Students in Civil Legal Services Clinic Make History with Jury Trial Victory

students and Professor Cover in Courtroom
(Left to Right) 2L Jennifer Dean, 3L Brent Rhodes, Professor Danielle Cover

Civil Legal Services Clinic students Brent Rhodes and Jennifer Dean concluded a two-day jury trial in the District Court of Wyoming for the First Judicial District in front of the Honorable Steven K. Sharpe.

The students successfully prevented the termination of parental rights for an incarcerated individual. At the request of the court the Civil Legal Services Clinic began representation of the client at the end of 2019, and brought the case to its conclusion with the jury siding in their favor.

Under the supervision of Civil Legal Services Faculty Director Danielle Cover, Rhodes and Dean worked on the trial preparation under a condensed time frame. Their client initially planned to appear pro se before the clinic stepped in, leaving little room for error. The students swiftly filed several motions, conducted witness preparation, underwent pre-trial conferences, and spent many hours crafting their argument. In the courtroom, they conducted Voir Dire, opening statements, the examination of witnesses, and persuasive concluding remarks all on their own.

Professor Cover was confident in the abilities of her students and was pleased with their efforts leading up to the trial, as well as their performance during trial.

“Jen and Brent were extraordinary in our initial preparation, in the countless hours of mooting we did, and in the trial itself,” says Cover. “Both could “see” and explore nuanced arguments and respond flexibly to opposing counsel’s witness examinations.”

She continues, “I cannot overstate their tenacity in the face of challenging facts and their commitment to providing the highest quality representation they could. To point out two specific things, Brent’s legal research was above reproach.  Jen’s direct and cross-examinations did some of the strongest case building I could have asked for. I am very proud to know them and to have supported them throughout the whole process.”

3L Brent Rhodes, who serves as the student director for the clinic, was lead counsel on the case. Familiar with a courtroom and the protocol of a trial, Brent exuded the confidence and ease of a seasoned attorney in the face of many obstacles.

“The whole experience was overwhelming but very rewarding,” says Rhodes. “One of the most impactful and unexpected moments for me was the palpable feeling of emotions in the courtroom. It left an impression on me right up to the moment when the jury read the final verdict. The overall experience was unmatched. I have always assumed I wanted to do civil litigation, but after this experience, I’m pretty confident it is what I want to do for the rest of my career.”

He adds, “It is always humbling when you work massive amounts of hours and have a positive verdict, but I also felt privileged to have such a thankful client, an appreciative and fair judge, and a wonderful team in Professor Cover and Jennifer.”

Jennifer Dean, a second year law student, served as co-counsel on the case and will take over as student director of the clinic in the summer. She rose to the occasion, navigating new territory and utilized her strengths in courtroom.

“It was tough to enter this case so late, and we had to work with demanding deadlines and had little access to our client as he is incarcerated” says Dean. “We had a month and a half to get familiar with our case and client, prepare our case theory, learn how to do a jury trial, and prepare what was needed to do so successfully. However, I am so grateful for the opportunity, the knowledge I have gained, and for the graciousness of the court. I’d love to take on another challenge like this in the future.”

judge-sharpe-quoteThe court was very complimentary of how the students presented their argument and thought on their feet. Judge Sharpe graciously praised their efforts.

“The law students did a great job,” he says. “They were extremely well-prepared for trial under the excellent supervision of Professor Cover.  What impressed me most was the obvious compassion and dedication they had for their client. Those are things you can’t teach. The law school should be proud of these students and all of the professors who work hard with law students in their clinical programs. The University of Wyoming Law School is accepting and turning out the right kind of lawyers.”

Perhaps the most discerning eyes were those of the jury. The fact that they sided with the defendant is a true testament to the quality of representation provided by the students. They were thorough, articulate, poised, and conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism.  As student attorneys, they embody the unadulterated passion for the law and zeal for fair representation that serves as a good reminder to the rest of us.

