Category Archives: Student News, Achievements, Awards

The best people, an excellent legal education program, and first-class facilities – essential attributes of every successful law school.

WMU-Cooley Patent Law Team Place High in U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Competition

“Team Joyce Hill and Christopher DeLucenay truly demonstrated an initiative and work ethic that one usually only finds in seasoned Patent attorneys,” declared WMU-Cooley Professor and Coach Gerald Tschura after his two Intellectual Property students brought home the overall third place trophy in the Midwest Regional International Patent Drafting Competition. “I was impressed by their creativity and competitive spirit. Joyce and Chris exemplify exactly that caliber and high degree of competency you need to to succeed as patent attorneys today.”

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Gerald Tschura, Me, Joyce Hill, Chris DeLucenay, Dr. Christal Sheppard

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Gerald Tschura, Me, Joyce Hill, Chris DeLucenay, Dr. Christal Sheppard

For the second consecutive year, WMU-Cooley students performed exceptionally well during the Midwest Region International Patent Drafting Competition.  The competition is hosted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“Joyce and Christopher worked extremely hard, beginning in December, to conduct a thorough patent search and to prepare and submit a patent application based on a hypothetical invention provided by the competition,” explained Tschura. “Our submission, along with all the other competing schools, were then scored by a select panel of judges. Teams were then selected to orally present and explain their applications before two separate distinguished panels of judges and examiners from the USPTO as well as leading practitioners in patent law.”

“The team did an outstanding job and represented their school with distinction,” punctuated Tschura. “This second year of the competition saw a significant increase in the number of competing schools which made the competitive arena that much stiffer. After all written submissions were completed in mid-January, the field whittled down to nine schools that orally presented in February and defended their cases to panels of judges in at the USPTO office in Detroit. Competing teams were identified only by number for all submissions and during the presentations to assure anonymity in judging.”

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Professor Tschura went on to explain that “after the final round, the judges announced that only one point separated the top three teams. We finished in third, but only slightly behind St. Louis University and York University (Toronto).  I like to note that WMU-Cooley was the only law school of the four in Michigan to finish in the top three at the competition, and the only law school to have placed in the top three twice!”

Professor Tschura had only kudos for his team, and they for him. “Many thanks go to Joyce and Chris for their effort and hard work and for making WMU-Cooley proud.  Future inventors and clients will be very lucky to have either of these two outstanding future lawyers as their patent attorney!”

Joyce Hill was also pleased with how the team did in the competition, but also enjoyed her time at the competition. “I thought it was a great learning experience,” stated Hill. “I have so many to thank, but especially Professor Tschura for all of his help and guidance in making the competition such a success.  There is nothing like practicing what you have learned in school.”

The competition, hosted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), is now an annual event, with ambitions of including competitions at each of the USPTO regional satellite offices across the country.

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Military Feature Brien Brockway: Military Background Great Training for Law School Success

WMU-Cooley, as a military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. This December, we feature WMU-Cooley law 1L student Brien Brockway, a U.S. Army Veteran. He was a Fire Team Leader with the infantry in Afghanistan. After careful consideration, he decided to change careers to allow more time with his family. That decision led him to law school at WMU-Cooley.

Military rank and title: U.S. Army Veteran, Fire Team Leader Specialist

Why did you decide to go to law school: I decided to go to law school for several reasons. First, for my personal knowledge. Second, for my family and the future of my children. Third, for those that I will serve in the future. At first, the idea of law seemed like a large and daunting task, but what I found was that my experience in the military, and the lessons I learned, really prepared me for what lay ahead in law school, like handling the stress and the workload. The professors have also been very good about setting students up for success. I am also working closely with the Academic and Career Services to start networking now to figure out my best fit and career path after law school.

Why did WMU-Cooley stand out for you: Although I like working in the military and service, I felt like there was something missing, so I did some research on law schools and WMU-Cooley made a lot of sense. They offered good scholarships and, most importantly, they offered part-time and evening classes, which was key since my wife and I work full-time and we have a family.

