly competitive and offer the most prestige to any law graduate. Judges seek the best and brightest, with excellent research, writing, and analytical skills. Wyoming graduates have proven time and again that they have the academics, the tenacity, and the heart to fill the positions with dedication, and to go above and beyond for their judges. Regularly, it is that determination that is so characteristic among Wyomingites that sets our graduates apart.

(Above) Justice Lynne Boomgaarden (J.D. ’91); (Below) Renee Leone (J.D. ’20)

Once such student is Renee Leone. Originally from New York, Renee moved out west and rooted her life in Wyoming before deciding to attend law school. Her education has been peppered with accolades and experience including her selection as a Brimmer Scholar finalist, her reception of the Archie McClintock Outstanding Student Award, and her work in the Civil Legal Services Clinic and other internships. She has drive for success and a talent for creating opportunities, which landed her a judicial clerkship with the Honorable Lynne Boomgaarden of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

“I first met Renee when she emailed to introduce herself and asked if we could meet so that she could learn more about me and possible externship and clerkship opportunities,” says Boomgaarden.  “That’s Wyoming initiative!”

From there, the pair were able to get to know each other on both a personal and professional level. They immediately hit it off with their mutual love of the Wyoming outdoors, similar backgrounds, and a shared passion for writing and excellence in the legal profession.

“Renee and I became better acquainted when she did an externship in my chambers for academic credit,” recounts Boomgaarden. “Her interest in externing gave me the chance to see her legal writing and analytical skills first hand. We visited face to face each week, and she even drafted a Wyoming Supreme Court opinion. I was thrilled when she accepted my offer to join our chambers for two years following her graduation.”

The personal investment that the judiciary is willing to make in College of Law students has a ripple effect that enhances the overall quality of the Wyoming Bar. Wyoming graduates are more likely to stay and practice in the state and invest their expertise back into the community. The opportunity to gain critical mentorship inside the courts, as well as adaptability in an ever-changing landscape is irreplaceable.

“I am very grateful to get to work for such an accomplished and well-respected female member of the Wyoming legal community,” says Leone. “Clerking is an opportunity to work under and learn from some of the best minds in the legal profession. I look forward to the research and writing aspect of the position, and I hope to gain insight on some of the important legal issues that are of concern across Wyoming.”

Recognizing the value of judicial clerkships not only for the students, but also for the judges and justices, Justice Boomgaarden has high hopes for the future and Wyoming graduates.

“As a proud UW College of Law graduate, I hope to provide UW law students the same valuable opportunity to clerk in Wyoming that Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Wade Brorby provided me,” she comments. “Wyoming judges and justices have long appreciated the skill and work ethic UW College of Law graduates bring to chambers, and any judicial clerkship provides unique insight into the practice and development of law. I have every confidence it will pay dividends to the law graduate willing to dedicate her time and service. It is my hope more and more law students commit to developing the writing skills necessary to be hired and excel in these positions.”

Leone echoes her sentiment and believes that the opportunities to clerk enhances the entire legal community.

“We are fortunate, in Wyoming, that the College of Law creates opportunities for students to foster relationships with judges and that our judiciary is so willing to engage with students and graduates in ways that help us learn and grow in the legal field.”

The College of Law cannot stress enough how important clerkship opportunities are for our students. No other experience bridges the gap between legal education and practice so succinctly. We encourage all of our students to clerk should the opportunity arise, and to strive for excellence in their legal educations in order to better prepare them for clerkship positions.

We are continually grateful to the dedication of many of our Federal Judges, Supreme Court Justices and Wyoming District Court Judges who consistently hire our students year after year, as well as the out-of-state judges who have recognized the value and skills of our graduates.

Two University of Wyoming College of Law Students Selected to the Editorial Board of the Harvard Journal of Law and Policy’s Symposium Issue

Two University of Wyoming College of Law Students were selected to the editorial board of the Harvard Journal of Law and Policy’s Thirty-Ninth Annual Federalist Society National Student Symposium Issue. Rising 2L Elizabeth Stephani of Centennial, Colo., and rising 3L Nathan Cowper of Laramie, are the first students ever from the University of Wyoming to be selected for the prestigious position.

The Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy (HJLPP) is one of seventeen student produced scholarly journals at Harvard Law School, and is published three times annually by the Harvard Society for Law & Public Policy, Inc., an organization of Harvard Law School students. The Journal is one of the top five most widely circulated law reviews.

For the Symposium Edition, students from other law schools are invited to apply to serve on the board. Students are chosen based on their editing abilities, attention to detail, knowledge of Bluebook citations, and demonstrated commitment to the Journal. A notable alumni of the HJLPP is Justice Neil Gorsuch, who is scheduled to visit the University of Wyoming later this fall.