The types of cases typically represented in the clinical programs usually result in hearings, settlements, bench trials, and appellate arguments. It is rare that a clinic case would ever go to trial before a jury and even less likely given the infrequency of jury trials in general. This case is a significant and notable anomaly in College of Law history, illuminating the capabilities of our students.

While the team put in tremendous time and effort into preparing the trial under the tutelage of Professor Cover, they were also grateful for the support found with the College of Law.

“Brent and I leaned on one another to hit the ground running and were able to bring different experiences to the table,” comments Dean. “We were also very fortunate to be able to reach out to the law school community for additional assistance. Tim Crawford was particularly supportive, both emotionally and mentally. We are grateful to our fellow students who helped us moot the jury selection process.”

Professor Cover concludes, “We also owe gratitude to Professor Lauren McLane who supported the students as they prepped for Voir Dire and to Professor Melissa Alexander who provided meaningful feedback on their draft witness examinations.”

The College of Law is unbelievably proud of Rhodes and Dean and congratulates them on this memorable experience!!

Brent Rhodes grew up in Rock Springs, Wyo., and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Biology from the University of Wyoming in 2016. He spent a year working in wildlife reclamation before deciding to pursue a law degree. Brent is the current student director of the Civil Legal Services Clinic. While in law school, he has gained valuable legal experience both inside the clinic as well as through an internship with the Casper law firm of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, P.C. He has also worked as an extern with the University of Wyoming Athletics Department working on NCAA compliance.
A native of Chesterland, Ohio, Jennifer Dean earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Kent State University. She chose to pursue a law degree at Wyoming to gain practical experience and broaden her exposure to whom she can serve with her legal education. She has been active in several organizations and is the co-founder and co-president of the new student group OutLaw. She has been extremely active in the Civil Legal Services Clinic, and will take over as the student director for the upcoming year.

Recent Graduates Publish Article in Noted Environmental Law Journal

Jada Garofalo (above) Madeleine Lewis (below)

Two recent graduates from the law class of 2019 have a recently published a peer-reviewed article in The Environmental Law Reporter, a noted and well-respected academic journal in the area of environmental law.  The article entitled “Sources to Sinks: Expanding a National CO2 Pipeline Network,” was researched and penned by Jada Garofalo and Madeleine Lewis. Their piece examines the growing demand of carbon dioxide as a market commodity following the boom of enhanced oil recovery, and explores possibilities for carbon dioxide transportation infrastructure.

The project was spearheaded by Professor Tara Righetti of the College of Law, a leading scholar on carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration. Righetti has previously published on CO2 pipelines, and sourced a substantial grant from a private foundation that funded the research for Garofalo and Lewis. A champion for developing funded research and publication opportunities for students, Righetti supervised the writing and aided with research on the project.

Both Garofalo and Lewis are skilled writers and have successfully published other works during their law school careers and immediately afterwards. In October 2019, Garofalo published an article entitledToward Holism: Aligning the Science and Policy of Recovery Planning for the Endemic Fishes in the Upper Colorado River Basin in Environs, the Environmental Law and Policy Journal of the UC Davis School of Law.

In a collaborative project with Righetti, Lewis co-authored “The Oil and Gas Lease, Part II: The Royalty Clause in an Oil and Gas Lease,” which was presented at the University of Texas School of Law 2019 Fundamentals of Oil, Gas and Mineral Law Conference. Additionally, Lewis took her research internationally and co-authored an article with Eduardo Pereira, a Professor of Natural Resources and Energy Law at Externado University of Colombia. Their article “Conditions Precedent in Farmout Agreements – An Overview,” was published in the Journal of International Review of Law at Qatar University.

During their law school careers, Garofalo and Lewis were impressive students and successful in many endeavors in the areas of energy and natural resources and legal writing.

Garofalo served as the student director for the Center for Law and Energy Resources in the Rockies (CLERR), worked in the Energy, Environmental & Natural Resources (EENR) Clinic, and interned with the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office in Cheyenne. The internship ultimately led to her arguing a case before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals as a third-year law student.

