Monthly Archives: September 2016

Swearing-in counts as a best day in an attorney’s life

Being sworn in as a brand new attorney is an important day in the life of every lawyer. The Hon. Christopher C. Sabella of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Florida agrees wholeheartedly. He warmly welcomed the seven WMU-Cooley Law School graduates and their families this evening and reminded each of the former law students of the hard work and dedication that got them to this day.

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He noted that, this day, the day an attorney is sworn in, counts as one of the best days in an attorney’s life. He aligned the importance of this day to the day you marry or the day of a child’s birth. And the smiles on every one of the new attorney’s and their loved ones faces looked like he might be right! WMU-Cooley Law School Tampa Bay campus graduates (left to right) Michelle Ace-Carroll, Jennifer Alderman, Elizabeth Devolder, Philistine Hamdan, Eric Bossardt,  Cristina Solis, and Kymberly Starr were sworn in to The Florida Bar on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016.

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Everyone needs estate planning, no matter the age: Five Topics to Discuss with an Elder Law Attorney

Sixty Plus students and faculty spend hours talking to citizens who are over the age of 60. One thing is certain. By the time you reach the age of 60, you are usually comfortable discussing end-of-life planning. The fact is, everyone needs estate planning, no matter the age. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how many people are in your family, what you did in your career, or your level of education. People of even modest means should sit down with an attorney who has expertise in estate planning. – WMU-Cooley professor and elder law expert Kimberly O’Leary
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Even if you are not over the age of 60, you probably know of people who could benefit by having this conversation. Here’s why. Don’t wait for the crisis. End-of-life issues affect everyone. If you wait until it’s too late, your options may be limited or decisions will need to be made by someone other than yourself.

Those conversations can include:

  1.  Independence planning:  If you become ill or disabled at some point in the future in any way that makes it difficult for you to take care of your personal business or your life, you can appoint a trusted friend or family member to assist you.  Such illness or disability might be temporary or might be permanent, and in either event, you can plan for help.  You do not have to be old or ill to need this kind of help, although statistically you are more likely to need help the older you are.  If you do NOT have anyone you trust to help you, this type of conversation can be even more important.  Planning these kinds of arrangements long in advance of when you may need them gives you a greater say in how your life will unfold in the event you become ill or infirm.
  2.  Medical decisions: You may have a time in your life when you are unable to make your own medical decisions.  If you were diagnosed with a terminal illness, and unable to make end-of-life decisions, who would make them for you?  You can plan that in advance.  A good elder law attorney can sit down and discuss all of the factors you will want to consider.  You can write this in any way that makes sense to you.
  3.  Wills, trusts, transfer on death deeds and bank accounts:  Everyone should plan how to leave their assets after they  pass away.  There are pros and cons to different approaches and not every approach is right for every person.  If you draft these documents yourself, you may unintentionally trigger a bad consequence you had not considered.  Sometimes people who own property of small value monetarily have items of great personal value to their family and friends.  You can decide how you want those items divided.
  4. Long-term care financial planning:  If you might need to enter a nursing home, or receive long-term care at home, in the future, how will you pay for that?  A good elder law attorney can help you understand Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, long-term care insurance and how all of these program interact.
  5.  Other miscellaneous issues:  If you are 60 years of age or older, seeing an elder law attorney rather than a general practitioner is a good idea, even for legal work unrelated to “typical” elder law topics.  This is because an elder law attorney will be looking for things a GP will not necessarily see: how a divorce settlement interacts with Medicare is one example.  Are there signs of financial exploitation or elder abuse?  Are there hints someone might file for a guardianship?  These are the types of issues an elder law attorney can help.

If you or someone you know needs assistance in elder law, and you live in the Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton, Michigan counties, please contact Sixty Plus, Inc., Elderlaw Clinic to assist  you with your needs at 517-372-3484.

Professor Kimberly O'Leary

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly O’Leary supervises and teaches third-year law students in its Sixty Plus, Inc. Elderlaw Clinic. The clinic works to help older adults by drafting documents to help them plan for the future, allowing them to maintain independence for as long as possible. Professor O’Leary has written extensively in the field of attorney-client counseling, housing law, diversity training, the relationship between social justice goals and clinical law offices and clinical teaching.  Other blog articles by Professor O’Leary: Aging parents should plan ahead to avoid being another exploitation or scam statistic and Sixty Plus, Inc. Elderlaw Clinic recognized for decades of service to older adults.

