Category Archives: Achievements

37 Honored with Juris Doctor degrees in WMU-Cooley Tampa Ceremony

WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus held its spring commencement ceremony bestowing juris doctor degrees onto 37 individuals April 15 at the University of South Florida School of Music. Graduate Ricardeau Lucceus was selected by his classmates to present the valedictory remarks and Judge Barbara Twine Thomas of Hillsborough County’s 13th Judicial Circuit Juvenile Division provided the keynote.

Ricardeau Lucceus presents valedictory remarks during WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus graduation.

Ricardeau Lucceus presents valedictory remarks during Tampa Bay campus graduation.

Judge Barbara Twine Thomas of Hillsborough County’s 13th Judicial Circuit Juvenile Division provides the keynote during WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus spring commencement on April 15.

Keynote Judge Barbara Twine Thomas during commencement on April 15.

WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc presents Erika Martinez with her diploma during WMU-Cooley Law School’s spring commencement.

WMU-Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc presents Erika Martinez with her diploma.

Left-right: Don LeDuc, WMU-Cooley president and dean; Hon. Barbara Twine Thomas, Hillsborough County 13th Judicial Circuit; Ricardeau Lucceus, graduate and valedictory presenter; and Ronald Sutton WMU-Cooley associate dean.

Left-right: Don LeDuc, WMU-Cooley president and dean; Hon. Barbara Twine Thomas, Hillsborough County 13th Judicial Circuit; Ricardeau Lucceus, graduate and valedictory presenter; and Ronald Sutton WMU-Cooley associate dean.

Lucceus spoke to his classmates about the current political climate and how lawyers are addressing many of the issues.

“As you have recently witnessed, attorneys are saving the day in this current zeitgeist by addressing injustice and by helping to maintain balance and respect amongst the three branches of our state and national governments,” said Lucceus. “These attorneys had to be not just educated, but they had to understand the complexity and the challenges they face when dealing with the community as a whole.  It takes a lot of focus and mental fortitude in order to do what they are currently doing; this is why investing in education, a solid education, is more than ever a necessity.”
During her remarks, Twine Thomas shared three life lessons for honorably and ethically meeting the challenges the next generation of lawyers face.  The three lessons she spoke about included being competent by concentrating on the craft of being an attorney, pursuing purpose with passion, and being honest.

Addressing the students, Twine Thomas said, “Take on every assignment as if the world is watching, even if you know they are not. It will be up to you to care for and ensure justice for everyone, not just the well-heeled client who can pay you generously.”

Before joining the bench, Twine Thomas was an attorney in private practice and has served as past president for the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, George Edgecomb Bar Association and the Hillsborough County Bar Foundation. Twine Thomas earned her undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida and her J.D. from the University of Florida.

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WMU-Cooley Associate Dean Michael C.H. McDaniel Inducted into U.S. Army ROTC Hall of Fame at St. Bonaventure University

Retired Brigadier General and current WMU-Cooley Law School Associate Dean and Professor of Law Michael C.H. McDaniel was inducted into the alumni ROTC Hall of Fame for the Seneca Battalion of the U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at St. Bonaventure University, located  in Olean, New York, on April 1, 2017. Following the induction ceremony McDaniel presented the keynote during the University’s annual ROTC Military Ball.

On April 1, Brigadier General (ret) and WMU-Cooley Law School Associate Dean and Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel was inducted into the ROTC Hall of Fame at his alma mater St. Bonaventure University.

Brig. General (ret) and WMU-Cooley Associate Dean and Professor Michael C.H. McDaniel was inducted into the ROTC Hall of Fame at his alma mater St. Bonaventure University.

During his remarks McDaniel advised the audience of cadets, alumni and guests that what makes our military great is still our people, the men and women in uniform, and always will be.

