Category Archives: Ethics

From Pardons to Portraits: Gerald R. Ford Leadership Program Participants Wear Shoes of a Leader

Sixteen Michigan residents, including residents of Lansing, Grand Rapids, Portage, Baroda and Sidney, completed the Leadership in Times of Crisis program at the DeVos Learning Center in the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in March.  The program is a joint initiative of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and The Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

"New York, New York, USA - November 3, 2012: A close up of the front page of the The New York Times newspaper dated August 9, 1974. The New York Times reporting President Richard Nixon resigns after the Watergate scandal, Vice President Gerald Ford taking office."

The unique leadership program is not only open to enrolled law students, but to the public. Participants in one class get to take on the role of advisor to President Ford (played by Professor Devin Schindler), including arguing for and against the pardon of Richard Nixon while seated around the cabinet table in the Ford Museum.

In another session led by Professor Paul Sorenson, participants negotiated a contentious issue using procedures learned earlier that morning, experiencing in the process of how President Ford’s renowned reputation as a deal maker was due to many years of arduous, patient work.

A fascinating exploration of the relationship between healthy cities and state funding policies was led by Kalamazoo County Commissioner Kevin Wordelman.

The last class session explores the war in  Vietnam and the fall of Saigon. Participants viewed artifacts during a tour of the Museum’s collection. Artifacts included the portrait of President Ford the American ambassador removed from the wall of the embassy while fleeing Saigon and service medals thrown over the White House fence by veterans angry with President Ford’s amnesty program for men who did not honor the draft.

Guest speaker Tiennga Cao recounted the harrowing story of how she and fellow Vietnamese refugees felt at that time, adrift at sea for over two weeks before being rescued by an American naval ship. At the time of her rescue she was so weak that she could not stand on her own. She was brought to Grand Rapids, President Ford’s home town, and, in her own words, has made it her mission ever since her rescue to help people in return for God saving her life.

Leaders Program guest speaker Tiennga Cao

Leaders Program guest speaker Tiennga Cao

The Museum’s Education Director, Barbara McGregor, led a tour of Museum pieces relevant to the fall of Saigon, including the actual staircase from atop the American Embassy where many Vietnamese people began the transition from their homeland into new lives in other countries.

The program received high marks from all participants. Reservations are being accepted for the Fall 2017 session starting in September.  The program consists of four sessions, one session per month on a Saturday mornings from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The fee is $150. Participants receive a Certification of Completion bearing the name and logo of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum & Library.  For more information contact Professor Victoria Vuletich by email or by phone at (616) 301-6800, ext. 6960.

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Larry Nolan: It is through your faith and your faith tests that you grow

WMU-Cooley 1976 graduate, Board Chair, and State Bar of Michigan President Lawrence P. Nolan was the keynote speaker for the WMU-Cooley law student Christian Legal Society this month. He shared with the law students and guests how when tested in your career, by a client or in a case, you can use your faith to get through it. Watch the video or read the highlights below.

When I talk to different groups, including your group, I let them know that the need and demand for lawyers is great. We really need to know we have good lawyers out there, and judges.

When I first got sworn in I spoke in my inaugural address about standing up for lawyers, but I also stated that I would stand up for judges. People ask me why judges should be exempt from criticism. They say the President gets criticized, Senators get criticized, members of the House of Representatives get criticized, so why shouldn’t judges get criticized?  I said, the one difference is that judges can’t respond. They can’t follow up and have a press conference. If a case is pending, they can’t defend themselves. Simply, it’s about being fair and just.

There is a lot of good things happening within the profession. I am proud to be a lawyer. I’ve been practicing 42 years now at the same location, same small office on Main Street in a little town called Eaton Rapids, just about 20 miles south of here (Lansing). I love the law, and believe if you have a passion for the law, it will serve you well and you can make a difference. I wrote an article in the Michigan Bar Journal this month. It was called the USS Iowa explosion April 19, 1989. Forty seven sailors were killed on board a ship called the Iowa and there were four major ships that were 900 feet long. Think of that, think of (University of) Michigan’s stadium. That would fit a third of Iowa into Michigan stadium. It was three times the size.

