Student Highlight: Halinka Zolcik Lands Elite Fellowship Position

Third-year law student Halinka Zolcik has been awarded a fellowship position with the DSC_2680_Immigration Justice Corps, one of the most prestigious legal fellowship positions in the country.

The Immigration Justice Corps is a fellowship program that was created by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation. The two-year fellowship matches the country’s most talented law school graduates with top host organizations in New York City and surrounding areas to serve as legal advocates in immigration.

The Fellowship is awarded to a mere twenty-five individuals out of hundreds of applications. Those coveted positions are reserved for the best of the best embarking on a career in immigration law, and are usually filled with graduates from Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown. Zolcik is the first student from the University of Wyoming to be considered for the program.

Born in Prague, Czech Republic, Zolcik and her family immigrated to the United States as a small child. She grew up in Gillette, Wyoming. As a first-generation immigrant, she was drawn to the field through her own experience. She chose to attend the University of Wyoming College of Law for it’s robust clinical programs and the opportunity to gain practical skills, a decision that has proven to be instrumental to her success.

She currently serves as the Student Director in the International Human Rights Clinic at the College of Law. In this capacity, she carries a caseload of clients seeking help through the U.S. immigration system under the supervision of the Faculty Director, Professor Suzan Pritchett.

With Pritchett at the helm, the Clinic has expanded from asylum cases into other forms of humanitarian relief efforts including special immigrant juvenile status, U visas, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) advisement issues, green card process adjustment, and family based petitions.

Working in the clinic, Zolcik has gained valuable experience on a variety of immigration issues. She has already appeared in the Denver Immigration Court five times this semester, and has performed every aspect of representing a client from start to finish.  The Clinic is also how she learned of the Fellowship opportunity.

“Halinka is an exceptional student,” says Pritchett. “I encouraged her to apply for the Fellowship because I was confident that she would be a strong contender for one of the positions. Her hands-on experience in the IHR Clinic has guaranteed that she is ready to hit the ground running in a fast-paced advocacy environment, and I think that was a major factor in her selection for the fellowship position.”

The application process for the Fellowship was long and rigorous. Zolcik had to submit numerous essays, letters of recommendation, and go through multiple rounds of interviews. With a carefully crafted portfolio of all her work in the Clinic, she blew the interview panel away.

“The interviewers on the panel didn’t know anything about Wyoming. They were surprised that we do immigration work here, and also by the breadth and depth of the work that we do in the Clinic,” she comments. “In Wyoming you can get this experience that rivals other clinical programs on an international level. The panel said they had never seen a current law student with that much experience.”

Among her many talents, Zolcik is also an accomplished linguist, fluent in five languages – English, Czech, Polish, French and Spanish. Utilizing her skills often in the Clinic, it was also an ability that proved useful in the application process.

“During the interview, members of the panel would randomly switch to Spanish just to test that I actually spoke multiple languages,” she says. “It really throws you off to immediately switch languages, so it was a very intimidating experience.”

Professor Pritchett stresses how impressive this achievement really is.

“Not only was Halinka up against students from some of the most competitive law schools in the country, she was also up against recent graduates that have already served as immigration court clerks and federal law clerks for the past two-years,” says Pritchett. “The fact that her abilities and experience at Wyoming can rival those other people is not something that should be taken lightly.”

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Suzan Pritchett joined the College of Law faculty as an Assistant Professor and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic in the fall of 2014. Prior to joining the permanent faculty, she was a Visiting Professor and the Robert J. Golten Fellow at the College of Law, where she co-directed the Center for International Law and Advocacy. Professor Pritchett has also worked in private practice representing clients in federal immigration matters. In addition to her clinical and scholastic endeavors, Pritchett is the foremost expert on immigration law in the state of Wyoming and has been a dedicated leader in internationalization efforts within the University of Wyoming.  

Zolcik credits her success to Professor Pritchett, the International Human Rights Clinic, and her education at the College of Law.

“I am so grateful for the clinic experience,” she says. “Here we are able to take on numerous clients and have the incredible supervision of Professor Pritchett. Additionally, the small class sizes allowed me to do multiple things like the Clinic, while still being able to excel academically.”

Zolcik also acknowledges the Trial Practice Program as a contributing factor to her advocacy abilities. Through the course, she was able to polish her trial skills and feel confident in a courtroom.

“Halinka is a really good lawyer in a difficult multi-cultural lawyering environment,” notes Pritchett. “Navigating the different needs of each client, overcoming language barriers, and interpreting the legal system and communicating that to the clients so they feel well represented is a challenge. Halinka is very skilled. She advocates for her clients with compassion, but also shows real strength both in her written advocacy and in the courtroom.”

Zolcik has been paired with Prisoners Legal Services of New York as her host organization. She’ll begin the Fellowship in September after sitting for the Bar Exam.

Though Zolcik is the first ever Wyoming student to be accepted into the Immigration Justice Corps, the College of Law hopes that she is the first of many, and is exceedingly proud to produce such capable and skilled graduates.

