By Becky Freligh, Law School Development
Would you like to join a network of 25,000 people? If you’re an attorney in Ohio, Jonathan Hollingsworth, '83, knows just the group for you.
Last month Hollingsworth was chosen president-elect of the Ohio State Bar Association and will take office as president July 1, 2013. Involved in bar activities for 22 years, he's not shy about touting the profession and its practitioners.
"I have always seen the legal profession as the greatest profession there is," says Hollingsworth, principal in the Dayton firm of J. Hollingsworth & Associates LLC. "I think we're the key to a constitutional democracy, and I enjoy the opportunity of helping lawyers fulfill that role."
Topping his list of goals as a state bar leader is expanding membership to include more of Ohio's 50,000 registered lawyers. Membership poses a challenge for all bar associations, Hollingsworth says, and with the profession in transition, he believes the Ohio group must widen its focus from specific locales to the entire state.
"Sixty-five percent of the Ohio State Bar Association's members work in solo and small firms, defined as fewer than 20 lawyers, many outside of Ohio’s major metropolitan areas," says Hollingsworth. "To meet the needs of Ohio lawyers in the years to come, we need to encourage membership from lawyers in the cities as well as the smaller towns and provide the services Ohio lawyers need to serve their clients well in all areas of the state."
As part of his goal of identifying and nurturing the next generation of lawyers and bar leaders, Hollingsworth also plans major outreach to the state's affinity bar groups regarding the benefits of affiliating with the state association, whose advisory council on diversity initiatives he chaired since its inception.
"I want to make sure that we continue to have an open dialogue about those issues that gave rise to the necessity for the creation of an affinity bar, and about how affinity bars and organizations like the OSBA can work together," he says.
A native of Arkansas, Hollingsworth was 3 when his family moved to Lima, Ohio. He grew up in what he calls a poverty-rich environment, forming the aspiration to be a lawyer at 10. He had no role models or lawyers in the family. But he glimpsed the lawyer's ability to communicate in a way that changed lives, and he set his sights on attaining that goal.
"I knew in my heart and mind what my career path was going to be," he says, "and I never deviated from that path."
After graduating from Harvard University and Michigan Law, Hollingsworth practiced for 18 years in the Dayton office of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP. In 2001 he became a shareholder in the firm of Washington & Hollingsworth, and in 2004 he founded his current single-member LLC, concentrating on litigation, employment, corporate and business, insurance defense, medical malpractice, personal injury, and legal disciplinary matters.
Hollingsworth also has been active in numerous civic and charitable organizations that include the Dayton Bar Association and the Dayton Urban League. His resume reveals a common pattern to these activities: he gets involved and ends up at the top.
"It's ingrained in me, I guess, to want to try to lead an organization that I'm affiliated with and that I believe in," he says. "And I believe in the bar association."
Michigan Law students are, of course, awesome. So why not have one work for your firm or organization next year? OCI is in August. Join the party—check out more information, including an application, or contact Kim LeClair (email@example.com) for more details.
Michigan Law's official Facebook page is live! If you "like" it, we bet you'll love it. And while we're in social media mode, we hope you'll follow us on Twitter, too!
The Law School and The M Den have teamed up to make specialized Michigan Law apparel available 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 Law School student groups to help support their activities.
The program is similar to one available through a special Amazon.com link that sends back nearly 7 percent of purchase prices to help support Student Funded Fellowships at Michigan Law. Like the MLaw Marketplace program, purchases must be made through the special URL, and like the MLaw Marketplace program, the Amazon.com link will continue sending back benefits all year long.
July 11: Student-faculty ice cream social
By John Masson, Amicus editor
Twenty-seven years of bitter injustice ended at 1:20 p.m. June 6 when a prison door swung open in Carson City, Mich., and David Lee Gavitt walked out a free man.
Gavitt pushed an industrial laundry bin loaded with all his earthly possessions—two heavy steamer trunks and a typewriter—across the prison parking lot. But the unseen burden he carried with him was even heavier: his loss, to three wrongful murder convictions, of fully half of his life.