“It is because of the values not just instilled in us but required of us, as students of St. Francis, here, at St. Bonaventure University, because we take an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, not a loyalty oath to the Commander in Chief​, and because our Army values are based on that legacy,” he said.  “The oath to the Constitution is in the Constitution, significantly placed at the end of the body and before the Bill of Rights. The oath then is to defend both the system of co-equal republican government and the rights of the individuals. And so we fight, voluntarily, for the principles in the Constitution and because of the promise to all Americans embodied in the Constitution.”

McDaniel, a 1975 St. Bonaventure graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in history, then earned his Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in 1982.  Having been an active participant in the Army ROTC program for two years as an undergraduate student, he applied for and received a direct commission from the Michigan National Guard as a Judge Advocate General Corps officer in November 1985.

He began his career as the staff judge advocate for the Camp Grayling Joint Training Center, then served as trial counsel and then staff judge advocate for the 46 Infantry Brigade, 38th Infantry Division, and  as detachment commander (Mich.) for the 38th Inf. Div. He served as a military judge, then, upon promotion to colonel, as state judge advocate.

His civilian career as a trial attorney with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office began in January 1984. From 1998 to 2003, he was the assistant attorney general for litigation in the Executive Division of the Michigan Department of the Attorney General. His duties included the review of all civil and criminal actions proposed to be initiated by the department in state or federal trial courts, and evaluation of all proposed settlements of every court case.

Appointed by the governor as Michigan’s first Homeland Security adviser in 2003, he served in that capacity until July 2009. In this position, McDaniel was the liaison between the governor’s office and all federal, state and local agencies for homeland security, with responsibility for developing statewide plans and policy on homeland security preparedness. During this assignment, he served concurrently as the assistant adjutant general for homeland security in the Michigan National Guard.

From August 2009 to January 2011, McDaniel was the deputy assistant secretary for homeland defense strategy, force planning and mission assurance at the Department of Defense.  He advised the DOD secretary, undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America’s Security Affairs on all homeland defense-related strategies (quadrennial defense review, homeland defense & civil support strategies, the mission assurance strategy, and domestic counterterrorism and counter-narcotics strategies, among other efforts).

McDaniel graduated from the U.S. Army War College and earned a Master of Strategic Studies in 2005. He also earned a master’s in security studies (homeland security) from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2007. He was promoted to brigadier general in 2007 and his final military assignment was as assistant adjutant general for Army Future Missions, Michigan National Guard, from January 2011 until October 2012. He retired in December 2012.

Professionally active, McDaniel served as a member of the National Governors Association’s Homeland Security Advisors Council, where he was elected to the Executive Committee in 2006 and 2008. He was named by the Office of Infrastructure Protection, Department of Homeland Security, as chair of the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Government Coordinating Council in 2007. He joined the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School faculty as a full-time constitutional law professor in 2011 and was promoted to associate dean in 2016.

McDaniel’s military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit (1 OLC), Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon (with 2 devices) and the Michigan Distinguished Service Medal (Fifth Award).

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Law graduates take Florida Bar’s Oath of Admission, along with Law Professor

The  Hon. Christopher C. Sabella of the 13th Judicial Circuit Court administered The Florida Bar’s Oath of Admission to WMU-Cooley Law School graduates this week, along with one of WMU-Cooley’s professors. International Law Professor Paul Carrier adds Florida to the states he now can practice in. The Oath contains important principles to guide attorneys in the legal profession.

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Carrier, who has taught at WMU-Cooley’s Michigan campuses since 2003, recently joined the law school’s Tampa Bay campus. He has been a member of the Michigan bar since 1991 and hopes to use lessons from the Florida Bar Exam while teaching. Carrier also plans to begin doing pro bono work at the law school’s debt relief clinic, which serves the Hillsborough County community.

In addition to Professor Carrier being approved for admission, other new admittees to The Florida Bar participating in the ceremony included WMU-Cooley graduates Eric Nelsestuen and Marisol Perez.