A joint degree student, Lewis concurrently earned her law degree along with a master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources. While in school, she worked as a research assistant for Professor Righetti, providing valuable assistance on several projects, including research on carbon dioxide pipeline siting regulations, and surface use agreements for wind and oil & gas developers. She also traveled to Brazil to attend the RMMLF course on international mining law. She was recognized as the Salt Creek Energy Excellence Scholar for 2018-2019, was the recipient of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Scholarship, was a Brimmer Scholarship finalist, and was an Article Editor on the Editorial Board of the Wyoming Law Review.

Both women are currently utilizing their research and writing abilities as law clerks. Jada Garofalo is a clerk in the Superior Court of the Third Judicial District of Alaska for the Honorable Herman Walker. Madeleine Lewis is a clerk in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming for the Honorable Nancy Freudenthal.

College of Law Kicks Off Hundredth Anniversary Year with Centennial Speaker Series

jerry-honors banquetThe University of Wyoming College of Law launched its hundredth anniversary festivities Thursday, February 6, with the first presentation of the Centennial Speaker Series.

Founded in 1920, the College of Law has graduated more than 4,000 students, many of whom have shaped the law, served as leaders, and left lasting impacts on their communities. The Centennial Speaker series seeks to highlight some of these incredible leaders and educators, as well as discuss topics of influence and relevance in Wyoming throughout the year.

The law school was honored to host former Dean and Professor Emeritus Jerry Parkinson as the first speaker in the Centennial Celebration Series. Sponsored by the Tenth Circuit Historical Society, the presentation drew a considerable crowd of attendees who braved the bad weather to hear Professor Parkinson discuss his experience on the NCAA Division I Infractions Committee, and the current ethical dilemmas in collegiate athletics. The presentation reached an even wider audience of viewers online, and is still available on the College of Law website for self-study.

Parkinson was a Professor of Law at the University of Wyoming College of Law for over eighteen years, and served as Dean from 1998 to 2009, one of the longest serving Deans in the College of Law’s history. Over the years he taught Civil Procedure, Civil Rights, Sports Law, and an Education Law seminar. From 2000 to 2010 he served in a volunteer capacity as Coordinator of Appeals for the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions, participating in over one hundred major infractions cases – including 28 appeals and 22 oral arguments. He retired from the College of Law in 2016.

“In recognizing such a significant milestone in College of Law history, it was only appropriate to have such a long-serving and beloved faculty member return to the law school to initiate the festivities,” says Dean Klint Alexander. “We were delighted to have Jerry back on campus and we look forward to celebrating this momentous occasion for the law school with our upcoming speakers.”

The next Centennial Speaker Series presentation will be held at the CU Boulder School of Law on April 10th and will explore scandals in higher education. To keep up to date on our speaker series and other Centennial Celebration events, please visit our website.


Professor Michael R. Smith receives the Mary S. Lawrence Award

SMITHIt was announced in December that Professor R. Smith is the 2019 recipient of the Mary S. Lawrence Award. Professor Smith was nominated by his peers in the legal writing community and was selected for the award by the Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI).

The Mary S. Lawrence Award recognizes an individual for a combination of pioneering scholarship and innovative curriculum or program design.  The award is named for Professor Emerita Mary S. Lawrence, longtime Director of the Legal Writing and Research Program at the University of Oregon School of Law and an early Chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section (AALS) on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research.

Professor Smith is the Carl M. Williams Professor of Law & Ethics; Director of Legal Writing; and Director of the Center for the Study of Written Advocacy at the University of Wyoming College of Law. He joined the law school in 2006 and is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of legal writing and written advocacy. The College of Law has benefited immensely throughout his tenure and has been ranked in the top 15 best law schools for legal writing by U.S. News and World Report, and has consistently remained in the top third of the rankings.

His primary areas of scholarly interest are the psychology of persuasion and, more generally, the cognitive processes underlying effective legal writing. He has written extensively in these areas and has given numerous presentations, both in the United States and abroad. In 2002, Professor Smith published his book, Advanced Legal Writing: Theories and Strategies in Persuasive Writing. This multi-disciplinary book has been hailed as a groundbreaking work in the area of persuasive legal writing and is still considered a leading text on the subject. Indeed, in his nomination for the award, many legal writing professors at other institutions acknowledged that they design their courses around his book rather than find a text to suit their course.