And even that wasn't the worst of it. He'd never been able to properly mourn the death of his wife and two tiny daughters, killed in the 1985 house fire that set him on a collision course with bad science and the criminal justice system. Because by the time his family was buried, Gavitt, who was seriously injured trying to rescue them from the fire, already had been locked up and falsely charged with murder.
When he was freed 27 years later, his lawyers from the University of Michigan Law School's Innocence Clinic—Imran Syed and Caitlin Plummer and professors Bridget McCormack and David Moran, '91—walked alongside him and helped him push his cart. It seemed only natural: they've been pushing for his release since September 2010, when then- second-year law students Plummer, Syed, and a third student, Max Kosman, all 2011 grads, read Gavitt's application and argued forcefully for the clinic to take his case.
"The moment…when David was released is one I can't describe," Syed said. "When the other prisoners saw us walking out with him, they applauded. It was an overwhelming moment, and one we hope will happen more often."
The moment was equally profound for Plummer.
"As the prison door opened, and I saw the expression on David's face, I was completely overcome with emotion," Plummer said. "Both immense joy that David finally had this freedom, but also a deep sadness that it took this long. Everyone was at a loss for words;—all we could do was hug him and wipe our eyes. It is a moment that I will never forget and one that will continue to inspire me as a lawyer."
Moran said Gavitt's case exemplifies problems with arson investigations from that era.
"We knew right away that this case happened during the Dark Ages of arson science," said Moran, who cofounded the clinic with McCormack. Gavitt is the sixth person freed during the clinic's three-year history. "This was during a time when poorly trained experts classified countless natural fires as arsons."
Gavitt's nightmare began to unfold on a cold March night in Ionia, Mich., in 1985 when his dog started scratching at his bedroom door. Gavitt opened the bedroom door to find his house in flames. He woke his wife Angie and told her to get their daughters, Katrinia and Tracy, while he went to a second bedroom and broke out a window, slicing open his forearm in the process.
But the heat and fire overcame him before he could get to his daughters' room, and he was driven out of the house. Badly burned and dripping blood from his forearm, he looped around and tried to get to his family from outside, but the girls' window was too high. Neighbors had to hold him back to keep him from running back into the flames.
Despite that, police and prosecutors from the start focused on proving the case was arson, Moran said—despite a complete absence of motive. They argued the fire was too hot and moved too fast to be accidental. Experts used now-debunked theories to convince jurors that gasoline had been poured on the floor. One test that supposedly proved the presence of gasoline was simply botched by a State Police crime lab technician.
Jurors convicted Gavitt and a judge sentenced him to life in prison without hope of parole, which is where his case stood until his application for help was reviewed by the Law School's Innocence Clinic, which focuses on non-DNA-based cases.
The clinic consulted Michael McKenzie, a lawyer for Cozen O'Connor in Atlanta who specializes in arson, who took on the case without charge. McKenzie sent the case to the leading American expert on arson, John Lentini, who concluded the fire wasn't fuelled by gasoline and there was "no evidence whatsoever of a crime."
The clinic petitioned an Ionia County judge for relief from judgment. The county prosecutor, who reviewed the information, asked a judge to sign an order granting Gavitt a new trial. But it's a trial that will never be held, because the prosecutor consulted his own experts, who confirmed that there was no gasoline on the carpet and the indicators of arson used back in 1986 are invalid today.
Moran and McCormack went to Ionia June 6 to pick up the court order freeing their client. Syed, now the Innocence Clinic's staff attorney, joined them, as did Plummer, now a staff attorney with the University of Wisconsin's Innocence Project. Other students who helped on the case, including Latoya Antonio, '10, and Kosman, couldn't make it back in time. But those who did were joined by McKenzie, who caught a flight when he heard, at 4 p.m. the day before, that Gavitt was about to be freed.
To minimize delay, workers in Ionia's old-fashioned courthouse faxed the fresh court order to the nearby prison.