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Presidential Decision Will Affect American Life and Culture in Profound Ways

Anyone thinking that he or she will sit out the upcoming election (or cast a “protest vote”) might want to think again. While the media has vast swaths of the electorate distracted by such matters as Donald Trump’s testosterone levels and Hillary Clinton’s pulmonary functioning, we stand poised to make a decision that will affect American life and culture in profound ways. The Supreme Court hangs in the balance – WMU-Cooley Professor and Constitution Expert Brendan Beery

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Brendan Beery on Bay News 9 in Tampa

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Brendan Beery on Bay News 9 in Tampa

To illustrate the stakes, I will outline a few issues where conservatives and liberals, respectively, have enjoyed some success, and where each side stands to lose just about everything if its candidate loses.

As backdrop to this discussion, I note (even if it is a bit unseemly) that one Supreme Court seat is open (the seat once held by Antonin Scalia) and that the next president is likely to fill not only that seat, but potentially a total of two, three, or even four. Ruth Bader Ginsburg (a liberal) is 83; Anthony M. Kennedy (a small-government conservative who often sides with liberals on social issues) is 80. Stephen Breyer (a liberal) is 78. The rest of the five remaining justices are 68 or younger.

Assuming that Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer are the most likely candidates to retire and be replaced by the next president, one can see the trajectory of the Court. Either Clinton or Trump could replace one conservative (Scalia), the Court’s “swing vote” (Kennedy), and two liberals (Ginsburg and Breyer). Now to the issues.

Conservative Successes

  1. The Second Amendment. In two 5-4 decisions, the Court has upheld the right of the individual to bear arms (at a minimum, to possess firearms in the home for personal safety) that applies against state attempts to impose certain gun control measures. If Trump wins, these decisions become etched into our jurisprudence and likely expand – for example, to the right to bear more and larger weapons in more and varying places. A Clinton win would mean the narrowing and possible overruling of these two cases.
  2. Voting. Conservatives won the day in two cases: Citizens United (the case striking down campaign contribution limits) and Shelby County (the case striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act that protected minority voting rights). Both decisions were decided by a vote – you guessed it – of 5-4. If Trump wins, these cases remain good law; Clinton has pledged to appoint justices who would overrule them.
  3. Prayer and religion. Conservatives won one case (5-4) in which the Court allowed prayer at a city council meeting and another (again, 5-4) in which the Court upheld the right of an employer (Hobby Lobby) to refuse to provide insurance-related contraceptive coverage for employees when the employer objected on religious grounds. If Trump wins, these religion-friendly decisions are likely to remain good law for decades; if Clinton wins, they are vulnerable.
  4. The death penalty. This one is simple; most scholars say that there are four votes against the death penalty on the Court right now; four justices would hold that it violates the Eighth Amendment in all circumstances. They await a fifth vote.

Liberal Successes

  1. Abortion. Only five justices think that a woman has a right to have an abortion. If Clinton wins, abortion rights are here to stay. If Trump wins, Roe v. Wade could well be overruled.
  2. Marriage. The recent Obergefell decision (the same-sex-marriage case) was a 5-4 decision. If Clinton wins, it will be the law of the land for all time. If Trump wins, he will put justices on the Court who will be inclined to overrule Obergefell and return the marriage issue to the states, meaning that same-sex marriage will be legal in liberal states and illegal in conservative states.
  3. Affirmative action. There are five votes right now to allow public entities to establish affirmative action programs in higher education and employment. A Clinton win would keep the status quo in place; a Trump win would mean the end of government-run affirmative action programs.
  4. Public unions. The Court recently upheld the right of public unions to collect union dues from non-members. That decision, in the absence of Justice Scalia, was 4-4. A Clinton win would mean these unions could continue to finance themselves; a Trump win would likely mean the end of public-employee unions.

Of course, there are many other issues at stake as well. But again, if any of these issues is important to you, this election may be the last chance – either to cement the Court in the place where you want it or to flip the Court in the direction you’d prefer.