In addition to his scholastic achievements, Professor Smith has also excelled in his pedagogy. His leadership in innovative curriculum design has been influential for other professors and professionals in the field. The application of his instructional techniques and talent for program design has been cultivated throughout his thirty-year teaching career, with experience teaching persuasive legal writing at five different institutions in higher education.

The College of Law is exceedingly proud of Professor Smith for his many accomplishments in the areas of persuasive legal writing, research, and instruction, and congratulates him on this well deserved honor and recognition.

Law School Hosts Real Jury Trial in the College’s Courtroom

The College of Law was honored and privileged to serve as the host venue for the District Court of Wyoming for the Second Judicial District, where a full criminal jury trial was conducted January 21-23, 2020.

The change of venue from the Albany County Courthouse to the law school was a collaborative effort of the District Court, the Albany County Clerk of Court, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, the University of Wyoming Police Department, the Albany County Attorney’s Office, and attorneys of the law firm Pence and MacMillan, LLC.

DSC_5943In 2009, the College of Law underwent a renovation of the south side of the building through privately raised funds to incorporate a fully functioning large moot courtroom, as well as a small moot courtroom. Known as the Brimmer Legal Education Center, the primary function of these rooms is to serve as classrooms, though they are capable of holding any type of court proceeding from jury trials to appellate oral arguments.

The College of Law has been fortunate enough to serve as a host venue for the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming, the Wyoming Supreme Court, and has been used for other court proceedings, trial preparations, and competitions. However, since the completion of the Brimmer Legal Education Center, the College of Law has dreamed of hosting a full jury trial in the large moot courtroom. Eleven years later, that dream finally became a reality.

The College of Law firmly believes in its mission to prepare students to be practice ready upon completion of their law degree. While a large portion of that mission is achieved through the experiential and clinical programs offered in the curriculum, a second component is allowing students the opportunity to witness first-hand real court proceedings, oral arguments, and legal practitioners in action.

During the jury trial, students were able to see several practicing attorneys, some of whom are College of Law alumnus in the courtroom including the Honorable Tori R.A. Kricken (B.S. ’96, J.D. ’00) as the presiding judge over the proceedings, defense attorneys Cole Sherard (B.S. ’99, J.D. ’04) and Greg Weisz (J.D. ’95), and the Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent and fellow prosecutor Ben Harwich.

The Court was very flexible and accommodating to students, allowing them to come and go as their class schedules allowed so they could witness as much as possible of the proceedings. Student reception was very favorable and several members of the College of Law faculty were even in attendance throughout the trial.

First-year student Matthew Klein was excited by the proceedings. “It was a tremendous experience to be able to sit in and observe a jury trial and to have it so accessible on campus,” he says. “I was able to witness procedural issues, direct and cross examination of a witness, closing arguments, jury instructions and the verdict. Anytime there are other opportunities to hold a trial at the law school I would strongly support being able to have that experience again.”

Administratively, the College of Law found it to be a useful educational tool for the students, and a really great way to see a very practical application of the degree that they are currently pursuing. It not only demonstrated the resiliency of the people who choose to pursue the legal profession, but also served as a powerful reminder to students as to why they are here.

For first-year law student Jennifer Thompson, the trial served as affirmation for her career path. “Having the opportunity to watch a trial from voir dire to verdict at the law school was a unique experience to see what we learn in class put into practice. Before this opportunity, I thought I was interested in trial work, now I know that is what I want to do.”

The incredible relationships that exist within the legal community of Wyoming are what make unique opportunities such as this to be so accessible to the students. The College of Law is particularly grateful to Judge Kricken for her willingness to move her Court to the law school, and advocating for the educational benefits of the students.

The College of Law would also like the thank and recognize both Counsels, who were extremely patient and gracious prior to and throughout the trial, as well as all of the clerks, the court reporter, the bailiffs, officers, and staff who made it possible.