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Law Student from Germany Learns What Real Freedom Means While Helping the Wrongfully Convicted

I’m a 22 years old law student from Germany. As part of an international exchange program, I spent my last term doing a study abroad experience here at WMU-Cooley Law School. Coming to Michigan, and working with the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, was an experience I will never forget – Anna-Lisa Benkhoff, Muenster University law student and WMU-Cooley Innocence Project intern

When I decided to come to America and attend WMU-Cooley Law School, I had no idea what kind of experiences it would bring. Growing up, I always sought out new opportunities and to challenge myself. I heard about the WMU-Innocence Project when I was looking into study abroad opportunities in the United States. I was excited about the idea that students got to work on actual criminal cases with real people who have been wronged. I especially like that I would learn practical knowledge and skills in the law.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project fights against wrongful convictions in post-conviction cases, using DNA-testing to prove innocence.

I spent much of my time in the law clinic working on one case. Our client was convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, involving two perpetrators. It was the first case I ever worked on and it was an unbelievable experience. I actually was able to meet our client in prison.

Once I got to meet him in person, I knew I was working for the right reasons. It means a lot to be able to help someone who has been wronged get out of prison.

Based on our work, the client was granted an evidentiary hearing on the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project’s motion under MCR 6.500. During the hearing, the judge heard our newly discovered evidence. From that evidence, the judge must decide whether to grant our client a new trial.

In addition to doing research to support the case, I wrote legal memos and assisted in preparing the case for litigation. I feel so proud that I helped to prepare the paperwork needed for our client’s evidentiary hearing. I helped to prepare a witness list and questions for direct and cross examinations.

 During the hearing, WMU-Cooley Innocence Project interns questioned witnessed on the stand – just like a real lawyer.

The evidentiary hearing took four days, and is now submitted to the court for a decision.

Even though I’m leaving the United States and the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project, I will continue to follow its important work. I had a such a great time and got to meet so many nice and very cool people. I now realize the hard work it takes to improve the criminal justice system. I would recommend this experience to anyone. Not only do you gain practical legal skills and experience, you have the privilege of doing something very important – saving someone from life imprisonment when they have been wrongfully convicted. It was unforgettable.

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director Marla Mitchell-Cichon and German International Exchange Program law student Anna-Lisa Benkhoff.

WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Director Marla Mitchell-Cichon and German International Exchange Program law student Anna-Lisa Benkhoff.

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WMU Broncos Hockey Team in NCAA Championship Tournament!

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The Law School salutes our  WMU Broncos ice hockey team in making the NCAA hockey championship tournament this year.  The Broncos are ranked 8th in the nation and are the number 2 seed in the east regional following an outstanding  22-12-5 season record on the ice.  Here are the tournament brackets.

We face off against Air Force in the east regional semifinal held in Providence, R.I. this coming Friday, March 24, at 7:30 p.m.  You can watch the game on ESPN 3.

Following WMU’s great football success this year culminating in an appearance in the Cotton Bowl, our hockey Broncos have brought WMU into the national limelight in a second sport this year!  It’s a great day to be a Bronco!

Bronco Hockey Heads to Providence for East Regional Semifinal Against Air Force

 

 

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Bill Gets Some Love on Valentine’s Day

On Feb. 14, Gov. Rick Snyder will sign two new laws which support Michigan citizens who have been wrongfully convicted. I am honored to be invited to attend the ceremonial signing, scheduled at 3:00 P.M. on Valentine’s Day. Exonerees and supporters from across the state will attend. I look forward to attending the ceremony with WMU-Cooley Innocence Project exonerees Kenneth Wyniemko, Nathaniel Hatchett, and Donya Davis.

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For over a decade, state Senator Steve Bieda sponsored legislation to compensate Michigan citizens, wrongfully convicted at the hands of the state. Senate Bill 291, sponsored by Bieda, provides $50,000 for each year of incarceration to individuals convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. House Bill 5815, sponsored by state Representative Stephanie Chang, provides for reentry services. The bills, now Public Acts 343 and 344 of 2016, will take effect on March 29, 2017. Michigan joins 31 states, the District of Columbia and the federal government in providing compensation to the wrongfully convicted.