When the team got to the prison, Gavitt was almost ready to go. Moments later, as he hurried across the prison parking lot, with the inmates in the exercise yard breaking into spontaneous cheers behind him, Gavitt asked Syed and Plummer for one more thing.
He wanted to be driven straight to the cemetery where his family is buried.
He got into Syed's car and rode a couple of dozen miles across mid-Michigan on the kind of glorious June day that can remind even a non-prisoner about how beautiful it is to be free.
Gavitt clambered out of the car at the graveyard. He paused a few moments, then, wordlessly, crossed the grass to the marble marker with its laser-etched picture of his wife and two daughters. He fell to his knees.
Long minutes passed while Gavitt knelt by the gravestone, touching it with his hand, occasionally resting his head on the sharp-cut edge. Wiping his eyes. The lawyers paced, or turned away to offer privacy. Most wiped their own eyes.
The spell wasn't broken until Gavitt's relatives, summoned by Gavitt's lawyers, began arriving at the graveyard in a medley of joyous hugs, commingled with bittersweet tears over the years lost.
"I never thought it would happen," Gavitt told his lawyers at one point. "All of you guys, I can't express. ...The words, I just can't find. You're above just superior people. Thank you so much. I don't know what else to say."
"Thank you is enough," Moran replied.
Later, Gavitt turned to one of his sisters.
"Honest," he said. "I thought I was going to die in there."
By John Masson, Amicus editor
A newly released analysis of laws covering hydraulic fracturing in Michigan and Ohio, produced by environmental law students and faculty at Michigan Law, aims to determine whether state laws are up to the task of balancing the benefits of producing more natural gas with the environmental risk of doing so through the controversial method of "fracking."
Hydraulic fracturing—which forces water and chemicals into the earth to break up tight geological formations that otherwise would prevent the extraction of oil and gas—has been in use in shallow wells in Michigan for more than 30 years. But the method is now being used in deeper wells and also in wells drilled horizontally, which raises a number of issues, said Sara Gosman, a Michigan Law lecturer and a water resources attorney with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Gosman authored the report with Michigan Law students Scott Robinson, 3L, and Susie Shutts, 3L, along with recent Michigan Law grad Joey Friedmann, '11.
The report was released June 21 during a conference call with reporters from Ohio and Michigan.
"My goal for this project was to engage the students in an interesting legal research project that has real-world implications," Gosman said. "The students did a great job of thinking through the complex legal issues, particularly on such a controversial topic."
The report examined the three primary environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing for water resources: the large amount of fresh water that's removed permanently from the environment during the process, potential contamination from work in and around the wells, and disposal of chemically treated water after it's been used for fracking.
While the analysis found that Michigan and Ohio law provides some protections, it also determined that more could be done. Among other findings and recommendations:
Friedmann, who worked in mining finance before attending Michigan Law and is now working on his master's degree in U-M's Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, enjoyed the analysis process and feels optimistic about the future of hydraulic fracturing technology in Michigan and Ohio—provided it's properly regulated.
"I'm pro-production," Friedmann said. "I think there's no reason why fracking can't be done in a manner that is safe for the environment. It just needs a closer look. Like any technological advancement, it has a few question marks next to it, and the regulation in this country sometimes takes a while to catch up."
Shutts, now entering her third year at Michigan Law, spent about a year working on various phases of the project.
"It was great to work on this as a group, because we were able to talk through the technical parts of the process and the statutes and regulations together, and build off of one another's research," Shutts said.
The project was co-sponsored by NWF and Michigan Law. Financial support was provided by the National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi. The views in the report are those of the authors and NWF.
By Lori Atherton
It's not uncommon for Clinical Prof. Don Duquette, '75, to encounter past Bergstrom Fellows at conferences and lectures throughout the country. Since the Bergstrom Child Welfare Law Summer Fellowship began in 1995, hundreds of aspiring child welfare lawyers from law schools across the United States have been nurtured in their chosen career path thanks to the training they received from the Child Advocacy Law Clinic.
