Samuel Bagenstos, the Frank G. Millard Professor of Law, was quoted in The New York Times regarding the lawsuit brought against Harvard and M.I.T. for failing to provide closed captioning in their online courses, lectures, and other educational materials. He also was quoted in The Huffington Post about the discrimination lawsuit that African American police officers brought against the city of Memphis.
Assistant Prof. Nick Bagley was quoted in The Huffington Post, The National Journal, and other media outlets about the Affordable Care Act case King v. Burwell, which goes before the U.S. Supreme Court next month.
Daniel Crane, the Frederick Paul Furth Sr. Professor of Law and associate dean for faculty and research, was quoted in Bloomberg News about the Koch Brothers and Sierra Club joining Tesla in the fight against dealers.
Phoebe Ellsworth, the Frank Murphy Distinguished University Professor of Law and Psychology, was quoted in a Boston Globe op-ed about the public's perception of the upcoming trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Richard Friedman, the Alene and Allan F. Smith Professor of Law, is quoted in The National Law Journal about Ohio v. Clark, a confrontation clause-case involving a three-year-old witness that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in March.
Samuel Gross, the Thomas and Mabel Long Professor of Law and editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, was quoted in Reuters, Time, Mother Jones, Newsweek, and other media outlets regarding the 2014 exonerations report he authored.
Richard Primus, the Theodore J. St. Antoine Collegiate Professor of Law, was quoted in the Newsweek story, "Descendants of Holocaust Survivors Reflect on Identify, Memory, and Faith."
Clinical Prof. Dana Thompson, '99, director of Michigan Law's Entrepreneurship Clinic, was sworn in as a governor on the Wayne State University Board of Governors on Jan. 30, 2015.
By Amy Spooner
Lawyers don't shy away from a challenge. They carefully construct their arguments, anticipate how to deconstruct their opponents', and present their cases.
Gordon Toering, '91, currently is trying a case in the court of public opinion. Old Fashioned, the first release by his film company, Skoche Films LLC, premiered nationwide on Valentine's Day—opposite the much-hyped Fifty Shades of Grey. Taglines like "Love is Anything but Grey" bill Old Fashioned as the antithesis of its rival—a story of platonic courtship. With a $600,000 budget and an opening weekend of approximately 220 screens, no one expects the film to garner Grey's buzz or revenue. Toering and his partners just wanted to produce a high-quality film that offered a different way of thinking of modern love, and a bit—a "skoche"—of inspiration.
"We wanted to move people, to give them a nudge," Toering said. "The movie involves less-than-perfect characters, and although it's Christian based, it's not preachy. I am proud that it has received very positive reactions in both the faith-based and mainstream markets."
Old Fashioned snagged Best in Fest honors at the Mt. Hood Independent Film Festival in Oregon, was a finalist for the Indie Vision Breakthrough Film Award at the Twin Cities Film Fest, and participated in the Northampton (Massachusetts) International Film Festival and Utah's Red Rock Film Festival. The film has been featured in media outlets as diverse as E!, Time, Fox News, and MTV.
And the opening weekend was a hit. Old Fashioned became the most successful faith-based film ever that opened on fewer than 300 screens. Based on the opening weekend success, the film expanded to more cities on the second weekend.
It adds up to a wild ride for Toering, a partner in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, office of Warner, Norcross & Judd LLP who practices business contracts and bankruptcy law.
Although he was building a successful career as an automotive engineer, Toering went to law school partly because he felt his career lacked a sense of purpose. And although he found his legal practice fulfilling, by 2004 Toering still felt like something was missing.
"Some people in the faith community were boycotting or trying to stop the media's portrayal of things they didn't like," Toering said. "Rather than criticize something I disagreed with, I thought it would be better to offer a positive alternative—but I didn't know how or where to start. It was just a nagging feeling."
As fate or luck or coincidence would have it, Toering saw an article about an upcoming local film conference sponsored by people of faith who were making a positive difference in the media. There Toering met Rik Swartzwelder, a filmmaker who ultimately would become his business partner in founding Skoche Films. Swartzwelder already had written the earliest iteration of the Old Fashioned script, and Toering and his wife sensed a winner. "It was funny, it was authentic, and the story arc was exceptional. It resonated with us, and we thought it would resonate with others."