No amount of money can make up for all that is lost from a wrongful conviction. Kenneth Wyniemko lost his father during his wrongful imprisonment and Donya Davis lost time with his children. Nathaniel Hatchett was still in high school when he went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Hearts are broken and slow to mend. True criminal justice reform comes from laws, policies and practices that prevent a wrongful conviction from happening in the first place.

Public Acts 343 and 344 will provide Michigan exonerees with needed services and financial compensation for years lost to a system that failed them. On Valentine’s Day, let search our hearts for how we can do more.


marla-mitchell-cichon-editThe author, Marla Mitchell-Cichon, is the director of WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project.  She was honored in fall 2016 with the State Bar of Michigan’s Champion of Justice Award, Michigan Lawyers Weekly 30 Leaders in the Law, and Ingham County Bar Association’s Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Lawyer Award. She led the efforts for the release of WMU-Cooley Innocence Project’s client Donya Davis. Davis was wrongfully convicted of carjacking, armed robbery and rape in 2007. Davis was exonerated in 2014, and is the third client exonerated by the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project. The Project is currently working on 15 promising cases and screening approximately 200 cases for factual innocence.


The WMU-Cooley Law School Innocence Project will host a reception for exonerees and their supporters at the law school on Feb. 14, 2017 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. Media inquiries should be directed to innocence@cooley.edu or a WMU-Cooley News & Media contact:

Tyler Lecceadone, SeyferthPR, lecceadone@seyferthpr.com
 1-800-435-9539

Terry Carella, Director of Communications, carellat@cooley.edu
517- 371-5140, ext. 2916

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WMU-Cooley Graduation Keynote Larry Nolan: The Wonderful Beauty of the Law is Change

The Tampa Bay campus of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School honored 43 graduates during a commencement ceremony held at University of South Florida’s Marshall Center on January 8, 2017.  Students received their diplomas during the ceremony for earning their juris doctor degrees. WMU-Cooley 1976 graduate, Board Chair, and State Bar of Michigan President Lawrence P. Nolan was the keynote speaker. Below is his speech and advice to the newly minted attorneys.

Four months ago, as President Don LeDuc mentioned, I was sworn in by the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Justice Robert Young. The Chief Justice prefaced his remarks prior to swearing me in by stating that I would be the last State Bar President that he would be swearing in. He didn’t elaborate.

The official news hasn’t hit the streets yet, but I suspect that you will be reading very shortly that a new justice will be elected as Chief Justice of the Court. It signifies to me that every journey started eventually comes to an end. We are constantly reminded that nothing lasts forever. It seems like my journey as a lawyer is always just a beginning, as an old chapter is laid to rest. I recall sitting where you are sitting here today.

I found the joy in graduating from law school in the first class at Cooley in Lansing, Michigan, back in January of 1976. But the joy was not in just getting law school over with, but rather in reaching my goal to become an attorney. Becoming an attorney was a goal that I had set early in my childhood, maybe not unlike many of you. Congratulations! You have now succeeded in so many ways to reach your goal. You have sacrificed a lot to get here.

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Remember, however, it’s not about just reaching a goal. The journey continues. You will continue to be challenged. The bar examination is next. Winning your first trial may be just around the corner. Writing your first brief, your first appeal, your first complaint, are all first encounters along the journey. The joy of being a lawyer is that the journey really never ends. It just continues to change along the way.

The only one thing constant in being a lawyer I can tell you is change. Adaptability is the key to survival. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” The wonderful beauty of the law is change. You will always be challenged to think, and to use the foundational building blocks that you leave law school with to be thoroughly analytical.

As you already heard, I was admitted to the first class of Cooley Law School back in January of 1973. It was a night class. Everyone had eight to five jobs during the day. I had the good fortune of getting a job as a law clerk working for the only minority law firm in Lansing. A year or so later, I was able to get a job as a security officer in the Michigan Court of Appeals. I never lost sight of the big prize. I was focused. I was determined and I was happy. I felt like I had never learned so much, especially after my first semester. Then again, after my second semester and then I realized that going to law school and being a lawyer was a continuum of learning. That, my graduates, is the journey.

