News from Michigan Law School
Volume 13.2 4.2020

Professor Rich Friedman was featured in a CNN video about college campuses utilizing virtual teaching methods in an effort to contain coronavirus outbreaks. "The transition from our traditional modes of instruction to online teaching unfolded incredibly quickly and, as you can imagine, it's been a heavy lift," said Gil Seinfeld, associate dean for academic programming and the Robert A. Sullivan Professor of Law. "Still, all things considered, that transition has gone remarkably smoothly. We've encountered only a modest number of technological glitches, and reports from both faculty and students have been largely (indeed, overwhelmingly) positive. Our IT staff did incredible work to get the faculty up to speed on the tools they'd need to deliver instruction remotely, and faculty members have worked hard to modify their approaches in light of the new medium for teaching and learning. The students, meanwhile, have been amazing. I'm teaching Civil Procedure to a class of 80 students this semester and, through all of the dislocation and pressure associated with this crisis, the students have proven resilient. They 'show up' to class, they engage, and they do their best to learn under immensely challenging conditions. I'll be delighted when we can all return to the Law School buildings and resume in-person instruction, but I'm so impressed with how our community has responded to these challenges."
Visit our information page about the Law School's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

View a slideshow of Law School images taken during the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Honoring the Class of 2020

Help us celebrate Michigan Law's Class of 2020 on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook by sharing your favorite photos, memories, and congratulations and using the hashtag #UMichLaw2020. Our graduation website, which will go live on May 8, 2020, will collect all of the posts to a single place for graduates and the rest of the community to see. 

Clinics Help Those Affected by Coronavirus

Michigan Law students continued to help clients remotely while finishing their classes for the semester. The following are just a few of the ways student-attorneys assisted community members who are impacted by COVID-19.

Student-attorneys in the Environmental Law & Sustainability Clinic, in response to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order that water access should be restored throughout the state, are working with communities in Detroit and Hamtramck to make sure people who have had their water shut off will now have it turned back on.

Students in the Michigan Innocence Clinic (MIC) are working on emergency, health-based clemency requests for innocence clients with underlying health conditions who will be at heightened risk from coronavirus in prison. In addition, MIC celebrated its 23rd exoneration when the order vacating client Kevin Harrington's conviction was signed and filed in the Wayne County Circuit Court on April 21.

Students in the Workers' Rights Clinic (WRC) have answered questions from hundreds of people filing for unemployment insurance for the first time. The students have created an FAQ resource to make this easier. Alumni have reached out to the clinic to offer help, and WRC student-attorneys have conducted at least 20 unemployment insurance hearings since mid-March. They trained the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic student-attorneys and faculty so that they can begin working on these cases as well.

Community Enterprise Clinic students continue to provide IP counseling to the Pingree Detroit denim company, a client that has begun making face shields to fight COVID-19.

The Civil Rights Litigation Initiative filed a friend-of-the-court brief in federal court in mid-April in a COVID-19-related case. The court hearing was done over the phone, and the clinic won the case. Students argued that the strict enforcement of state law requiring candidates to submit a specified number of the signatures to make it on the ballot is unconstitutional during the pandemic when a stay-home order makes it illegal to circulate petitions in person. The brief was filed on behalf of the ACLU of Michigan.

Public Service Celebrated at 'The Valiant' Storytelling Event 

When Lara Finkbeiner, Michigan Law's public interest director, created "The Valiant" storytelling event, it was with the mindset that public interest students could gather as a community and celebrate their reasons for pursuing this work. Little did she know it would be the last time the Law School’s public interest students would gather together before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the nation to shelter in place.

For the students who participated—Hetali Lodaya, Meredith Reynolds, Alex Gilewicz, and Brenna Twohy—it made an already-special experience all the more meaningful because it was the last event they were able to participate in as 3Ls.

"The COVID shutdown made The Valiant an unexpected and poignant end to my official law school involvement," said Reynolds. "It was truly special for me to show myself how far I had come during these past three years in finding my voice and my path in the law. It also was special to have one of my last times on campus be a time when I could give of myself to the community that has given so much to me."