Professor Brendan BeeryBlog author, Constitutional Law expert and WMU-Cooley Professor Brendan Beery, illustrates the stakes for both conservatives and liberals in this coming election. Professor Beery, a summa cum laude graduate of the law school, teaches Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and Criminal Procedure at WMU-Cooley Law School, and is a frequent legal expert in the media.

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Military and Legal Career Brings Promotion to WMU-Cooley Graduate Col. John Wojcik

John Wojcik has served his country well. Not only serving as the General Counsel for the Michigan National Guard, which is a joint military organization that has over 11,000 military and civilian employees, three air bases, and two Army posts, and over 50 military facilities, he serves and oversees all state, federal, and administrative litigation for the Guard, with authority over $500 million of federal contracting projects each year.

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Wojcik is also a nationally recognized Fiscal Law instructor and specializes in federal construction litigation, teaching in the areas of  federal contracting, federal employment law, environmental law, real estate leasing and procurement, federal administrative law, and military justice. He supervises a combination of 25 full-time and part-time attorneys and paralegals.

His outstanding service was recognized this summer in a promotion to Colonel. He received his new rank from his wife Kimberlie in a ceremony at Joint Forces Headquarters in Lansing, Michigan.

He has served as the general counsel for the Michigan National Guard since April 2002 and was appointed to his current position in May 2016.

A native of Edensburg, Pennsylvania, Wojcik graduated cum laude from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and was commissioned in 1993 into the Army Reserves as a distinguished military graduate from IUP’s ROTC program. He holds a J.D. from WMU-Cooley Law School. During Wojcik’s 26-year career, he has served in a variety of assignments including infantry mortar man, trial counsel, trial defense counsel, command judge advocate, and assistant state staff judge advocate.

In 2010, he deployed to Afghanistan and served as chief lawyer for a theater detention facility. In his current assignment, he is an adviser to the director of Military and Veterans Affairs, providing strategic legal coverage for approximately 11,000 members of the Michigan Army and Air National Guard.

Wojcik is extremely active in teaching military law to lawyers and was instrumental in creating the Ingham County Veterans Court and the Military and Veterans Section of the State Bar of Michigan. In May 2016, he published a guide to assist lawyers in handling family matters that involve service members. He has taught numerous courses at WMU-Cooley Law School.

Wojcik’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

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Parts of this article are reprinted by permission of the Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC, and was previously published in the Ingham County Legal News on Aug. 22, 2016. 

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House Criminal Justice Committee Unanimously Supports Bills for the Wrongfully Convicted: Will Michigan be the 31st state to right the wrong?

Take a minute to consider all that you might lose during the years of a wrongful incarceration. Then consider how you would begin to put your life back together. Where would you live? How would you support yourself? How would you explain where you have been when you apply for a job? How would your medical and psychological needs be met? These are just a few of the challenges that Michigan citizens who have been wrongfully convicted face on a daily basis. – Director of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project Marla Mitchell Cichon

My client, Donya Davis, is a case in point. Mr. Davis was wrongfully convicted in 1997. Mr. Davis was convicted of criminal sexual assault. At trial, Mr. Davis presented an alibi defense. And there was DNA evidence excluding Mr. Davis from the rape kit. Nevertheless, Mr. Davis was convicted after a bench trial. The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project obtained additional DNA testing in 2013 and Mr. Davis was excluded on all the tested samples and the new evidence pointed to another male contributor. In light of the post-conviction DNA results, the State agreed to the Project’s motion for new trial and all charges against Mr. Davis were dismissed in November 2014.

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In prison, Mr. Davis took advantage of all the education and training he could, including earning a paralegal certificate and attending culinary school. Fortunately, Mr. Davis has strong family support and he has worked hard to get back on his feet since his exoneration. Nevertheless, life continues to be a challenge. This week the House Criminal Justice Committee considered Senate Bill 291. The proposed law would provide compensation for wrongfully convicted Michigan citizens. If passed, Michigan would become the 31st state, along with the District of Columbia and the federal government, to provide compensation to wrongfully convicted individuals.

marla_happy

The Committee also considered  House Bill 5815 which provides exonerees with the access to housing and other services. Both bills were supported unanimously by the committee. Both bills would make a difference in Mr. Davis’s life. These two pieces of legislation will give Michigan exonerees the ability to reintegrate back into society and improve their quality of life. Making these bills law is both right and just.