Career: My career took multiple turns. I have worked in lead abatement, education, and the military. Then after leaving the military, I pursued a degree in public administration knowing that I still wanted to be involved in some aspect of service. My present job is working with the Kalamazoo County Area Agency on Aging, working for veterans, and with veterans. After law school, my goal is to stay in southwest Michigan and practice business and civil law.

Tell us a little about you: I have lived in southwest Michigan since I was 11 years old. I completed my bachelors in history and theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville. I spent nearly 24 months in the Army National Guard and three years on Active Duty with 2-2 Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. After being discharged, I moved my family back to Kalamazoo, Michigan, then started law school at WMU-Cooley in May 2016.  My wife and I have been married seven years and we have three children.

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Military Feature John O’Neill: Sees bright 2nd career in the law after serving country for 28 years

WMU-Cooley, as a military friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. This month, we feature WMU-Cooley law student John O’Neill who retired from the U.S. Army at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel after 28 years of active service.

Military rank and title: Ret. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel

Why law school and WMU-Cooley: As my retirement drew near, the natural progression for many of my peers was to go into government service or to serve as a civilian military contractor. Yet those options did not appeal to me. Law school did. My biggest concern, though, was time. I knew that I didn’t want to spend three years attending school after I retired. Fortunately I was stationed in Michigan when I heard about WMU-Cooley Law School’s flexible scheduling options and generous scholarships. I was able to start taking classes part-time while I was still on active duty, which allowed me to complete half of my courses before I retired. Now that I have less than a year to go before I graduate from law school, I am looking forward to launching a new second career as a public defender.

Career description:  While serving in Alabama in the ’90s, I completed a bachelor of science degree in Justice Studies from  Athens State College, along with a master of science degree in Management from Troy State University.  I received my commission as an Army Aviator from Alabama A&M University where I was cross-enrolled in their ROTC program. Over the decades, I have served throughout the world, including Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Germany. My military career consisted of: 4 years (1984-1988) as an enlisted infantryman with the second Ranger Battalion in Ft. Lewis, Washington, and 24 years (1991-2015) as a commissioned officer. During the years in between (1988-1991), I also served as a police officer in Huntsville, Alabama.

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Career responsibilities: I have served at every level of management in the U.S. Army, most recently as the Network Integration Lead for the Program Executive Office , Ground Combat Systems, until my retirement. I was responsible for the integration and commonality of all networked systems among the Army’s ground combat fleets, plus the coordination of all staff actions within a PEO that manages the entire Abrams Main Battle Tank fleet, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle fleet, and numerous other ground combat systems.

Decorations: Legion of Merit,  Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal (2), Meritorious Service Medal (5),  Joint Service Commendation Medal (2) , Army Commendation Medal (3), and  Army Achievement Medal (4)

Skill Qualifications: Senior Army Aviator Wings, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Wings, Expert Infantryman Badge, Air Assault Wings, Jungle Expert Badge

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Cadets Learn Testifying Skills and Rules of Law to Protect Courtroom Justice

Courtroom truth and justice depends on reliable testimony, tested by skilled cross-examination. When the witnesses don’t know the evidence rules and courtroom conventions, though, honest witnesses giving accurate accounts can look confused or (worse) dissembling. Justice is then undone, not done. WMU-Cooley has long supported programs that train testifying professionals in varying fields on those evidence rules and courtroom conventions, to ensure that courtrooms are places of justice rather than injustice.

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The law school’s students and professors, with the help of visiting judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and other lawyer practitioners, have direct- and cross-examined family court caseworkers, social workers, police officers, and other social-service professionals in the law school’s trial courtrooms, while training them in the rules and critiquing their performances.

Most recently, Grand Rapids-campus students hosted 32 police academy cadets. Muskegon County District Court Judge Raymond Kostrzewa presided in the campus’s trial courtroom, while Chief Trial Attorney Matt Roberts and Public Defender Chad Catalino conducted the cadets’ direct and cross-examinations.