I got involved with the case, not because I knew the family from Eaton Rapids who lost their son, but because I went to church and sat in the first pew and their family sat behind us. In our church, during the celebration, you turn at a point in the mass and say peace be with you with people you are sitting near. I only knew the family because they always sat behind us. I only knew them because I saw them on Sundays. I never had any social discussion with them, until this tragedy happened. They came to me because they knew that I was a Christian lawyer, I was in their hometown, and they wanted some meaning to come out of this event. It was a six-year year journey, from filing suit in the Eastern District of Virginia and Norfolk, to Richmond in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, then to the Supreme Court. It all arose because I was living in the community, going to the same church, and the family felt comfortable coming to me in handling the case where their son was tragically taken from them. We as lawyers, and we as Christian lawyers, you can look at the 10 commandments and just about take anything off the 10 commandments and use them as the common law and develop from that all the other laws that exist.

I still enjoy what I am doing 42 years later. I want to share a story with you all. I once went to funeral where there was a Rabbi who gave the eulogy and said the deceased person was mensch. When he described what mensch was he said it was a person who does the right thing knowing he could to the wrong thing, but does the right thing even knowing no one is watching. In your future endeavors, always remember one thing; Do the right thing when you know no one is watching.

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During my career, whether it’s during a case or with clients, I have been tested daily. It is my faith that gets me through it. Both my parents were immigrants. My father from Ireland. My mother from Canada. They came to America for a better life, and for that I’m thankful. I think that many of you would feel that same way – a spiritual feeling you have that you have been blessed by your parents, your background, and where you are today.

Sometimes in adversity there are no explanations.  I am like anyone. I have the same shortcomings. We are all human. I find myself often asking the question why when confronted with adversity. Why would someone do something like that? I’d like to know the answer. There was a French poet who once said that adversity tempers the human heart in which it finds its true meaning. If you think about it, we’ve all gone through tough times. Nobody likes to hear about your tough times. Yet if you think you have gone through tough times, you may want to stop by a hospital. Go to the children’s care unit or the cancer unit. Or volunteer at a soup kitchen, or visit those who have suffered addiction and have not been able to beat it.

You might see how fortunate you have been, and that you are receiving a legal education where you can help people in a very real way.  It is through your faith and your faith tests that you grow. I know we have all suffered loss, but if you can fall back on your faith, I think you’re ahead of the game in life.

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Judge Donald L. Allen: Years to Develop your Reputation, Seconds to Destroy it

“We talk a lot about integrity. I think there is one thing people need to understand. It takes years, maybe even decades, to develop a reputation for your integrity, for your professionalism. It takes years and years of doing the right thing, but it only takes seconds for that to be destroyed. Think about that for just a second. Years to develop a reputation that you would be proud of, seconds to destroy.” – Judge Donald L. Allen on integrity during WMU-Cooley Law School’s Integrity in Our Community award ceremony.

Judge Allen spoke to WMU-Cooley law students, faculty and staff about the importance of values, integrity and preserving one’s reputation at the Integrity award ceremony. He went on to say, “The ability to help others challenge injustice and to make sure what is wrong is made right is one of the privileges of a law degree. Law students are learning how to be in a position to earn a living basically helping other people. That is a tremendous privilege. I want to leave you with a quote, and this quote comes from John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He says, ‘With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.'”

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Judge Allen is the presiding judge of the 55th District Court Sobriety Court, which focuses on the rehabilitation of repeat offense substance abusers in Ingham County. He has spent most of his professional career as an assistant attorney general at the state’s attorney general office. In 2005, Allen was appointed deputy legal counsel to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The following year, Granholm appointed him to serve as director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, which he served until his 55th District Court appointment in 2008. Judge Allen was appointed chief judge of the court by the Michigan Supreme Court on Jan. 1, 2016. Watch Judge Allen’s speech (25:31)

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Law school and journalists discuss Fake News: What can be done about it?

This story was written by Grand Rapids Legal News writer Cynthia Price and was originally published by the Legal News on March 24, 2017. It is reprinted here with permission of Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC.

It is difficult to find anyone who is in favor of what has come to be called “fake news,” but for some, the challenge it poses to truth and the rule of law is a subject they view as of overriding urgency.

Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School Professor and Auxiliary Dean Martha Denning Moore is one of those people.

At a panel discussion Wednesday hosted by WMU-Cooley and sponsored by the Michigan Capital Chapter, American Society for Public Administration (known as ASPA/MICAP), Prof. Moore led out with a fiery speech about the need to hold purveyors of news accountable for the information they put foward.

“Truth is not optional,” she said. “It is necessary for maintenance of our democracy. Not only will the truth set us free, it will keep us free. So, we can’t just go our merry way — we can’t be passive consumers of information.

