Frank J. Remington Center

Fall 2015 Newsletter


By Adam Stevenson, Deputy Director

Adam StevensonLike many of you who participated in one or more Remington Center clinics during your time in law school, my work with the students, staff and clients had a significant impact on the rest of my education and my career. During my time as an Oxford Federal Project student and a LAIP Project Assistant, I had an opportunity to see law-in-action and play a part in that action. What really stands out to me – and is echoed in the student stories below by Hannah Wrobel, Jeunesse Rutledge and Sofia Ascorbe – is the connections students make through their clinical experiences.

The most obvious, and most important, of those connections is that between the students and their clients. Frank Remington started the program to expose law students to the criminal justice system, and that evolved to contact with inmates, and eventually to representation. One of the most frequent comments from students about their time in the Remington Center is that they are thankful for the opportunity to meet and work with individuals whose lives they effect while learning to practice law.

Other connections are important to the students’ work at the Remington Center. For those who have been to our tight quarters, you know that students work nearly on top of one another. However, rather than this being a hindrance, it fosters connections among clinical cohorts and across projects. Learning to work with fellow students on a particular case, or bouncing ideas off classmates is a tremendous experience for students’ careers, and they will often share stories of their time in the Remington Center well after they leave our fourth floor offices.

Similarly, given the extensive work in the Remington Center, the ready availability of the supervising attorneys, and the students’ long hours over the summer and school year, the connection between student and supervisor is something unique in education. Supervising attorneys over the span of the year become bosses, confidants, professors, and coaches.

You, as alums and friends, are another valuable connection to the Remington Center and are essential for our students. You provide them inspiration, mentorship, encouragement, and often jobs. In addition, your donations to the Friends of the Remington Center Fund provide each summer clinic student with a stipend. Although these stipends are not large, they are greatly appreciated by the students. We hope you continue to give. Your gifts and other support help us build a community inside the Remington Center and beyond.

These connections within the Remington Center, and between the Remington Center and the legal community, our alumni, and our friends help us serve our students and clients. These bonds help us give life to the Wisconsin Idea by spreading our work throughout the state and beyond. When I think of the Remington Center, both as a former student and as a current supervising attorney, it is those connections that motivate me with every passing year.

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Remington Center Updates

Comings and Goings

Jeremy NewmanJeremy Newman, a clinical instructor with LAIP since 2012 (and before that was a clinical student with LAIP), will be leaving in January to take a position with the Appellate Division of the State Public Defender’s Office. Jeremy graduated from the Law School in 2012 and began immediately after graduation as a supervising attorney for LAIP. In his three-and-a half years with LAIP, Jeremy became a skilled teacher and an experienced litigator (his most recent success is set forth below in the story about State v. Anderson). He will be missed professionally and personally by the staff and students at the Remington Center.

Next month Margaret Maroney will return to the Remington Center for a third time; this time to fill in on a temporary basis as a clinical instructor with LAIP. She performed similar fill-in duties in 2014 for the Wisconsin Innocence Project. Margaret graduated from the Law School in 1978, clerked for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, worked for LAIP as a clinical instructor from 1979 to 1981, and then served as an Assistant State Public Defender in the Appellate Division until her "retirement" in 2009. Margaret now has a boutique pro bono immigration law practice.

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Staff News

Restorative Justice Project students Lexi Keyes, Anjali Patel and Brandon Tillman with RJP Director Jonathan ScharrerJonathan Scharrer, director of the Restorative Justice Project, was a member of a panel speaking on the topic of “Speakers from Practice: Restorative Justice and ADR in Practice” at Marquette University Law School in September. In October he spoke on restorative justice at the Dismas Prison Ministry regional conference.

Carrie Sperling, co-director of the Innocence Project, Interim Director of the Remington Center, and Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and Education Innovation, presented “Do Muddy Waters Shift Burdens?” a paper on metaphor and the burden of proof in DNA testing cases, at the Applied Legal Storytelling Conference in Seattle, Washington, in July. In August Carrie presented on shaken baby syndrome at a Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association Seminar in Austin. She presented “With Conviction: Reporting on Science in the Courtroom” at a workshop on Forensic Science and the Media at the University of Arizona in September. And in October, she presented on wrongful convictions and the Wisconsin Innocence Project at a class at the Green Bay Correctional Institution.

Adam Stevenson, director of the Oxford Federal Project and the Federal Appeals Project, and Deputy Director of the Remington Center, participated on the panel, "Criminal Justice Reform and the Clemency Movement," at "ClassCrits VIII-Emerging Coalitions: Challenging the Structures of Inequality," held at the University of Tennessee College of Law in October. Also in October, Adam presented a CLE talk, "The Three Cs: Credit, Classification, and Your Clients," hosted by Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin.