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Law students sat second-chair and also served as jurors, while helping to guide and critique the cadets. Two law students Jon Paasch and Amol Huprikar, both of them experienced law enforcement officers, addressed the cadets, skillfully answering their many questions to great appreciation. Adjunct Professor Brett Gardner, a former chief assistant prosecutor, coordinated the event.

While the lawyer, law student, and judge participants share their abundant knowledge and expertise with the cadets, the main service that the programs provide may simply be acclimation to the often-intimidating courtroom environment. Courtrooms and the high stakes that their matters entail make people nervous. Nerves and other emotions undermine concentration, listening, memory, recall, narration, and other communication skills. Nervous witnesses do poor jobs of testifying.

WMU-Cooley values the public service and commitment of the professionals who participated.

miller_nelsonBlog author Nelson Miller is the Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy. He also teaches law classes on the Kalamazoo, Michigan campus of Western Michigan University.

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Quintessential Practical Legal Scholarship: WMU-Cooley Innocence Project Intern Joseph Daly Argues Client’s Case

Blog author, Marla Mitchell-Cichon, is the director of WMU-Cooley 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.

What if you had to argue your first case before you passed the bar examination? Cooley graduate and legal intern Joseph Daly did just that.

Joseph Daly and Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon at graduation in May 2016

Joseph Daly and Professor Marla Mitchell-Cichon at graduation in May 2016

In March, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project filed a motion for a new trial on behalf of Octaviano Molina Jr., citing new evidence that casts doubt on Molina’s involvement in a 1998 rape case. Legal intern Joseph Daly wrote the motion under my supervision. He spent countless hours researching, drafting and fine-tuning his arguments.

In May, Joseph graduated from WMU-Cooley, but stayed on with the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project as a volunteer. His hard work paid off — the case was set for oral argument on the motion on June 27. In his first court appearance, Joseph argued the motion before Genesee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph J. Farah.

The Cooley Innocence Project Team

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project team

Our office put Joseph through several practice arguments. I assured him that he was prepared for any question posed by the judge. Except for the one he was asked right out of the box. Judge Farah asked Joseph if he was familiar with the Michigan Supreme Court decision in People v. Swain. I gulped. We didn’t cover that case in our practice arguments. The case itself wasn’t particularly relevant to our case, but I was concerned the question would throw Joseph off. But then I heard Joseph respond that he was familiar with the case and that he had watched the oral arguments. Yes, I recommended to all of the innocence project interns to watch the oral arguments in the case, but students don’t always do the “extra reading.” But Joseph was thinking and acting like a lawyer.

After hearing argument, Judge Farah ordered an evidentiary hearing to consider new evidence, including DNA evidence that identifies a second man never charged with the crime. Joseph had to remind the judge that the hearing would have to be scheduled after the July bar exam.

Joseph promised Mr. Molina that he would follow through with his case to the end.  Joseph has stayed on with the project to do just that. You can’t argue with that.

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Law School Transforms into Actual Court: Students Get to Listen and Learn

Western Michigan University Cooley Law Tampa Bay recently got to host, for the second time, the Second District Court of Appeals. “It is a rare and amazing opportunity for students to see an actual Appellate court session with working attorneys offering oral arguments and those attorneys being asked questions by the judges,” exclaimed WMU-Cooley student Kimberly Canals Simpson.  

In fact, she felt that students and faculty alike were riveted for hours listening to the three arguments, which included two criminal cases and one civil cases. The cases were heard by Judge Edward C. LaRose, Judge Samuel J. Salario, Jr., and Judge Daniel H. Sleet.

The 120 person Courtroom Classroom at WMU-Cooley was packed with law students and local attorneys. All there to listen and learn. The three judges agreed. This is exactly the kind of opportunity every law student should experience before they ever graduate.