“Truth matters. We must seek it, we must pursue it. Truth is not the same as the most persuasive argument, and it is not a merger of options. We have to hold people accountable for their actions.”

Moore knows whereof she speaks. Prior to joining WMU-Cooley, she practiced in legal ethics and legal malpractice defense as an attorney for Moore and Pozehl; before that, she was staff counsel for the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.

A firm believer in a strong ethical system in the law and in life, Moore has published a number of articles consistent with her philosophy, including “Reclaiming Civility”and “The Ethical Duty of Communication.”

As Moore finished, Moderator Meegan Holland, herself a former journalist and now the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Senior Policy Advisor, commented, “I love your passion.”

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Holland also noted that she agreed with Moore’s reluctance to use the term “fake news.” The title of the event, “Social Media and the Ethics of Fake News,” notwithstanding, both Moore and Holland said they find the term misleading, since it implies there are shades of truthfulness permissible in reporting.

The other panelists were both working journalists: Emily Lawler, a reporter for MLive who covered the Trump campaign in Michigan and currently has the capitol beat for the statewide news organization; and John Lindstrom, the long-time publisher of Gongwer News Service.

In his welcoming remarks, WMU-Cooley Dean and President Donald LeDuc noted, “I’m opposed to poor ethics in any context.” Also referring to himself as “an unrepentant former public administrator” (working primarily in State of Michigan offices), he thanked ASPA/MICAP for putting the panel together.

Then Dean LeDuc added more seriously, “Our country’s embroiled in the greatest test of our country’s structure since the Civil War. There’s never been a more interesting time to be a law student, or to be in government — certainly not to be in administration of the law.”

Lindstrom, a seasoned professional whose specialty publication is aimed at decision-makers and politicians, pointed out that, historically, there has always been fake news, including falsely staging influential events. What makes it different now is the ability to disseminate information immediately, and without the filter that fact checkers provide.

“From the standpoint of a practicing journalist,” he said, “there’s an old saying ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’ That’s the essence of what we are supposed to do as an industry, and in many respects that’s really what we should do as citizens of a free republic, and, frankly, as adults.”

Lawler is more of the generation that grew up comfortable with social media, but she expressed dismay at what widespread use of Twitter and Facebook has done to her own profession, and the distrust that causes in the eyes of the general public.

She said, “One of the most enlightening articles I read, right after the election, was in the Washington Post. They profiled some producers of fake news, including those with a for-profit model. One man was pretty honest in admtting that he’d manufactured the story about Hillary [Clinton] supporters being paid to go protest at Donald Trump’s events.

“He made a fake ad looking for people to go interrupt Trump campaign stops on a couple Craig’s List sites, and then he manufactured a story based off his own ad.

“That was something that made it into the natural rhetoric, and Donald Trump made some nods to that in his speecies, including one I covered.”

Lindstrom also noted that over the past 20 years brain science has made significant discoveries about human’s cognitive function. He said these add to an exploration of why “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest,” quoting the Paul Simon song “The Boxer.”

When Holland asked whether it was likely that news outlets could be persuaded to eliminate covering, for example, Donald Trump’s early-morning tweets, Lawler gave a fairly subtle response: one of the effects of social media is that stories can become so widespread independent of traditional media that they require journalistic coverage, and debunking, in order to assure that any semblance of truth continues to exist.

Moore drew parallels to the legal profession. “One principle that’s critical to achieving justice is for people to ask, ‘Where is the evidence?’ As lawyers, we’re trained not to just take somebody’s word but to find and look at the evidence.”

About 30 people attended the event at WMU-Cooley’s Lansing campus, drawn from a variety of places. Some were WMU-Cooley students, some members of ASPA/MICAP, and a few were members of the general public who had heard about the panel. The questions posed were thoughtful and ranged in topic from the need for viable business models for news organizations to the potential for ongoing sanctions and punishment if news was found to be false.

Pictured from left to right: WMU-Cooley Professor and Auxiliary Dean Martha Moore; MLive Capitol Reporter Emily Lawler; Veterans Affairs Agency Senior Policy Advisor Meegan Holland and Publisher of Gongwer News Service John Lindstrom.

Pictured from left to right: WMU-Cooley Professor and Auxiliary Dean Martha Moore; MLive Capitol Reporter Emily Lawler; Veterans Affairs Agency Senior Policy Advisor Meegan Holland and Publisher of Gongwer News Service John Lindstrom.