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Student Awards: Family Law Project Student Wins Loeb Family Law Scholarship

Clorissa Santiago (3L), a student in the Family Law Project in 2014-2015, was recently awarded the Leonard Loeb Family Law Scholarship by the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. The $5,000 award was established in memory of Leonard Loeb, a member of the Law School class of 1952, whose work in family Clorissa Santiagolaw was highly regarded. Clorissa is a highly deserving recipient.

Clorissa’s route to family law has not been an easy one. She grew up in Chicago in a family torn by incarceration and the resulting family law problems. Her father went to prison when she was eight years old, and he drifted in and out of prison throughout her childhood. Clorissa had almost no contact with her father once he went to prison. Her young mother struggled with unresolved family law issues that brought many difficulties and stress to herself and her children.

When Clorissa got to law school in 2013, she knew she wanted to pursue family law. After her first year she was accepted into the Family Law Project. “My own relationship with my father allowed me to fully understand and appreciate the great barriers that stand in the way of incarcerated parents maintaining relationships with their children, and how those barriers can affect a meaningful connection between the two. . . . The Family Law Project was the best experience I have had in law school thus far. It both ignited and solidified a passion to pursue family law as a career. I loved the work I did with FLP; I always felt so fulfilled helping people find solutions to their family law issues because I knew firsthand the stress and tension these issues can add to families, and if I can help a family solve these issues so that stress and tension is gone, then I know I helped make their family life a little bit better, and there is nothing more fulfilling than that.”

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Featured Articles

Reflections on Beginnings: LAIP and The Remington Center

By Walter Dickey, Professor Emeritus and Faculty Director of the Remington Center

Walter DickeyInnovation does not come easy in legal education. Witness the durability of large classes and the casebook method. So, when Frank Remington and I embarked on shaping what remains the most distinctive Program in the country, we realized the power of inertia and business as usual. But we were animated by a few simple beliefs.

The education of law students, for life not for instant practicality, was central to our purposes. We wanted students to learn how the criminal justice system actually operates, the law-in-action. We immersed students in the system, in LAIP, the Prosecution and Defense projects, and later Family Law, Restorative Justice, Oxford, Criminal Appeals, Wisconsin Innocence, and Federal Appeals projects (as well as other projects that no longer exist). We structured that experience to develop a sense of professional responsibility and to help the students understand the human consequences of conviction. Skills were secondary. To interview, to write, to gather facts, to propose solutions to the issues the students identified, all would come as corollaries of the core experience. As would the ability to work with others, to communicate and, of course, to develop curiosity, high standards and confidence, all necessary to launch a lifetime of learning.

In so doing, students would do service and help position the faculty to do it, too. We believed that the law school should have the capacity to improve the system, not by being critics, but as architects of a better system.

But to improve the system requires useable knowledge of the system, and such knowledge would be developed through engagement with the system, with victims, offenders, lawyers, correctional agents, and police. The Program offered that engagement. If we could develop knowledge of value to the systems’ many practitioners, maybe we could develop ideas for its improvement.

What better way to develop knowledge than what I came to think of as our many “probes” into the system? If we interviewed every new inmate, we should know something of the legal needs of inmates, and whether addressing them would help keep them out of prison. If our students were in 30 Prosecutors’ offices every summer, shouldn’t we be learning about how those mini-systems operate?

I believe the “Yield” has been contributions of great significance, whether it is expressed as the redrafting of vital parts of the criminal code, administrative rules for corrections, new approaches to policing and parole supervision, law review articles, and direct work with judges and many criminal justice agencies.

Our hope remains that the “Yield” is on going, in the contributions of current staff of the Program, and the many thousands of former students who benefited from the experience they had and carry that forward in their lifetime of professional endeavors.

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FJRC Celebrating Anniversaries of Serving the Criminal Justice System

Help us celebrate fifty years since the beginning clinical programming for Wisconsin's criminal justice system, and twenty years since the dedication of the Frank J. Remington Center.

Just over fifty years ago Professor Frank Remington began to involve University of Wisconsin law students in various aspects of Wisconsin’s criminal justice system. Just under fifty years ago legal interns were first made available to provide legal advice to prison inmates. Also, twenty years ago the "Frank J. Remington Center" was dedicated following his death. With your help, in 2016 the Remington Center will celebrate the anniversaries of clinical programming in support of the criminal justice system in Wisconsin and the establishment of the Remington Center.

Please send us remembrances of your time in any of the various clinics/externships. We are looking for memories of people (Frank Remington, Walter Dickey, other supervising attorneys and staff, clients, fellow students etc.), prison visits, car trips with other students to the prisons, etc. That is, any fond, funny, interesting or memorable recollections that you would be willing to share. We will compile these memories and make them available during the celebration for all to enjoy.