After graduating in January 1976, I went into practice on my own immediately. Much has changed from that date, now more than 41 years ago. I was appointed to the Thomas M. Cooley Board of Directors in 1984. I have served continuously for the past 33 years. I was elected Vice Chair and then Chair of the Board approximately six years ago. I always considered it a privilege and a gift to serve. I am, and have always been, a big proponent of access to legal education. Cooley’s admission policy allows that mission to exist and be flexible enough to meet the individual student needs.

I got involved in my local Bar Association politics and then eventually in State Bar Association politics. I felt like I had a duty to let people know that Cooley Law School produced lawyers with a legal education second to none. I was on a mission. Nobody was going to talk about Cooley Law School not being as good as the other law schools in the state or the country.

But enough about me. This is not about me. This is not my day. My day in the lights was four months ago. It’s now time for me to carry out the most sacred goals of this great profession at, not only the state, but also at the national stage. Today is your day. No one else’s. Today is special, for you have reached a goal in your journey of becoming a lawyer. In just a few moments you will receive a paper called a degree. President LeDuc and I have signed that piece of paper certifying to the world that you have become an attorney. Enjoy it. Bask in the bright lights. Go out for dinner with family and friends, for tomorrow comes only too quickly.

Tomorrow it is time for you to go to work. It’s time on the continuum of becoming a lawyer to your journey of studying for the Bar exam. You cannot over-study for the Bar. There is no such thing. And you cannot begin to continue this journey too soon. Someone once said “The nicest thing about the future is that it always starts tomorrow.” Your future is tomorrow. You owe it to yourself and everyone, including me, President Don LeDuc, and this distinguished faculty, to pass the Bar exam on your first attempt.

My father was one of 13 children growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the early 1900s. They had no I-Pads. They had no cell phones, knew nothing about blogging, tweeting, Facebook, YouTube, match.com, or instant messaging. He immigrated to Quebec at 14, then to Montreal, then Windsor, and eventually the United States. Nothing was easy for him or my mom. He was not formally educated with degrees, diplomas, and the like.

He did have, however, several sayings that stuck with me through my life. One of my favorites was “Keep your nose to the grindstone” and “Don’t get mixed up with no rubby dubs!”

For years, my siblings and I debated the true definition of a “rubby dub,” only to ultimately conclude that it meant someone who couldn’t comprehend or appreciate what you were doing. In essence, work hard to attain your goal, and don’t get sidetracked. Another one of my favorite sayings is, when he would tell me that, “When the circus comes to town, don’t let the man with the balloons go by.” Think of that. So when you have struggled and sacrificed, and have reached your goal, take advantage of the preparation and excitement of being at the circus because one the balloon man goes by, the next time that you see him again is when he is all out of balloons. Seize the opportunity. It is here. It is now.

My dad never graduated from high school, but he always was prepared for the time that opportunity presented itself. Nothing, and I mean nothing – not talent, not intelligence, not high LSAT scores or GPA, not money or influence, will ever take a higher place in your life than preparation. Preparation, yes preparation, will allow you to pass the Bar exam. There is no substitute. It will serve you well through life to be better prepared in knowing the facts, in knowing the law, and in knowing and understanding people.

Secondly, “When you get there, remember where you came from.” Third, a Winston Churchill quote that’s one of my favorites, “Never, never, never give up!” Giving up is not an option for you. I said, giving up is not an option for you. You have come too far. You have sacrificed too much. You leave here with a special degree. Make those who supported you all these years proud.

More importantly, make yourself proud of who you are now, what you have become, and know that you are in a special place. Congratulations, and good luck. You are the future of this great profession. I’m very proud of all of you. Good bye. Do good and great things, and accomplishments will be your personal and professional reward.

God speed, and may the words of an old Irish blessing be always with you.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warmly upon your face.

And the rains fall softly upon your fields,

And until we meeting again,

May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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