Professor Ellen Katz Named 2020 L. Hart Wright Award Recipient

Michigan Law Professor Ellen Katz—who has been described by one student as "smart, engaging, and supremely kind"—has been named the 2020 recipient of the L. Hart Wright Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Katz said she is honored to receive the award. "The students here at Michigan are truly amazing," she said. "They are smart and insightful, committed, and empathetic. They challenge me every day to think critically about the issues we cover and to examine and appreciate new perspectives on and implications of foundational ideas."

Katz, the Ralph W. Aigler Professor of Law, writes and teaches about election law, civil rights and remedies, and equal protection. She joined the Law School in 1999. Her scholarship addresses questions of minority representation, political equality, and the role of institutions in crafting and implementing anti-discrimination laws. In addition, she created the Voting Rights Initiative at the Law School to provide data about the past and present status of minority participation in the political process. The findings have served to inform courts, Congress, and public debate.


New Student Life Deans

Two Michigan Law alumnae have been appointed deans in the Office of Student Life. Lindsey Stetson, '05, has been named assistant dean for student life and Kim D'Haene, '03, has been named assistant dean for student services.

Stetson has served as interim dean of students since January and as assistant dean of financial aid since 2015. She has held multiple positions in the offices of Admissions and Financial Aid, and also briefly worked with Professor Vivek Sankaran, '01, at his nonprofit organization, the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy. Stetson is a double Wolverine, receiving her BA in English in 2002 and her JD in 2005. After graduating from the Law School, she was an associate in the corporate and securities group at Miller, Canfield, Paddock, and Stone PLC. in Detroit and then in the corporate practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in Chicago.

D'Haene earned her BA in history and Spanish from Spelman College and her JD from Michigan Law in 2003. She has extensive experience working in academic administration and most recently has served as director of academic success at Georgia State University College of Law. Before that, she was an assistant dean of academic achievement at the John Marshall Law School. Following law school, D'Haene was an associate in the litigation group at Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan LLP in Atlanta.

Federal Appeals Court Rules that Detroit Children Have a Right to Education

In a 2-1 ruling in Gary B. v. Snyder, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled April 23 that children have a constitutional right to a basic minimum education. 

"[We agree with Plaintiffs'] central theory: that they have been denied a basic minimum education, and thus have been deprived of access to literacy," Sixth Circuit Court Judge Eric Clay wrote in his opinion supporting the plaintiffs. "A review of the Supreme Court's education cases, and an application of their principles to our substantive due process framework, demonstrates that we should recognize a basic minimum education to be a fundamental right. Furthermore, under this circuit's precedents, Defendants are proper parties to sue in this case. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the district court's order, and remand this case for further proceedings."

Gary B. v. Snyder was filed against former Gov. Rick Snyder, '82, and other Michigan state officials in September 2016 on behalf of Detroit schoolchildren, who attend five of the lowest-performing schools in the city. Three are public schools and two are charter schools. The suit argues that the schools named "are schools in name only, characterized by slum-like conditions, and lacking the most basic educational opportunities that children elsewhere in Michigan—and throughout the nation—take for granted. Plaintiffs sit in classrooms where not even the pretense of education takes place, in schools that are functionally incapable of delivering access to literacy."

Virtual SFF Auction a Success
The 2020 Student Funded Fellowships (SFF) Auction was moved online in March because of COVID-19 restrictions. The virtual silent auction, the progress of which could be viewed on SFF's Twitter page and Michigan Law's Instagram account, raised $35,947. Thanks to matching funds donated by Professor Robert Hirshon, '73, an additional $12,860 was raised, bringing the auction total to $48,807. According to the SFF Board, the organization has raised $122,585 this year as a result of generous support from faculty and administrators—who gave a recent $30,000 gift—firm sponsors, the Law Student Travel Accommodation Reimbursement Program, the Nannes 3L Challenge, Giving BlueDay, and other fundraising initiatives. "According to our records, this is the largest fundraising total in SFF history," said 3L Austin Del Priore, SFF co-chair. "We are incredibly grateful to each and every person who helped us to reach this goal."
Support Michigan Law
Many in our community have asked how they can help during these uncertain times. Gifts to the discretionary COVID-19 Response Fund will be used to address the most urgent needs of the Michigan Law community, including student emergencies, that arise as a result of the pandemic.
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