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Addiction Breaks Hearts of Family and Friends: Finding Support in Wayne County

Addiction is a family disease, and it is devastating our community. We are losing an unprecedented number of young people to this illness, and families need resources, education, and support. – Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Professor Lauren Rousseau, and president of the Northwest Wayne County Families Against Narcotics Chapter

Professor Rousseau is a long-time resident of Livonia and is personally acquainted with the destruction that heroin can cause.  From 2010 to 2012, she was legal guardian for a young man, also a Livonia resident, who struggled with heroin addiction and ultimately died in his teens.

“In April 2012, I lost someone I loved due to heroin addiction,” shared Rousseau. “He was a kid – only 19 years old – and I was his legal guardian. We had spent the better part of the previous year battling his disease. He had gone through part of an intensive outpatient program, but had been kicked out for using. He had done inpatient treatment twice, relapsing within 48 hours of release each time. And exactly one week after his last inpatient treatment, with his addiction once again in full force, the disease took him to the place where he lost his life. His death broke my heart, and the hearts of his family and friends. We will never be the same.”

Judge Kathleen McCann of Livonia’s 16th District Court has also personally witnessed the horrors of opioid abuse in her community, observing it escalate to epidemic proportions.

“As a sobriety court judge, I see the extraordinary pain and effort that our participants expend to finally be free of their dependency on opiates and heroin,” she said.  “Unfortunately, I have had to close too many files when parents bring me a death certificate because their child overdosed before we could reach them.”

Judge McCann sits on the advisory board of the new Northwest Wayne County Chapter of Families Against Narcotics, which will hold its first meeting at the LifeChurch annex building, located at 6900 N. Haggerty Road in Canton, on April 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Families Against Narcotics, or FAN, is a grassroots organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma associated with addiction and providing families struggling with the disease the support and resources they need.  Its membership includes people and families affected by addiction, concerned citizens, law enforcement, and leaders in health care, education, business, and religion.  Founded in 2007, FAN originated in Macomb County, and now has 12 chapters throughout Michigan, including a chapter in Oakland County that is divided into nine “regions,” each with its own monthly meeting.  Until now, there has been no FAN chapter in Wayne County.

“The public and the schools are still not in tune with how pervasive this problem is, and how young and vulnerable the population is that is being targeted,” said Judge McCann.  “Families Against Narcotics will open another avenue of information, coordination and resources to communities that are very much in need.”

Judge Linda Davis of the 41B District Court will be the keynote speaker at the chapter launch meeting on April 10.  Judge Davis is the president and founder of FAN.  She also chairs Governor Snyder’s Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission, and is the driving force behind Hope Not Handcuffs, a program that enlists police departments and volunteers to help addicts seeking recovery find immediate treatment.  She is a frequent speaker on the subject of addiction and the opioid epidemic.

The federal Centers for Disease Control recently reported that more than 52,000 people died from drug overdose in 2015, and approximately 33,000 of those deaths were due to opioid pain pills and heroin.  Michigan has been hard hit by the epidemic, losing 1,960 residents to drug overdose in 2015, a 13 percent increase over 2014 numbers.

“There is an enormous need for more addiction resources and support for families in Wayne County,” said Brian Spitsbergen, director of Community Relations for Growth Works, an adolescent and adult addiction treatment organization in Canton.  “I regularly work with young people struggling with this disease, and I am encouraged by new efforts to support parents and other family members affected by addiction.”  Spitsbergen serves as vice president of the new FAN chapter.

Andy Hopson, a Livonia resident whose son Dakota died from a heroin overdose in May 2016, also sits on the board of directors of Northwest Wayne County FAN.  He understands addiction better than most – in addition to losing his son to the disease, he’s been in recovery from substance use disorder himself since 1991.

“A big problem in getting these families the help and support they need is the stigma surrounding addiction,” Andy says.  “Families feel embarrassed and ashamed that their loved ones are struggling with this disease, and they isolate and withdraw.  What they really need to do is reach out for help.”

Jeff Jedrusik, chief of police for the city of Westland, Michigan, sits on the new FAN chapter’s advisory board along with Judge McCann.

“Throughout my career I’ve learned that the majority of residents living in northwest Wayne County believe that heroin, cocaine and synthetic drug epidemics are inner city problems and not a suburban issue,” said Chief Jedrusik.  “Eyes are not generally opened to such problems until it affects a personal friend or a family member.  Unfortunately, this is a current epidemic that is affecting all of our communities, young people and families.” 

lauren_rousseauWMU-Cooley Professor Lauren Rousseau is a strong advocate and frequent speaker on the very personal and painful topic of addiction. She was a featured  during a Unite to Face Addiction (UFAM) statewide rally held at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on June 2, 2016.

