University of Michigan Law School - June 2010 Amicus


In a New York Times op-ed, Prof. David Uhlmann considers criminal prosecution as a possible outcome of the BP oil spill.


Prof. Bridgette Carr tells Voice of America how the U.S. provides a market for human trafficking.

Prima Facie

Michigan Law Alumni and Friends' second annual Service Day took place on Saturday, May 1. This year it went international.

Ypsilanti Mock Trial Squad Goes Big-Time With Help from Michigan Law

By John Masson, Amicus Editor

At first glance, Ypsilanti High School might not seem to have much in common with the exclusive University of Detroit Jesuit High School.

Second glance, too.

But that didn't stop Ypsi's scrappy and meticulously prepared mock-trial team from splitting with one of the state's most powerful teams at this spring's competition. The decision helped the Ypsilanti team—coached by volunteer students from Michigan Law's Future Advocates in Training (FAIT) group—advance to the state finals.

The finals appearance vindicated the hard work of both the high school students and their mentors, including dozens of Michigan Law students and faculty members.

"The kids' goal this year was to make states, and it's tough," said Michael Adler, who will be a Michigan Law 3L this fall and who was the team's advocacy chair and head coach. "You only have three trials, and you can do really well in the first two and badly in the last one, and that's it, you're not going to make it."

FAIT was organized by Michigan Law students in 2008 with mock-trial competition specifically in mind. The goal was to improve the odds for success—in mock-trial competitions, and in life—of high school students in some of Michigan's economically struggling communities. The group decided on Ypsilanti High School as a promising proving ground, and began working with teachers and students there.

Adler became involved with the team at the end of the last school year. He worked over the summer, meeting with mock-trial coaches and talking about the competitions with friends who had done high school mock trial in Michigan.

The competitions, a sort of cross between theater and moot court, call on 10-person teams to write and perform the parts of lawyers and witnesses on both sides of the argument, based on a set of facts established beforehand.

The case they argued this year, Adler said, was basically a homicide: the defendant was accused of murdering a fellow student following an episode of academic cheating. The fictitious victim was found dead after spending time alone with the defendant during a rock-climbing expedition.

"Of course, there are some schools that have more resources: attorneys coming in to coach, more time, more money," Adler said. "For example, Kalamazoo Central, the winningest team in the state, has a full-time teacher helping out and volunteer attorneys who come in and coach. Ypsilanti, until FAIT came along, didn't have anything like that."

But after FAIT arrived, an infusion of student and faculty mentorship helped the Ypsi group grow and reach its potential. FAIT's faculty advisor, Professor Sam Gross, was particularly dedicated to helping students achieve a more nuanced understanding of the law, Adler said.

"He came up with a lot of suggestions and actually judged a full scrimmage for the kids," Adler said. "Professor Gross was definitely the guy. It was great having him; he's a national expert on the rules of evidence, and I felt very comfortable, especially in trial competition, that the kids knew the rules of evidence really well."

Other prominent Michigan Law participants this year included co-coach Steve Shellenbarger and FAIT founder Brittlynn Hall, who earned her J.D. this year. The Black Law Students Association also pitched in.

Adler said he enjoyed his work with the group and likely learned as much from them as they learned from him—mostly about teaching.

"The hardest lesson is confidence," he said. "We struggled with confidence right up until the very end. It wasn't until they started scrimmaging more and whupped a team of law students that they started to realize, 'Hey, we're not half bad at this.' Even when we weren't doing mock trial, if someone wasn't speaking loudly enough or not speaking confidently enough, we'd call them out. It was something we were trying to instill across the board. And by the end of the year, they had that swagger."

The surging self-confidence has paid off, he added. All six seniors on the team are slated to attend college this fall—three of them at Michigan.

The Ypsilanti squad ultimately finished the season with a fourth-place trophy after losing a close-fought finals competition with crosstown rival Ann Arbor Community High School, the top seed. But nobody was too discouraged.