Stephani and Cowper both served as research assistants to Professor George Mocsary during their 1L year. They were encouraged to apply to the editorial board at his recommendation.

“Nathan and Lizzie will be excellent additions to the HJLPP’s editorial board,” says Mocsary. “Their demonstrated initiative and abilities, honed by their College of Law experiences, will ensure that they excel in their roles.”

A leading periodical for conservative and libertarian legal scholarship, the HJLPP often explores issues and hotly debated topics as they relate to the Constitution. The 2020 National Student Symposium took place in March online and examined the Structural Constitution in the 21st Century. The upcoming symposium edition of the law review will feature panel transcripts and articles surrounding the theme of the event.

With an interest in sustainability, public land management and a passion for private property rights, Stephani came to the College of Law after earning her bachelor’s degree in Government with a Minor in Environmental Science and Policy from Smith College in 2018. Prior to starting law school, she spent a 4 months in South Africa working on a waste management project, and also gained experience as a fellow at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office and as a Project Manager for a non-profit called AeroAngel. 

In addition to editing articles this summer, she is working as an extern with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, Colo.

A local, Cowper grew up in Laramie where he was inspired to earn a law degree by two aunts that are both College of Law alumnae. He attended the University of Wyoming for his undergraduate degree, which he earned in English in 2017. Prior to attending law school, he worked as a research assistant for the late Professor John M. Burman, who also inspired him to pursue a career in law.

Following law school, Cowper plans to work as an advocate of individual liberties, especially those protected by the 2nd amendment. He has served as an extern with the Laramie City Attorney’s Office, and is currently working for the Firearms Policy Coalition, a non-profit, non-partisan organization advocating for individual liberty and important constitutional rights.

“I am excited and humbled by the opportunity to work as an editor for the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy Federalist Society Symposium Edition,” comments Cowper. “I believe strongly in the goals of the Federalist Society, namely the promotion of individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law, and I am humbled by this incredible opportunity.”

The symposium edition is expected to be published and available in Volume 44 of the HJLPP in the fall.

Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis, Professor Michael C. Duff is a Voice of Expertise

Professor Michael C. Duff

As the world has become completely upended from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, discussions of employment and labor law issues have been brought to the forefront. With recommendations and guidelines changing on a daily basis, employers are constantly seeking new ways to protect employees as well as their businesses, while employees are urged to protect themselves and prevent further spread of the virus. In this confusing time in which guidance on protection, relief, and following regulations is critical, Professor Michael C. Duff has shared his expertise on multiple topics.

Quoted by The Guardian, Reuters, The Atlantic, and Bloomberg Law, Professor Duff is now one of the most quoted experts in the nation on OSHA and COVID-19, and has become a go-to-person for the national news. 

As a prominent national expert on workers’ compensation systems and labor law, he is frequently sought out for his legal analysis of current issues. He has written extensively on various complex labor and employment matters, including preemption issues emerging from the interplay of Title I of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and state workers’ compensation systems.

An experienced legal practitioner, Professor Duff spent nearly a decade working as an attorney, adjudicative official, and investigator in various National Labor Relations Board offices immediately prior to joining the College of Law’s faculty. In his work life preceding the study of the law, Professor Duff was for eleven years a Teamsters shop steward and blue-collar ramp service worker in the airline industry, leaving that occupation in 1992 to study labor law at the Harvard Law School.

Duff has been a Professor at the College of Law since 2006. He is a Vice Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Committee of the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section and a fellow of both the American Bar Foundation and the Pound Civil Justice Institute. In 2017, Professor Duff was elected a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance. He was also recently selected as the 2020 Outstanding Professor for the College of Law.

In addition to offering his expertise to national media outlets, Professor Duff has two upcoming publications. The first, Worker Safety in a Pandemic, will be published as white paper by the Center for Progressive Reform, and is co-authored with Professor Thomas O. McGarity of the University of Texas School of Law, and Professor Sidney Shapiro of Wake Forest Law. The paper is anticipated to be available in June.

The second forthcoming publication is an article with the Saint Louis University Law Review titled Work Stoppages in the New Work, Non-Union Economy. A significant portion of the article is devoted to analysis of the rights of non-union employees to concertedly refuse dangerous work assignments. The article is expected to publish in late fall.

Finally, Professor Duff has proven to be an incredible local resource as well. After several years of work including multiple presentations, he has published a substantial resource for the state of Wyoming, a Treatise on Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Law. The Treatise explores workers’ compensation laws and issues relating specifically to Wyoming and is an open source available for download

The College of Law is extremely proud of Professor Duff and all that he has accomplished. We are humbled to have such an in-demand expert among our ranks.