The trio launched Skoche in 2007, setting an 18-month window to get Old Fashioned completed. But the ensuing global economic collapse provided more than a skoche of trouble. As capital dried up, they contemplated quitting—but a belief in the film's potential kept them going.
Swartzwelder and Toering rebuilt their investor base of "ordinary people, not heavy-hitters, who believe in what we're trying to do." Retooled under a smaller budget, the film was shot over six weeks in 2011. Post production dragged on because the streamlined budget meant that the editing, music selection, and other tasks fell to Swartzwelder, the Toerings, and the existing crew. Toering said the whole process offered learning curves as well as opportunities to tap his legal expertise, from reviewing contracts to seeing the big picture. "You learn all the pitfalls once you see the process unfold, like worrying about financing, illness, bad weather, and equipment breakdowns. But lawyers know how to take a lot of moving parts and piece them together by a deadline. I was the guy who always asked if we'd covered all our bases."
The delay became advantageous when they saw the opportunity to premiere Old Fashioned opposite Fifty Shades of Grey, and Toering is proud to finally have audiences see it en masse. "Even though it was low budget, I don't have to make excuses for the acting, the script, or the cinematography," he said. "It's a beautiful movie that broadens the conversation on what romance is."
Looking to spruce up your wardrobe? The Law School and M Den are proud to offer specialized Michigan Law apparel online through the MLaw Marketplace. A percentage of all sales on both MLaw Marketplace and the general M Den website (when it's accessed through MLaw Marketplace) comes back to the Law School to help support the activities of our student groups.
May 2: Alumni Service Day
June 18: D.C. Nationals Baseball Outing
June 25: San Francisco Giants Baseball Outing
By Katie Vloet
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is accustomed to being ahead of her time—and she thinks that her minority opinions in many U.S. Supreme Court cases might be as well.
"I like to think most of my dissents will be the law someday," Ginsburg said to thunderous applause Feb. 6 during the 2015 Tanner Lecture on Human Values at the University of Michigan's Hill Auditorium.
The justice participated in an engaging and spirited 90-minute conversation during which she spoke about milestones in her own life, as well as key moments in the legal history of the past several decades. She talked about her dissent in the Citizens United case in which the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on campaign finance. Ginsburg said that is the decision she would most want to see overturned. She also predicted that the pendulum would swing and that "there will come a time when people are disgusted" with the increasing influence of money in politics.
The 81-year-old justice also addressed the question of how long judges should serve. "As long as I can do the job at full steam, I will stay in it. But when I begin to slip, as I inevitably will, when that happens it will be the time to go," she said.
An opera enthusiast, Ginsburg told the audience of more than 3,000 people about an upcoming opera in which the characters are based on her, one of the Court's liberal voices, and Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative justices on the Court. Scalia/Ginsburg will premiere in Virginia in July. It opens, she said, with a "rage aria" by Scalia in which he asserts his strict-constructionist view of the Constitution. Ginsburg's character then sings an answering aria in which she points out that the Constitution, like society, can evolve. Scalia is later imprisoned in a dark room for "excessive dissenting." She rescues him in dramatic fashion, by breaking through a glass ceiling.
In other portions of the talk:
Ginsburg was the second woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court, following Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and the first female Jewish justice. President Bill Clinton nominated her in 1993. She previously was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a faculty member at Rutgers and Columbia, and founder of the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
This year's Tanner Lecture was presented by Michigan Law and the U-M Philosophy Department. Ginsburg was interviewed on stage by two of her former law clerks: Scott Hershovitz, professor of law and of philosophy and director of the Law and Ethics Program; and Kate Andrias, assistant professor of law.
By Jenny Whalen
When a Jibu franchise opens in Uganda or Rwanda—and provides a new community with access to clean, affordable drinking water—traces of that success are felt 7,500 miles away in the International Transactions Clinic (ITC) at Michigan Law.