"There are a lot of students who aspire to do this sort of work, but they need encouragement even in law school," said Duquette, who has been involved with the program since its inception. "I think of the Bergstrom Fellowship as one of the first steps on a career ladder that can create leaders in child welfare in America. We want the students to know not only how socially valuable the work is, but also how intellectually challenging it is. The law in this area is developing at a huge and rapid rate, and it requires lawyers to synthesize information from other areas, including medicine, psychiatry, and social work. We want them to be inspired."
The 25 Fellows—including six Michigan students—participated in a three-day training at the Law School on May 21–23. They recieved an overview of the child welfare system and its pressing issues from experts in the field, said Clinical Assistant Prof. Joshua Kay, the director of this year's training. After the training, the Fellows went to placements in child welfare law around the country.
"I want Fellows to come away with a sense of the pressing issues in child welfare law and policy, and what kids and families go through in this system," Kay said. "They don't need to come away with a particular knowledge of Michigan's child welfare law, because they might be going to Oregon. I want them to come here and get a really good overview of what the system is all about."
Kay was charged with planning this year's speakers and topics, with the goal of focusing on important areas of child welfare law, including "Child Development and the Impact of Trauma," "Drug Abuse and Parenting," and "The Relationship Between Lawyers and Social Workers." A particular highlight was the keynote speech given by Kevin Ryan, a renowned child law advocate and president and CEO of Covenant House International, an organization aiding homeless youth.
"While we can't encapsulate everything about child welfare in a three-day span," Kay said, "we're very excited about the opportunity to give students a real launching pad to have a great educational experience for the rest of the summer in the field they've chosen."
The Bergstrom Fellowship program began in 1995 with a three-year grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, as a part of the foundation's Families for Kids Initiative. The Bergstrom Fellowship is now funded by a gift from the Bergstrom Foundation in honor of the late Henry A. Bergstrom, '35, that covers the Fellows' living expenses during the training as well as each Fellow's travel costs to Ann Arbor and then to his or her placement (up to $500).
Selection criteria for Bergstrom Fellows include evidence of commitment to the field of children's law, past experiences related to children and family, and performance indicative of likely future success in the field.
"It's a great feeling to look at the applications, and to see the students and how primed they are for this," Kay said. "It's just a particularly exciting chance for them and for us."
"I'm impressed with the quality of students that apply," added Duquette. "I love seeing their youthful idealism. It reminds me of why we do this work in the first place."
By Lori Atherton
When the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hosted a committee hearing June 12 regarding the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Michigan Law Prof. Samuel Bagenstos was one of several experts who provided testimony in support of the proposed legislation. If passed, ENDA would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
"ENDA is an exceptionally important bill and one that is much needed," Bagenstos said during the hearing, the first one on ENDA since 2009. "It will be the logical next step in our nation's commitment to eradicating workplace discrimination."
An expert in civil rights and employment discrimination law, and the former number-two official in the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, Bagenstos made three "essential points" during his testimony: "Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals is a serious problem; the current legal regime is inadequate to respond to that problem; and, ENDA is an appropriately tailored remedy for that problem."
LGBT individuals face tough choices in the workplace, Bagenstos said, including being forced to give up job opportunities in their chosen field because of discrimination, or having to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity in order to keep their jobs, "at great psychological cost and [with] fear of discovery."
Bagenstos said current laws addressing discrimination against LGBT persons are inadequate—only 16 states and Washington, D.C., prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Another five states prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation but do not include any prohibition on gender identity discrimination.
"The enforcement procedures and remedies for those statutes vary," he said. "They do not provide the clear and strong set of remedies—crucially including access to federal courts—that Congress has developed for workplace discrimination over the past five decades. And LGBT workers outside of those states enjoy no clear state statutory protection against discrimination at all."
He added: "In responding to these problems, ENDA would do nothing more than extend to sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination the same basic legal structure that has applied to other forms of employment discrimination for nearly 50 years."