Student Publishes Article in Institute for Energy Law, Energy Law Advisor

Amy Pettit (B.A. ’17; J.D. ’20)

During her final year of law school, recent graduate Amy Pettit teamed up with researchers at the School of Energy Resources to co-author an article examining Section 45Q, a federal tax credit for carbon oxide sequestration. The paper was written in anticipation of the Treasury Department’s draft guidance. It highlights Wyoming’s comprehensive system of laws and regulations and argues pathways for state certification. The article was published in the Institute for Energy Law’s Online Newsletter, the Energy Law Advisor.

Under the supervision of Professor Tara Righetti of the College of Law, Pettit did extensive the research on the topic for an independent study and wrote the article as an extension of her work. The paper was produced with the support of a private foundation and in collaboration with co-authors, Kipp Coddington, the director of the University of Wyoming Carbon Management Institute and Center for Energy Regulation and Policy in the School of Energy Resources, and Kris Koski, a Professional Lecturer at the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources and of counsel attorney at Long Reimer Winegar in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions, Congress has encouraged the capture of carbon dioxide for Enhanced Oil Recovery (CO2– EOR). This market-driven climate policy is further incentivized through the Section 45Q tax credit, though federal guidance had yet to be offered on its implementation and verification.

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a draft of newly updated regulatory guidance related to the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture, utilization, and storage. The much anticipated regulation guidance and implementation of the tax credit comes after the Furthering Carbon Capture, Utilization, Technology, Underground Storage, and Reduced Emissions (FUTURE) Act legislation, co-authored by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, was signed into law in 2018.

The draft treasury regulations suggest that in order to qualify for the tax credit, a standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) could be used to demonstrate proper secure geological storage, and are supportive of third-party verification entities.

Pettit’s paper is at the forefront of the discussion, and suggests that Wyoming is prepared to fill that role.

In her paper, Pettit advocates that as a leader in CO2– EOR, Wyoming and select other state conservation agencies are already equipped and competent to verify secure geological storage. Wyoming has already implemented rules and an infrastructure that would allow governmental agencies like the Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation Commission to verify compliance of secure geological storage in a manner that is consistent with the ISO standards to quantify and demonstrate safe, long-term storage of CO2.

The article is an excellent resource that maps Wyoming’s regulations of secured geological storage to the ISO, and is a useful asset for those looking to comment on the rules.

Professor Righetti comments on the importance of student-led research and collaborative projects such as these.

“My interest in working on this project is that it continues to explore opportunities for collaboration and partnership between industry and conservation interests around climate and environmental problems,” she says. “Amy has done an excellent job engaging multiple entities on a really important and timely topic.”

Raised in Sheridan, Wyo., Pettit graduated from the University of Wyoming in 2017 with a degree in Political Science. During her law school career, she was heavily involved in the EENR curriculum and was engaged in various clubs and organizations including Phi Alpha Delta, Equal Justice Works, and the Women’s Law Forum. Following graduation, Pettit is utilizing her legal education in the oil and gas industry at the law firm of Simmons Olsen Law Firm, P.C. in Scotts Bluff, Neb.

College of Law Graduation 2020

graduation-bannerThe College of Law will celebrate the Class of 2020 with a virtual commencement ceremony. The graduation ceremony will take place as originally planned on Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 10:00am MST. While the ceremony will unfortunately not be able to go on in an in-person format, the College of Law has devised a way for the graduating law students to still be recognized for their incredible achievement in an exclusive law school ceremony online.

Dean of the College of Law Klint Alexander, along with Assistant Dean Lindsay Hoyt will preside over the ceremony as usual, and it will be live streamed through the law school media site. Following remarks from the deans and the ceremony speakers, each student in the Class of 2020, as well those who graduated in December will have their name read along with their picture on the screen.

grad-speakers-2020Traditionally, the graduating class selects an outstanding faculty member as well as an outstanding student from amongst their class to speak at the ceremony along with the graduation speaker. This year, the Class of 2020 has selected Professor Michael Duff as the Outstanding Faculty member, and their peer Emily Williams to represent the class with her remarks. Both will also be present on the live-stream to offer their congratulations to the class.

This year’s graduation speaker is the Honorable William Simpson of the District Court of Wyoming, Fifth Judicial District. Due to the limiting travel precautions in place for the COVID-19 response, Judge Simpson will not be able to participate in the live-stream at the College of Law. However, his remarks, along with Ms. Williams and Professor Duff’s, are immortalized in the commencement program.