"To go up against some of these powerhouse schools and do so well, they should feel good about it," Adler said. "And going to states, that was just the icing on the cake."

A Posthumous Win for Baseball Icon Branch Rickey
Commemorative Video Receives Emmy Award

By Linda Fitzgerald

To anyone who loves baseball, Branch Rickey, '11, is a familiar name—and the stuff of legends. He invented the farm team system. He developed the first spring training facility. He was the first general manager to use batting helmets, pitching machines, and batting cages. He introduced the concept of statistical analysis, otherwise known as sabermetrics. And he was the only baseball executive of his time to have earned a law degree.

Any one of these achievements would have made Rickey a notable figure in baseball history.

But today he is best remembered for another reason. In 1947, as general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, he transformed baseball—and American society—forever. With the stroke of a pen, he broke the sport's color line by signing Jack Roosevelt ("Jackie") Robinson to the team. Two years earlier, he had bridged the color barrier in the minor leagues by signing Robinson to the Montreal Royals.

Celebrating a Milestone, Honoring a Legend
Those trailblazing actions exemplify the values of Rickey's alma mater, Michigan Law. So it seemed only appropriate that his contributions should be commemorated during the School's 150th anniversary celebration in 2009.

Thus it was that the University of Michigan commissioned a video depicting the life and times of one of the Law School's most iconic graduates. Entitled "Branch Rickey: A Matter of Fairness," the 30-minute documentary was produced by Christopher Cook of Metrocom International, with assistance from sports writer John U. Bacon.

The film, which was funded by the U-M Office of the Vice President for Communications, ran for several months on the Big Ten Network. In April of this year, it was awarded a 2009 Emmy from the Michigan Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Commenting on the video and the award, Dean Evan Caminker noted that "Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson changed sports and society with the courageous integration of Major League Baseball, which, in turn, paved the way for integration of the military and schoolhouses across the land. This film tells the story of Rickey's life and accomplishments, including his time as a Michigan Law student and as the University's baseball coach. It is a story, and a legacy, of which we are very proud."

A Transforming Moment
Rickey's decision to integrate Major League Baseball was actually the result of an incident that had occurred some 40 years earlier. In April of 1901 then-coach Branch Rickey took his Ohio Wesleyan baseball team on a road trip to South Bend, Indiana, for a game with Notre Dame.

During room check-in, the desk clerk noticed Charles Thomas, an African-American and one of Rickey's best players. While all the other team members were assigned rooms, Thomas was refused accommodation. "He can't stay here" was the clerk's final comment—words that Rickey would never forget. From that moment forward, he vowed to correct racial injustice, when and if he could.

The Power of Change
For Rickey, baseball was both a profession and a passion. By the time he enrolled at the Law School in 1909, he had played professional baseball for four years in addition to earning two college degrees. In Ann Arbor, he quickly landed a job as coach of the U-M baseball team—and still managed to earn his LL.B. degree.

Rickey left the U-M team in 1913 to become general manager of the St. Louis Browns. By 1920, he was team president and manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

In 1942, Rickey signed on as general manager for the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was a position of great power and possibility. And by 1945, he was telling friends and colleagues, in strict confidence, that he planned to bring a black baseball player into the major leagues.

As the staunchly religious Rickey noted in a 1947 interview: "I cannot face my God much longer knowing that his black creatures are held separate and distinct from his white creatures in the game that has given me all that I can call my own."

Safe at Home
With the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1947, Rickey achieved his grand ambition—and kept a promise he had made to himself decades earlier. But there was still more to do. In 1955, as president of the Pittsburgh Pirates, he drafted Roberto Clemente, who eventually became the first Hispanic American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1967, two years after his death, Rickey himself was named to the Hall of Fame. And in 2009, he received quite a different honor: With contributions from principal owner of the NY Mets Fred Wilpon, former Chicago Cubs owner Sam Zell, '66, and Major League Baseball, the Branch Rickey Collegiate Professorship of Law was established at the University of Michigan.