Defender Aid Clinic Hopes to Send Students to the Innocence Network Conference

Courselle Pledge Card
Donate to the Diane Courselle Memorial Clinic Fund to send students to the annual Innocence Network Conference.

Each year the College of Law Defender Aid Clinic endeavors to send students from the Clinic to the annual Innocence Network Conference. The Conference is an international event that brings together members of the innocence network and provides a forum for new research and discussion related to wrongful convictions. The Conference offers incredible exposure to students on the leading causes of wrongful convictions, trains them how to investigate and litigate such convictions, and provides time with exonerees from across the world. The experience that students gain from attending is incredibly humanizing and healing. The intent is that students will gain a perspective that will leave a lasting impact on their lives as they embark on a career in public defense or innocence work.

The Clinic has a goal of raising $1,200 in order to send the students to the Conference in March, and is asking for gifts as little as $20 to help crowd source the needed funds. In this season of giving, we hope that you’ll consider supporting the Defender Aid Clinic in its endeavor to broaden the learning experience of the students within the Clinic.

Innocence Work in the Clinic

Under the direction of Professor Lauren McLane, students in the Defender Aid Clinic represent individuals in the state of Wyoming unable to afford counsel at all stages of criminal practice. Significantly, they also collaborate with the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center (RMIC)—the innocence organization that serves Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming. RMIC is part of a network of numerous innocence organizations across the world that make up the Innocence Network.[1] Students that will be attending the conference have all been involved in collaborative projects with the RMIC, or are poised in a position do so moving forward.

(top) Emily Williams (middle) Meri Heneage (bottom) Andrew Sickenberger

Emily Williams is a third-year law student and the Student Director of the Defender Aid Clinic. Come graduation in May, Emily will have served in the clinic for two full academic years. Emily has argued before the Wyoming Supreme Court as well as local municipal and district courts in the state of Wyoming. Emily has also worked on innocence cases through the clinic’s partnership with RMIC. After graduation, Emily will become a Colorado State Public Defender. Time at the conference will offer Emily an opportunity to further sharpen skills that she can employ in her practice that will help prevent wrongful convictions.

Meridith Heneage is a third-year law student and the College of Law’s Brimmer Scholar. She is currently serving as a student intern in the clinic. Last year, Meri wrote a comment on the need for Wyoming to compensate those who have been wrongfully convicted in the Wyoming Law Review. Meri has exhibited strong commitment to the innocence movement and is looking forward to connecting with exonerees on a personal level and gaining real-life exposure to the innocence world. After graduation, Meri will clerk for the Honorable Kelly Rankin (J.D. ’94) Chief United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Wyoming, and then will be entering a career as a Judge Advocate General for the United States Air Force.

Finally, Andrew Sickenberger is a second-year law student who will be the Clinic’s student director next year. Andrew is committed to becoming a public defender and has such tenacity for fighting for justice. As a former football player, the same strength and will that is required on the football field translates well into tough and tolling work such as innocence cases. Gaining early exposure to the importance of innocence work would be an invigorating experience for him, so that he may be a compassionate leader in the clinic and inject a level of enthusiasm for the next set of students.

The Defender Aid Clinic is so thankful for your support! If you are interested in making a year-end, tax deductible gift to the Diane Courselle Memorial Clinic Fund, please follow the directions below:

  1. Visit the University of Wyoming Online Giving Page: HERE
  2. Fill in the amount of your gift in the “write-in Other” Box
  3. Be sure to specify “Diane Courselle Memorial Clinic Fund” in the specify fund box

How to give to fund


[1] For more information about the Innocence Network, please visit:

Professor Tawnya Plumb Receives Engagement Fellowship Award

Tawnya PlumbIn an effort to encourage and promote engagement in the community with the University of Wyoming, the Office of Engagement and Outreach (OEO) invited UW faculty to submit proposals for Faculty Engagement Fellowships.

Three University of Wyoming faculty members were selected as recipients of the 2019 Faculty Engagement Fellowship awards, representing a wide range of disciplines.