UW College of Law International Law Moot Court Team Takes Top Honors at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition

The University of Wyoming College of Law team competed in the regional round the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition February 16-19, 2017. The Rocky Mountain Regional was hosted by the University of Denver Sturm School of Law, and was one of the six regional rounds hosted in the United States.

The team comprised entirely of Wyoming students, swept the competition placing first as well as taking home additional honors.

Students Ian Smith (Jackson, Wyo.), Allison Connell (Sheridan, Wyo.), Kristina Mireles (Newcastle, Wyo.), Brandon Rosty (Casper, Wyo.) and David Demic (Sheridan, Wyo.), used their knowledge of water law, natural resources, and international law to dominate the competition with a perfect 7-0 record.

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Pictured from Left to Right: Brandon Rosty, Ian Smith, Professor Noah Novogrodsky, Allison Connell, David Demic and Kristina Mireles.

The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from over 550 law schools in more than 87 countries. The Competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. Each team prepares both oral and written pleadings (memorials).

The team is scored as a unit, with recognition and scoring for individual written and oral efforts as well.

This year’s issue was framed around two problems: 1) in a time of drought, may one state tap into a shared underground aquifer even if it deprives another state of water, and 2) must cultural artifacts taken from state A to state B by an oppressed minority of state A be returned?

Individual accolades included Allison Connell placing 7th, Brandon Rosty placing 3rd, and Kristina Mireles placing 2nd in the oral portion of the competition. Third-year law student David Demic won top individual oralist with two perfect scores.

Demic has competed in the Jessup Competition all three years of his law school career, winning 9th best oralist as a 1L, and 6th best oralist last year.

“One of the reasons that I came to UW was because of the strong international program,” he says. “The tutelage I have received from Professors Suzie Pritchett, Jason Robison and Noah Novogrodsky has provided me with the skills that I have now and I would not have been able to succeed without their guidance.”

Demic was able to take the experience from the last two years and improve to help lead his team to victory.

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Third-year Law Student David Demic

“It felt really good to practice and apply everything we have learned at the College of Law and come back with vengeance in the competition,” says Demic.

In the written portion, the team Memorials Brief placed 1st helping the group claim an unprecedented clean-sweep.  The College of Law has previously taken home the honor of Best Memorial in 2014.

The team went up against some big schools in the nation, including NYU School of Law, The University of Kansas School of Law, and the SJ Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah.

According to the International Law Student Association organizers, it is the first time in living memory that the top three oralists came from a single school.  It is also the first time ever that the University of Wyoming College of law has won first place at this prestigious international law competition.

The team will now advance to the White & Case International Rounds in Washington D.C. where they will go head to head with the other top teams from around the world. The weeklong event, will take place April 9-15, 2017, and will culminate with the Jessup Cup World Championship Round.

“We are extremely proud of this team of students from Wyoming,” says the team’s Faculty Advisor Professor Noah Novogrodsky. “They were more prepared than any other team there and it showed.”

Student Argues Before the Wyoming Supreme Court

On Wednesday, November 16, 2016 Sierra Collver argued a case before the Wyoming Supreme Court as part of the Prosecution Assistance Program. Sierra Collver represented the State of Wyoming against Edward Christopher Barrowes (No. S-16-0155).

As part of the Prosecution Assistance Program, Sierra worked with members of the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office under the supervision of Professor Darrell Jackson on the case.

“Arguing before the Supreme Court can be really challenging,” says Collver. “I had a lot of support from everyone involved in the Attorney General’s Office. Professor Jackson and our student director, Kevin Farrelly, spent a lot of extra time working with me to make sure I was ready. Overall it was a really rewarding experience.”

Collver is a third-year law student and is a native of Riverton, Wyoming. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She has participated in the Prosecution Clinic since January of 2016 and worked in an externship for the Fremont County Prosecuting Attorney.

In the spring, she will work in the Defender Aid Program.

“I think that it is really important to get training on both sides of criminal law,” she says. “I enjoy criminal litigation and I think the experience on both sides will make me a better attorney wherever I end up.”

With a Supreme Court Argument under her belt, Collver is already ahead of the curve. The College of Law is extremely proud of her accomplishment and the great work done in the Prosecution Assistance Program.sierra

Clinic Highlight: Energy, Environmental, and Natural Resources Law Clinic

The Clinical programs at the University of Wyoming College of Law are in full swing! We’d like to take a moment and introduce the Energy, Environmental, and Natural Resources (“EENR”) Law Clinic.

The EENR Clinic is a cooperative venture between the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office and the Wyoming College of Law.  The Clinic was developed in 2013 and remains the only of its kind in the United States. It has had great appeal for students seeking clinical experience at the University of Wyoming College of Law. Michael Kollker, a law student enrolled in the Haube School JD/MA master’s program, said, “We are lucky to have such a strong relationship with our state officials that we get to do meaningful natural resource work before we graduate.”

At the beginning of the fall semester, the students from the EENR Clinic met with Governor Matthew Mead to kick off their clinical experience.

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EENR Clinic students with Governor Matt Mead, Attorney General Pete Michael, Special Assistant Attorney General Jay Jerde, and Assistant Professor Temple Stoellinger. 