The Northwest Wayne County FAN Chapter launch meeting on April 10th is free and open to all who would like to attend.  For more information, please go to the chapter’s web page at http://www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org/northwest-wayne, or send an email to nwwayne@familiesagainstnarcotics.org.

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Applauded Leadership Program Expands Participation for Community Members

The Leadership In Times of Crisis program was recently featured in, and endorsed by, the Grand Rapids Business Journal in a recent article. The successful program is now expanding participation in the next session for community members.

leadershipThe program, a one of a kind collaboration between the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Western Michigan University and Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, is looking to encourage and craft principled leaders of integrity to lead in times of crisis. The program uses several of President Ford’s difficult and controversial decisions as vehicles for exploring leadership with integrity. The final session of the fall program, to be held Nov. 12, features Kalamazoo County Commissioner Kevin Wordelman leading a discussion on President Ford’s handling of the New York City bankruptcy and its relevance today.

Earlier sessions featured Brigadier Generals Thomas Edmonds and Michael McDaniel exploring leadership lessons from the fall of Saigon and the Helsinki Accord, and Professor Devin Schindler exploring lessons from President Ford’s pardon of former President Richard Nixon.

The class is open to all members of the community. Reservations are being taken for the next three sessions in 2017, which will be held on three Saturday mornings – one in January, February and March. Interested individuals should contact WMU-Cooley Professor Victoria Vuletich at 616-301-6800, ext. 6960, or by email at vuleticv@cooley.edu.

Participants who successfully complete the program receive a certificate from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum reflecting their participation in the program.

The program has also received the support of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.  The foundation provided each of the students with a copy of the DVD, Gerald R. Ford, A Test of Character,  which was commissioned by the Peter F. Secchia Family.

vuletich_victoriaWMU-Cooley Law School Victoria Vuletich teaches Professional Responsibility. She is chairperson of the American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Professional Responsibility Continuing Legal Education Committee. She was a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection 2004-2008, and was formerly president of the Shiawassee County Bar Association.

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WMU-Cooley Professor Works Polls to Secure Election Laws and Democracy

Law professors across the nation will make it their duty to work the polls on election day. WMU-Cooley Law Professor Kimberly O’Leary is just one of many at the law school who will be working all day on Tuesday, November 8, to ensure that everyone who turns out and wants to vote, gets to vote.

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She joins hundreds of attorneys and law students who turn out to help make sure voter laws are followed and people are not prevented from voting. According to the State of Michigan website, references Professor O’Leary, “Michigan has 83 counties, 274 cities, and 1,242 townships. During an election, each of these units of government requires a staff of paid workers to work at the polls.”

Additionally, Presidential campaigns recruit hundreds of volunteers and train them in election law in each state.

O’Leary volunteered in Flint in 2008 and 2012. “It is easy to complain about government and elections. But sometimes, you have to step up and help. By the time we get to a Presidential election, emotions are running high on both sides. Lawyers trained in election law can help defuse possible contentious situations.”

O’Leary found that her training as a lawyer also contributed to the ability to help with non-legal issues. “Are there enough voting machines, so that people are not waiting for hours in line? Do people know which line to stand in? Are elderly and disabled voters helped?” Often, O’Leary discovered, these kinds of issues were more important than the intricacies of voter training law.

This year, rather than being assigned to one precinct, O’Leary has been tapped to travel to a variety of precincts on behalf of the City of Flint. As an election inspector, she will help monitor the status of voting to make sure everyone who wants to vote, gets to vote.

“Our democracy relies upon the participation of its citizens,” said O’Leary. “It is easy to compromise democracy if it is too difficult to vote. Lawyers and law students can help make it easier.”

Not surprisingly, more volunteers and paid staff are present in perceived “swing” states. This is because allegations of fraud or intimidation are more likely to occur in those states. Moreover, precincts with heavier minority populations are also more likely to be the target of intimidation. Lawyers are there to ease tensions, and send a clear message to voters that someone is there to help them exercise this precious right. Professor O’Leary says, “It’s times like this that a person is proud to be an attorney.”

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary has written in the field of attorney-client counseling, housing law, diversity training, the relationship between social justice goals and clinical law offices and clinical teaching. She has presented papers at the UCLA/University of London International Clinical Scholarship Conference and the New York Clinical Theory Workshop.

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