All details of the ceremony, including the link to the live-stream can be found on the College of Law graduation website. The link to the ceremony will go live 15 minutes prior to the start. For anyone unable to watch the ceremony live, the link will remain accessible and archived. Students are encouraged to share the link with family and friends near and far to help celebrate their achievement.

Additionally, the digital program will be available to download and print on Wednesday, May 13th along with a composite class photo.article-pic

Finally, we would like to offer a special message to our students in the Class of 2020. We know that this semester has been full of surprises and obstacles well beyond our control. We are deeply saddened that we cannot honor your achievements and give you a proper send-off into your legal careers. However, we do think that it is important to offer some sort of closure and we hope that our efforts have at least removed some of the sting.

On behalf of the College of Law we would like you to know:

We see you. We love you. We are proud of you. And we cannot wait to see all of the extraordinary things you accomplish in the future!

International Human Rights Clinic Makes Major Headway on Ugandan Women’s Health Rights Case

Founded in 2013, the International Human Rights Clinic is one of eight clinics at the College of Law designed to allow students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience during their legal education. Dedicated to a unique and distinct area of the law, the international clinic combines lawyering skills, international legal research, and supervised human rights casework. In addition to aiding local immigration cases and offering advice to DACA students, one of the major tasks of the clinic is to partner with international organizations, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, and law firms in need of research support on important international human rights issues.

One such case has been an effort to combat maternal mortality and recognize women’s health rights as a human right in Uganda. The clinic has been working with the Center for Health Human Rights & Development (CEHURD), which is a non-profit research and advocacy organization, working to advance health rights for vulnerable communities.

Serving in a support role to the organization, the clinic has been involved in the project for over seven years, providing research, conducting client interviews, and meeting with stakeholders for their strategic litigation of the issues. Over the years, the case has been making its way through the Ugandan court system. At the end of September 2019, oral arguments were finally heard before the Ugandan Constitutional Court. CEHURD and the clinic are still awaiting a decision.

DSC_2967As a follow-up to the hearing, third-year law student Adelaide Myers traveled to Uganda with the faculty supervisors of the clinic, Carl M. Williams Professor of Law and Ethics Professor Noah Novogrodsky, and Jamie Crawford, the Robert J. Golten Fellow at the College of Law.

“The purpose of the trip was to figure out what could happen based on the decision, and what are the next possible steps in the case depending on that outcome,” says Myers. “We had the opportunity to meet and strategize with potential stakeholders regardless of the decision, but most certainly if a favorable decision is granted.”

Myers found the trip to be enlightening on a number of levels.

“First and foremost the country was incredibly beautiful and the people were wonderful,” she says. “I learned so much from them in even my limited interactions than I ever could have imagined in a classroom. You really have to meet with your clients face-to-face to really understand their problems. Meeting with women’s healthcare workers and other organizations really helped to grasp the sheer magnitude of the barriers that we were seeking to overcome.”

While the human impact left a last impression, the legal impact was equally eye opening. Longevity of projects in the international realm is one of the distinguishing features that make human rights issues so complex. The challenges associated with their duration, were another one of the major takeaways for Myers.

“I think the biggest lessons this case has taught me is to have a clear picture of the end goal, and that it is critical to ask that questions before you write your initial pleadings,” she remarks. “This case has been winding its way through the Ugandan courts over a decade and now we are trying to figure out the best possible outcomes from a ruling that can only be based on the pleadings that were submit in the first place.”

“I also learned the limitations of strategic litigation for human rights issues,” she says. “It can be a bit daunting and overwhelming and it is certainly very easy to get discouraged, wondering if anything you are doing is going to have an impact. However, while a successful litigation effort wont completely shift the tide, it does start to slowly change the direction.”

The clinic hopes the outcome of the case will be a favorable one to establish a precedent in which other cases can look to in the future.

“The experience has been very humbling, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it,” says Myers. “We have served on this case in a supporting role, but I hope that through our efforts we have garnered additional interest and support for the case. It is comforting to know that once our role ends, it doesn’t end the overall fight.”

Originally from Colorado, Myers calls Saratoga, Wyo. home. She attended Colorado State University for her undergraduate education in English and earned her M.A. in Library Science from Louisiana State University. While in law school, she has been actively involved in the International Human Rights Clinic for multiple years, as well as the Wyoming Society of International Law, the Women’s Law Forum, and PAD. She competed in the Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition where she won best oralist at Regionals in 2019. This year, she wrote the brief and helped to coach the 1L and 2L students competing. She is also a student editor on the Wyoming Law Review Editorial Board for 2019-2020. Following graduation, Myers will serve as a judicial clerk for the Honorable Kate M. Fox of the Wyoming Supreme Court.