The source of this shared sense of achievement is the social franchise agreement that ITC students have developed to facilitate Jibu's continued expansion in Africa.
"It has been not just a tremendous pleasure to work with the ITC, but essential to Jibu's success," said Randy Welsch, cofounder and U.S. CEO of Jibu. "We needed to get a social franchise agreement written properly and quickly to be used with our new franchisees who were launching water businesses in Uganda and Rwanda."
Knowing the clinic's reputation for providing top-notch transactional work to social enterprises, Welsch approached ITC Director Deborah Burand in September 2014 to inquire about becoming a client of the clinic. For Burand, the significance of this request went beyond day-to-day business.
"That Randy [Welsch] came to the clinic suggested to me that we have succeeded at our mission of developing world-class legal services for our clients," Burand said. "He didn't come purely for the pro bono benefits. He came for our world-class service. It's a wonderful affirmation of the reputation that our clinic has been able to grow."
Jibu, which signed on with the ITC in October 2014, employs a business model that invests in local entrepreneurs. As the water sector's only incubator, Jibu seeks to supply its franchisees with the tools they need to launch independently owned water treatment, packaging, and distribution centers in African communities. These franchises in turn make quality drinking water convenient and affordable to the communities they serve.
"This is usually called microfranchising, which suggests a small investment for the franchisee," said David Koch, the project's supervising attorney and a 1984 Michigan Law graduate. "In most cases the program is sponsored by an organization that is trying to have a social impact of some kind. In Jibu's case, they are trying to get clean water to communities, but also to enable local people to build a business that is sustainable in places where it is often difficult to start one."
Key to the success of this mission is the strength of the relationship between Jibu, its regional developers (who are essentially country directors), and its individual franchisees. With this need in mind, ITC student-attorneys Sarah Fries and Megan Staub, both 2Ls, were tasked with drafting a social franchise agreement that would define each party's responsibilities and protect the Jibu brand.
"We wanted to build from the bottom, so we began drafting an agreement between the regional developers and the franchisees," Fries said. "Our supervising attorney, David Koch, has been amazing. He let us take the lead on each draft and has only stepped in to help us fine tune. In a clinic you can sometimes feel as though you're doing shadow work, but there was real pressure here to get the agreement done because Jibu was going to implement it in 2015."
With the first agreement—between regional developers and franchisees—now in Jibu's hands, the ITC team has started drafting a second agreement concerning the relationship between regional developers and Jibu corporate.
"Sarah and Megan are doing real work for clients that I probably wasn't doing until I was five or six years into practice," Koch said. "The opportunity to work with the client directly, to sit in a meeting with him and ask questions about business, social objectives, and how the two work together, is not something you normally get during law school. This is a rare opportunity and one that will give them a big head start in their careers."
As Michigan Law students and faculty rush toward the end of the winter semester and graduation, there are plenty of activities to keep them hopping. Here, we've compiled some of the big events that are taking place at the Law School in upcoming months. If you're in Ann Arbor on one of these days—or any day, for that matter—stop by and see us.
March 13: Inaugural Brian Simpson Lecture: Gibbons v. Ogden, without the Commerce Clause: Of Steamboats, a River, Slaves, a Quarrelsome Family, a Bank, and the Legal Lives of Two Old Men, 4-6 p.m., Hutchins Hall 132. Free and open to the public.
Presenter: Hendrik Hartog, the Class of 1921 Bicentennial Professor in the History of American Law and Liberty and director of the Program in American Studies at Princeton University.
The biennial Brian Simpson Lectures in Legal History bring distinguished scholars to the University and reinforce the longstanding ties between the U-M Law School and the Department of History. This series honors the late Prof. Brian Simpson, who was internationally recognized as one of the most gifted and wide-ranging historians of the English common law. The lecture series is made possible by the generous support of the Thomas and Ruth Green Legal History Endowment.
March 19: Student Funded Fellowships (SFF) Auction
March 19-21: Preview Weekend for Admitted Students
April 9-11: Preview Weekend for Admitted Students
April 14: 90th annual Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition Finals
May 8: Honors Convocation
May 9: Senior Day