Media Look to Law School Faculty to Explain BP's Liability

By Clarissa Sansone

As the two-month-long Gulf oil spill continues, the press wants to know how BP, Halliburton, and Transocean will pay—literally and legally—for what is being described as the worst environmental disaster in history. While media outlets explore the legal ramifications of the spill, from the settlement of individual damage claims to the likelihood of felony charges, they are looking to Michigan Law for its expertise.

With seven years' experience as head of the Justice Department's environmental crimes section, Professor David Uhlmann, director of the School's Environmental Law and Policy Program, has provided detailed insight into the legal consequences of the spill. In addition to his New York Times op-ed, Uhlmann has appeared on NPR, CNN, and Countdown with Keith Olbermann, and has been quoted in Time and the Wall Street Journal.

In addition, visiting professor and 1998 graduate Noah Hall, who is Executive Director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, has appeared on PBS's NewsHour and Aljazeera's Riz Khan show, and was quoted in USA Today.

The Law School has a rich and well-established tradition of environmental law. In addition to Professors Uhlmann's and Hall's contributions, Professor Ted Parson, an expert in international environmental law and policy, has served on the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Advancing the Science of Climate Change, which recently released its report. Professor Nina Mendelson, a former attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, currently serves as a special legal advisers to the NAFTA Commission on Environmental Cooperation. Michigan Law attracts–and produces—great practitioners in environmental law, remaining at the forefront of a field growing ever more relevant as the use and regulation of natural resources become increasingly significant in our courts and our culture.

Genser, '01, Wins 100k Prize for Humanitarian Efforts

While he was a student at Michigan Law, Jared M. Genser, '01, spent a life-changing summer working for a human rights organization in London. Within a year, he had co-founded Freedom Now, a nonprofit organization dedicated to securing the release of international prisoners of conscience. On June 7, he was awarded The Charles Bronfman Prize, which seeks "to bring public recognition to individuals whose Jewish values infuse their humanitarian accomplishments." Genser, a partner in the Washington, D.C., firm of DLA Piper LLP, has donated the $100,000 prize to Freedom Now.

In the News

Dean Evan Caminker joins other law school deans in discussing Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, reports The Christian Science Monitor

In the Detroit Free Press, Prof. J.J. Prescott weighs in on a current lawsuit against restaurant chain Hooters.

Prof. Jill Horwitz was featured on NPR's Morning Edition, talking about the implications of Vanguard's possible purchase of the Detroit Medical Center.

Prof. Horwitz commented on a separate hospital purchase in The Boston Globe as well.

Ron Garber, '07, was recently awarded a fellowship from PeacePlayers International (PPI), a global nonprofit that uses the game of basketball to unite and educate young people in divided communities.

Prof. Nico Howson peers into the Chinese boxes of offshore holding companies for Dow Jones Investment Banker.

Prof. Bridgette McCormack talks to Michigan Radio about an Innocence Clinic client that may get clemency and tells WJBK Fox 2 how the clinic's work with the wrongly convicted makes a case for keeping the death penalty out of Michigan. Prof. McCormack also commented on one of the clinic's current cases, which has hit a roadblock, on WWMT Newschannel 3.

Prof. Richard Friedman
, in the Detroit News, and Prof. Eve Brensike Primus, in the Detroit Free Press, comment on a Supreme Court decision that raises questions about whether remaining silent waives one's right to remain silent.

Coming Up

Alumni Events

Michigan Law is taking its annual summer road trip with events for alumni and current students in major cities nationwide. Highlights include baseball outings in Los Angeles and Detroit, with receptions in six other cities. To RSVP for any of these events, please e-mail or call (734) 615-4535.


Have a story of interest to fellow alumni? Contact Amicus editor John Masson, Media Relations Officer for Michigan Law, at or call 734.647.7352.