They are:

— Caleb Hill, chemistry assistant professor, an Office of Engagement and Outreach (OEO) STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Faculty Engagement Fellowship. The fellowship is a partnership with the UW Science Initiative to help build capacity to coordinate STEM-related outreach/engagement programming. Hill will work with OEO, STEM faculty and existing STEM outreach and inreach programs to coordinate previously siloed programs and build future outreach and inreach capacity.

— Corrine Knapp, Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources assistant professor, an OEO Faculty Engagement Fellowship. The fellowship is open to all disciplines, with preference given to projects from faculty outside of STEM and humanities disciplines.

— Tawnya Plumb, College of Law associate librarian, an OEO-Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research (WIHR) Faculty Engagement Fellowship. The fellowship is a partnership with WIHR and OEO to help build capacity in humanities engagement/outreach programming. The fellowship will enhance joint work between WIHR and OEO in engaged teaching/service learning, engaged scholarship and community engagement/outreach.

The competition attracted proposals from a broad range of disciplines across UW, from people working in public engagement, engaged teaching, engaged scholarship and outreach focused on community impacts.

The awards are for faculty members working on projects during the 2020 calendar year. Fellows receive a stipend of $10,000 and up to $2,000 to support outreach programs and travel expenses. Recipients will work with OEO Director Jean Garrison to develop their projects and organize at least one significant outreach program series both on and off campus. Projects focus on faculty development or enhancing engagement and outreach in their respective fields of study.

This is the first faculty engagement fellowship competition, and it attracted more than a dozen strong applicants from across campus, Garrison says. She says the selection committee, composed of members of UW’s Engagement Council, had “some tough choices to make.”

“I am pleased that our three recipients represent such a wide range of projects involving UW undergraduate and graduate students representing partnerships with K-12, community colleges and county libraries,” Garrison says. “I look forward to working with each one of them as we build a team of those who champion engagement work at UW. These awards demonstrate the commitment on the part of OEO and its partners to build capacity in our statewide and outreach mission.”

She adds that the fellowships, along with UW’s Marvin Millgate Awards for faculty, staff, students and community partners, are the top awards given by OEO.

The College of Law is extremely proud of Professor Plumb and the recognition this award brings to her outstanding service and dedication to both academia and the community.

Plumb’s project is “Access to Justice: Legal Research on the Road.” Plumb says many individuals find legal research intimidating, and she adds that librarians wish they knew more about legal research. Librarians often field requests from low-income Wyoming citizens with legal issues, she adds.

Wyoming’s two public law libraries are both located in southeast Wyoming, and there are four law librarians in the state. Plumb is among the four law librarians, and her project will be “giving back to the state.” She will offer in-person, community-tailored legal research training sessions in all 23 Wyoming county libraries, the community colleges and on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

A survey of state librarians is scheduled for spring and summer 2020 that will assess the public’s legal research needs. A tailored presentation, as well as handouts that address these needs and a research toolkit that includes a list of recommended legal titles, will provide the format for the research.

“To alleviate ethics concerns, the parameters within which librarians may assist patrons, while still honoring the rules governing the unauthorized practice of law, will be highlighted,” Plumb says.

Scott Henkel, WIHR director, says he is thrilled with Plumb’s selection working as a humanities engagement fellow.

“Having greater access to legal information is vital for our state and its people in our current era of mass incarceration,” Henkel says. “Tawnya’s work is among the best expressions of engaged humanities work, with its attention to increasing access to knowledge, and a commitment to ethics and empowerment. Her work will help make our state more equitable and just.”

Professor Plumb earned a B.A. in English from the University of Wyoming in 1996 and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Texas in 1998. She is the Head of Collections at the George W. Hopper Law Library. She worked previously as a law librarian at the Texas State Law Library and then with a Texas law firm before moving to Japan to teach English as a second language in Japanese high schools. She became a librarian at the University of Wyoming College of Law in 2004 and teaches Legal Research and continuing legal education programs at the University of Wyoming College of Law.

For more information about the fellowship winners and awards, click here.