By Katie Vloet
From the beginning of the planning process, leaders of the University of Michigan Law School sought ways to make the new South Hall academic building a sustainable structure. That effort has been recognized with the newly awarded LEED Gold certification rating.
The 100,000-square-foot building's LEED score of 44 placed it solidly in the Gold category, which ranges from 39 to 51 points. LEED, or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a rating system designed by the U.S. Green Building Council to evaluate the sustainability features of structures.
"We are very pleased by the LEED Gold certification, and also very proud of how we went about achieving it," said Dean Evan Caminker. "We wanted to make sure everything we were doing was sensible and appropriate for the building, as well as sustainable. We made an effort to seek LEED points by doing only things that would work well for the building and the people who use and maintain it."
South Hall, which opened to the public in January 2012, is a four-story building that combines a nod to history—the use of exterior stone from the same quarry used in the much-older Hutchins Hall, for example—and new features, such as wiring for modern technology.
LEED points were awarded in a number of categories, including the materials and resources used to construct the building, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design. Dual-flush toilets and low-flow sinks added points for water efficiency; high-efficiency HVAC systems and sensors that reduce indoor lighting with increased daylight contributed to the points awarded in the energy and atmosphere category.
"We have sophisticated lighting and HVAC systems, the likes of which have never been seen on this campus," said Michele Frasier Wing, '98, director of finance and planning at the Law School.
She also pointed out that some of the energy-efficiency standards are more difficult to achieve because of the school's geographic location. "Our systems have to deal with a range of 100 degrees in a year, which is a much bigger challenge than more temperate climates," she said.
Some of the systems are extremely complex. The intricate Quantum lighting system alone, for instance, required a three-day training session for Lois Harden, facilities manager for the Law School.
Sustainability was a clear focus throughout construction, Harden added, because an employee of Walbridge, the construction management company, constantly monitored and tracked all the materials that contractors were using.
Michigan Law students were actively engaged in the project from the outset. While the Law School always planned to make the building sustainable, some students urged the school to seek LEED certification for the project as well. Sarah Bullard, '10, who was one of those students was pleased to hear the news of the LEED Gold certification.
"All along, we wanted to make sure the new building was beautiful but also sustainable, and for the Law School to be mindful of its impact," Bullard said. "They've done that, and I'm very happy that we were able to not just meet our goal of getting LEED certification, but to exceed it."
David Uhlmann, the Jeffrey F. Liss Professor from Practice and the director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program, served on a subcommittee that advised the South Hall building committee on environmental issues.
"The fact that the new building attained LEED Gold certification
speaks volumes about the commitment of the Law School to the environment,
in both words and deeds," he said.
This latest LEED certification comes only weeks after the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women's Hospital was awarded LEED Silver certification, and makes the Law School addition the fourth building on the Ann Arbor campus to achieve a LEED certification. The Samuel T. Dana Building in the School of Natural Resources and Environment is Gold certified, and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business building is Silver certified.
Terry Alexander, executive director of U-M's Office of Campus Sustainability, lauded the project as not only an example of the university's commitment to sustainable building design and construction, but to the teamwork required to execute a complex project in an environmentally sound manner.
"This LEED Gold certification for the Law School addition is another example of the commitment from the University of Michigan toward sustainability in all that we do," said Alexander. "It also is an example of the great team of people we have at U-M. By combining the expertise from the Architecture, Engineering and Construction group, the Law School, our Occupational Safety and Environmental Health and Plant Operations professionals, along with our external partners, we were able to go beyond what we thought possible to deliver a wonderful building that is environmentally friendly."
Before starting classes on May 31, summer starters spent two days learning about the Law School and taking part in community service projects in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Nearly 90 summer starters chose to get a jump start on law school rather than begin classes in the fall.
Summer Starters: View all 133 images (and tag yourself!) in our Facebook gallery.
All photos, excluding Service Day images, by Leisa Thompson Photography.