Watch for notices of events connected with our celebrations.

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LAIP Attorneys Win Sentence Adjustment Case in Court of Appeals

LAIP Clinical Instructor Jeremy Newman and former LAIP Clinical Instructor Sara Brelie earned a significant victory in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in November. The issue on appeal in their case was whether a defendant serving a misdemeanor prison sentence, enhanced by the defendant’s status as a repeat offender, is eligible for early release from prison after serving 75 percent of the initial confinement portion of his sentence.

Clinical Instructor Jeremy Newman and FJRC students at 2015 clinic fairIn State v. Anderson, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s denial of Anderson’s petition for sentence adjustment under Wis. Stat. § 973.195. In holding that Anderson was eligible to petition the court for early release, the court rejected the state’s arguments that the statute applied only to felons. The court agreed with Anderson that despite statutory ambiguity, it makes no sense to allow similarly situated felons to obtain early release while denying the same opportunity to those convicted of objectively less serious crimes. Unfortunately, the decision was too late to benefit Anderson, but it resolves a question left unresolved since 2003 and provides clarity to individuals, prosecutors, defense attorneys, courts, and the Department of Corrections going forward. The decision has been recommended for publication.

Facts of State v. Anderson Give Legal Writing Students a “Real” Case to Brief

In addition to the positive substantive outcome in State v. Anderson, the case provided an ideal educational experience for roughly 80 first-year law students. In the spring of 2015, Jeremy Newman and Clinical Associate Professor Mary Prosser worked with Legal Research and Writing (LWR) faculty Kim Peterson and Trina Tinglum to design an appellate brief-writing assignment for first year law students. LAIP clinical faculty made multiple visits to LRW classes to assign the case, present background materials, answer substantive and procedural questions, and help students understand how an active appeal is litigated. The students then wrote appellate briefs, half on behalf of Mr. Anderson and half on behalf of the state. One brief was a finalist in the law school’s annual “Best Brief” competition.

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Student Articles

Waiting for Dan Scheidell’s Freedom

By Sofia Ascorbe, 2L

I was sitting at my desk in the Remington Center, about to pack up for the day, when I absentmindedly hit refresh on my email. A subject line read “Scheidell decision/order.” I skimmed the last lines of the opinion, “entitled to a new trial….” These words, as little as they seemed in black text, would free Dan Scheidell after 20 years in prison. It wasn’t long afterward that we at the Wisconsin Innocence Project (WIP) learned “freedom” came with a price.

Although Mr. Scheidell’s convictions were vacated, and he was granted a new trial based on newly discovered evidence and the interest of justice, his bond was set at $125,000, and his medical care was severely compromised when he was moved from the Racine Correctional Institution to the Racine County Jail. Our task now was to get Mr. Scheidell out of jail while awaiting a new trial.

We submitted a bail modification motion. With Clinical Instructor Steve Wright and WIP students Melissa Zabkowicz and Neal Schlavensky, I headed to the Racine County Courthouse on July 17th, 2015. Steve Hughes, a former WIP student, met us there and argued on behalf of Mr. Scheidell. The judge granted our motion and ordered Mr. Scheidell freed on a co-signature bond that would allow him to live with his brother while awaiting trial. He would be able to take his medication with him upon release. We were smiles all around, not realizing that we would have an adventurous afternoon and evening before the release.

WIP students Melissa Zabkowicz and Sofia Ascorbe, Dan Scheidell, WIP intern Neal Schlavensky, Atty Steve HughesWe were told that paperwork would delay Mr. Scheidell’s release from the jail, so we decided to go out for lunch. After some debate, we headed to the closest Red Robin, which was in Kenosha. After lunch and multiple calls attempting to speed things up for Mr. Scheidell, we were told that 6 p.m. was the earliest he would be released. At this point, Steve Wright looked at us with a “are we really going to stay here all day?” glance.

We did. We chose an air-conditioned movie theater and Ant-Man, the Marvel Comics superhero film. We managed to stay awake for the better part of the movie until 5:45 p.m., when Steve Wright motioned for us to follow him out to get back to downtown Racine for Mr. Scheidell’s release.

While driving back, we were notified that the paperwork had not been filled out and we were facing more hours in Racine. To fill our time, we followed Steve Hughes to the scene of the original crime. While viewing the apartment building, a group of people with masks began walking toward us, on an otherwise desolate street. We hurried along. After this, with still time to spare, we grabbed ice cream in a more populated part of downtown. Finally, the call came from the jail.

We waited in one of the jail entrances for Mr. Scheidell’s brother to arrive and sign a co-signature bond. After what seemed like another eternity in our already long day, the bond was signed and Mr. Scheidell’s brother joined us at the jail entrance.