Blog author, Marla Mitchell-Cichon, is the director of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project as well as the co-director of the Access to Justice Clinic for Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. Professor Mitchell-Cichon has extensive practice experience in criminal and poverty law. Her litigation experience includes practicing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the Ohio Supreme Court, and trial courts in both Ohio and Michigan.

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Day of Remembrance: 9/11 Day-Long Scout Salute to First Responders

“Everyone remembers where we were on that day and yet when you hear the phrase 9/11, you don’t think of anything other than the events from 15 years ago. We say 9/11 and everyone knows what we feel and what occurred, it was a visceral deep pain.” – Ret. Brig. General and WMU-Cooley Dean Michael C.H. McDaniel

The Gerald R. Ford Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Museum come together each year on September 11 to honor those who sacrificed their lives during the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, by hosting a Community Day of Remembrance and day-long Scout Salute. 

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Associate Dean and retired Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel, an Eagle Scout himself, was the keynote speaker at this year’s ceremony. He joined scouts and their families, fire, police, EMS, and military personnel, as they saluted the flag being flown at the museum.

“These men along with the men and women who serve our country, whether in the service, police department, or fire department, they are our nation’s heroes,” said McDaniel. We should not be confused with entertainers and sports figures who consume much of the time during national newscasts. At most they could be considered role models, not heroes,” stated General McDaniel.

He continued by talking about the definition of a hero. A hero like Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar who served as a chaplain to the New York City Fire Department, and was a priest from McDaniel’s alma mater St. Bonaventure University.


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Mychal Judge was the first casualty on 9/11, serving in the capacity as chaplain to the New York City Fire Department. Although Father Judge was “a very small-framed, quiet, soft-spoken man,” stated McDaniel, “he was a man with the hugest heart of any man I have ever met.”

Brig. Gen. Michael C.H. McDaniel, USA (ret.)

Brig. Gen. Michael C.H. McDaniel, USA (ret.)

Brig. Gen. Michael C.H.  McDaniel, USA (ret.) is a professor and the director of WMU-Cooley’s Homeland and National Security Law Program. He served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Strategy. His responsibilities included supervision of the Department of Defense Critical Infrastructure Protection Program and the Global Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection Policy.

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WMU-Cooley Law School Celebrates Constitution Day 2016

Each year, in September, WMU-Cooley Law School joins the nationwide focus on the U.S. Constitution, commemorating the formation and signing of the historic document by focusing on a number of timely political and electoral issues. The official annual Constitution Day celebration takes place on Sept. 17, with this year’s observation date falling on Friday, Sept. 16. At WMU-Cooley, the celebration often gets extended, and this year continues into the following week.

beery_brendan-beeryThe WMU-Cooley campus in Tampa will celebrate Monday, Sept. 19, noon-1 p.m. with a political discussion. With election day less than two months away, panelists will discuss Clinton vs Trump as part of the law school’s annual Constitution Day activities. Constitutional Law expert and professor Brendan Beery, recent winner of the Stanley E. Beattie Teaching Award, will lead discussions regarding how results of the election will affect the U.S. Supreme Court and the Constitution.  During the discussion, Beery will analyze how legal issues, such as abortion, affirmative action and LGBT rights, could change depending on who is elected president.

warrenIn Auburn Hills,  the events take place Friday, Sept. 16. In honor of Constitution Day, the Hon. Michael Warren of Oakland County’s Sixth Circuit Court will present “The Presidency: Electors, Elections & Campaigns 1789-Today” at 12:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16. Following the presentation Warren will lead a discussion about how the Constitution’s founders would react to Clinton vs Trump.

ford-statueIn Grand Rapids, events are focused primarily on the WMU-Cooley student audience. In observance of Constitution Day, WMU-Cooley Law School is holding a Constitution Day Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, Sept. 17  at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.  Participants will pick up a list of questions from Professor Devin Schindler or Professor Victoria Vuletich.  Participants will visit the new exhibits at the museum the morning of the 17th, using the exhibits to answer the list of questions.  Professors Schindler and Vuletich will then meet the participants for lunch to discuss Watergate and the pardon at a local restaurant.  Small prizes will be awarded  to the first, second and third place winners.

In Lansing, the celebration will take place later in the month with campus organizers currently working on finalizing activities.

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