After the conclusion of the court session, the three judges came back into the Appellate Courtroom without their robes and allowed the Cooley students to ask any questions they had about the appellate process, what judges are looking for in an intern and many other subjects.  It was a great day to observe the Second DCA’s docket and as a fantastic opportunity to educate and train law students in court procedure.

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This is the third time in the last two year that the Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal held oral arguments at WMU-Cooley Law School’s Tampa Bay campus. The law school’s state-of-the-art courtrooms transform easily into a court site for students, attorneys, and other members of the public.

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Military Feature Sierra Whitaker-Davis: Law Profession Shares Military Values of Integrity, Service, and Excellence

WMU-Cooley, as a military-friendly and designated Yellow Ribbon School, talks to its military students, faculty and graduates about their journey from the military to law school and about their career goals. This month we feature WMU-Cooley law student Sierra Whitaker-Davis. Sierra is a  Master Sergeant with the United States Air Force Reserve.

Military rank and title: Master Sergeant (E7), United States Air Force Reserve

Why did you decide to go to law school and why did you choose WMU-Cooley: I decided to go to law school for various reasons. When I did decide to go to law school, I was still on active duty and stationed in Germany. I took the risk of applying to various law schools in hopes that once I was selected that I would be able to leave the active duty sooner than expected. Stars aligned and not only was I accepted to law schools, but I was also granted the opportunity to go into the Air Force Reserves and maintain my rank. I knew at that time it was meant to be for me. I chose WMU-Cooley due to its location and it being a flexible schedule. I am able to manipulate each term schedule to meet my rigorous personal schedule, as well as make time for internships. There is no other law school that has the flexibility that Cooley has when it comes to how many credits are taken during a term and the time of day that the courses are held. Additionally, the staff and professors are fantastic.

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Military Experience: Joining the Air Force is one of the best decisions I have ever made for my professional career. It granted me the opportunity to perform a job that would not have been experienced in the civilian world. Right after basic training, I was hand selected to join the elite honor guard in Washington D.C., which provides presidential support ceremonies as well as providing honors for the fallen in Arlington National Cemetery. This experience allowed me to march in President Reagan’s funeral procession, provided ceremonial honors to Chief Justice Rehnquist, various Tomb of the Unknown Soldier wreath- laying ceremonies, and much more. After that tour, I became a logistic planner. This job (which I still work) has afforded me the opportunity to deploy in support of OIF, OEF, as well as other operations. After over 10 and half years of active duty, I have joined the Reserves out of MacDill Air Force Base. The Air Force is rewarding and my love for the military will keep me around until I am forced to retire. I am looking forward to my second career in practicing law. I appreciate that the profession shares the same level of integrity, service, and excellence that I abide by.

Career Goals: I love the military and plan to utilize my degree to join the JAG Corps Reserve. With my civilian career, I am pretty flexible. After interning with various governmental agencies in the Tampa area, including a judicial internship with a circuit court judge, an appellate state court judge, assisting the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the State Attorney’s Office, I believe that I will end up working for the government at some point. However, there is so much to learn in the civilian sector and I do have an interest in international law, contracts, and other transactional areas of law. In the end, my goal is to be successful in the law. “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” ― Abraham Lincoln

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Tell us a little about you: I am pleased to say that I am Californian, though I haven’t lived there in the last 12 years. I have been married to my best friend for seven years and am a full time mother to my two step-daughters that are now 13 and 9. They keep us very busy with their various activities. I also raised my baby sister during her teen years, who I am very proud of. She is a soldier in the Army National Guard and will be attending the police academy to become a law enforcement officer. Her twin, my other sister, has followed in my footsteps and is currently active duty Air Force. Traveling is the favorite activity that our family likes to do. We will take weekend trips and week-long trips, sporadically throughout the year. I am a huge animal lover (and so are my girls), as a result we have three cats and a greyhound. I love to support local animal charities. Lastly, you can find me most of the time in the gym, reading an autobiography, or making time for friends and family.

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