 

Governor Mead emphasized the importance of natural resources to the state, illustrated by the percentage of Wyoming legal work involving natural resource issues. He commended the students for committing to work with the State on natural resource issues through the Clinic. Meeting Governor Mead was just the first portion of the clinic “boot-camp.” The students also met with Attorney General, Pete Michael and the Water and Natural Resource staff at the Attorney General’s Office.

The cooperation between the State and the University of Wyoming College of Law provides third year law students with the education, skills training, and real life experience necessary for a career in the areas of energy, environmental, and natural resources law.

The classroom component of the Clinic teaches students how to draft litigation documents through a series of lectures and experiential learning assignments. It also provides students with a general overview of the Wyoming laws governing the regulation of natural resources within the state.

In the clinical practice component of the Clinic, students perform real-life natural resource legal work. Students have the opportunity to research and draft actual litigation-related documents and perform other legal work for state agencies. Since the beginning of the semester, the EENR Clinic has already opened 10 new cases on behalf of the state.

This years clinic students are Tatyana Bannan, Carter Bruening, Callie Capraro, Micah Christensen, Megan Condon, Michael Kollker, and Conner Nicklas.

 

 

 

 

Student Highlight: Students Argue before the Wyoming Supreme Court

Several times a year, students from the clinical programs at the University of Wyoming College of Law make an appearance before the highest court in the state, the Wyoming Supreme Court. In fact, students at Wyoming argue before the Court so often, that we sometimes forget what a big deal it actually is.  The chance to argue before the highest court in the state is an opportunity rarely afforded to law students in any other law school. The fact it is not only common, but a frequent occurrence in Wyoming, attests to the strength of our clinical education.

The pinnacle of the legal education at Wyoming is the clinical experience. The existing clinics have developed well-deserved reputations among the bench and bar in Wyoming. The dedication from students continue to build the strong profile of our programs, and set graduates from the College of Law apart as they embark on their legal careers.

Some of the most recent arguments have happened from students in the Defender Aid and Prosecution Assistance Clinics. We’d like to take a moment and recognize those student for their outstanding, work, preparation, and representation in the courtroom.

DSC_1782In December, Travis Wagman of the Prosecution Assistance Clinic represented the State of Wyoming before the Wyoming Supreme Court in a conviction appeal case involving aggravated assault and battery charges. Wagman won the argument and the Wyoming Supreme Court upheld the conviction (Wyoming Supreme Court Opinion). Travis is a third-year law student originally from Medina, Minn. He was drawn to the University of Wyoming because of the clinic education opportunities, and hopes to pursue a career as a city attorney or a prosecutor after graduation.

“Arguing before the Supreme Court was a fun experience,” he says. “I learned a lot, and it is going to be great having that on my resume because not a lot of students have the chance to do that.”

The Faculty Director of the Prosecution Assistance Program, Professor Darrell Jackson, was very pleased with Travis’ efforts.

“Travis went the extra mile by scheduling more moots than usual,” Jackson praised. “He made sure that he was as prepared as possible for any and every question the Wyoming Supreme Court justices could have raised. That demonstrated the type of commitment I expect to see from all our students.”

Following in suit, two students in the Defender Aid Clinic argued before the Court in January and February.

Third-year student Sam Forshner argued before the Wyoming Supreme Court January DSC_220012th over a direct appeal in a criminal case. Sam is a native of Englewood, Colo. He has participated in both Defender Aid and the International Human Rights Clinic. During his time in the Human Rights Clinic, he work on an Amicus Brief for marriage equality that was submitted before the United States Supreme Court. The Amicus Brief was produced in collaboration with Morrison and Foerster LLP partners Ruth Borenstein and Marc Hearron, and under the supervision of Professor Noah Novogrodsky.

“Arguing before the Supreme Court was a great experience,” Forshner comments. “It was really different from working on the Amicus Brief because arguing actually put me in the driver’s seat. A direct appeal is one of the toughest things you can do in a criminal case so now that I’ve done that, I feel like I can do a lot of things.”

DSC_2225Also arguing before the Wyoming Supreme Court on behalf of the Defender Aid Clinic was third-year law student Alan Davis. A native of Arvada, Colo., Davis argued before the Wyoming Supreme Court on February 18th, representing an appellate in a speedy trial claim.

After graduation, Davis will head to the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office and continue to put his skills into practice.  He believes that the experience has really set him apart.

“I am extremely grateful for having had this immense opportunity,” he says. “It has certainly boosted my confidence in terms of my oral advocacy skills, and I think that it will give me a competitive advantage my first day on the job.”

Defender Aid Faculty Supervisor Professor Diane Courselle, was extremely pleased with her students.

“The students did a wonderful job representing their clients,” says Courselle. “Defense work can be extremely challenging and both Sam and Alan did a great job preparing for their oral arguments, and an outstanding job for their clients.”

The final student to go before the Supreme Court this semester will be David Maris. Maris DSC_2208will represent the State of Wyoming through the Prosecution Assistance Program, making his argument three days after graduation. Maris, also a third-year law student, came to Wyoming from Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to his time in the Prosecution Assistance Program, Maris also serves as a Student Editor on the Wyoming Law Review Editorial Board.

The College of Law commends these students on a job well done!