At 9:30 p.m., Mr. Scheidell slowly made his way to the entrance with a cane and two large clear bags filled with his possessions. Twenty years, and that’s all he had. That, and the biggest smile I had seen all day. He hugged us all. We took pictures, hugged again. Because Mr. Scheidell was on house arrest, we could not go out to celebrate with him; he would stay in his brother’s home. After a few of Mr. Scheidell’s jokes, including “I can’t see the fence, where’s the fence?” he stepped into his brother’s car. As the two of them drove off, my first thought was of the two of them back home, watching a movie over pizza surrounded by family. I’m not sure anyone could put a price on experiencing a simple pleasure like that after being deprived of it for two decades.

Mr. Scheidell was out of jail, he was safe, and he was happy; that’s all we could provide for him on this day. For those of us from WIP, the whole day—every weird, uncomfortable, and exhausting adventure—suddenly became one of the best days we will ever experience. Freeing Mr. Scheidell was an uphill battle, but Mr. Scheidell’s eternal optimism and the hard work and dedication of his many WIP advocates had made it happen.

(The Attorney General’s office has recently appealed the trial court’s decision to vacate Mr. Scheidell’s convictions.)

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My First Court Hearing in the Criminal Appeals Project

By Jeneusse Rutledge, 3L

During the long car ride to a Northern Wisconsin courthouse, Clinical Professor John Pray, my supervising attorney in the Criminal Appeals Project, prepared me for what might happen. For the past six months, we had worked on our client’s direct appeal, and had filed a postconviction motion seeking a new trial. Our claim was that the prosecutor’s expert had given improper testimony by giving his opinion on the ultimate issue at trial, rather than allowing the jury to decide that issue. Now the time had come to see if our hard work would pay off. The car ride up was a mix of practicing my argument and John assuring me that, although it is difficult to persuade a court to reverse a criminal conviction, he was proud of the work I had put into the case.

I was to argue the motion, after which I was prepared to hear that we had lost. Losing would mean that our client would to stay in prison while we appealed to a higher court. When we got to the courthouse, my nerves flared. As we walked into the small courthouse, we were bombarded by the 15 people waiting in the gallery who were family and friends of our client. They thanked us for our work and assured me that I would do an amazing job.

The postconviction motion alleged that our client’s trial attorney was ineffective at trial for failing to object to the expert’s testimony and, in the alternative, that the judge had committed reversible error by not catching the error sua sponte. Soon after arriving at the courthouse, the attorney we were calling “ineffective” greeted us and talked about his upcoming testimony. As uncomfortable as that was, I was more nervous about my second argument that required me to argue that the judge had committed reversible error. I had wistfully hoped to face a different judge at this hearing, and my heart dropped as I saw the judge who had presided at the trial sitting on the bench.

John told me to sit closest to the judge and prosecutor; our client was brought in and sat next to me. We assured him that we were ready for the argument, but that he should keep his expectations realistic. He said he understood the odds, and thanked us for all that we had done. He told me he had no doubts that I would “catch my first cane” before I had even done the Cane Toss.

The examination of our client’s prior attorney went well, but the real challenge was to then convince the judge that a new trial was warranted. After lengthy arguments from the prosecutor and myself, the judge asked me several questions to clarify my position. The judge then stated that he would issue an order on the spot and that he would “think out loud” when forming his decision.

The judge went through the arguments I had just presented, and quickly threw out the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. It was time to think about packing up and returning to Madison. But about fifteen minutes into his “thinking out loud” order, the judge paused, looked at me, and said, “I can’t blame the attorney for failing to object to the expert’s testimony, but someone messed up, didn’t they?” I froze and eventually nodded. He then told me that he agreed with me and that something had to be done. I did not take my eyes off of the judge, but heard my client immediately start crying next to me. The judge went on to order a new trial and ordered that our client be released immediately.

As soon as the hearing was complete, our client’s fiancée, with whom I had spoken on the phone many times, ran up and hugged me. The family and friends took turns thanking and hugging me. We negotiated a return of our client’s bond money, and he would be released from the local jail the moment the money came in. The prosecutor then came over, shook my hand, and asked me how many times I had argued in court. I said that this was my first time, and he told me that he is happy he will likely never have to face me again. The judge waved me up to the bench and spoke with me about my law school experience, future job opportunities, and my experience with the Criminal Appeals Project. He told me that he was impressed with my presentation, and told me it took bravery to tell him that he had erred. I thanked him for being open to the argument and for giving me a great first experience in court. I began to breathe again.

On the way home, John and I were glowing; our client was released the following day. A few months later, our client sent the following letter to me, John, and Jake Blair, my Criminal Appeals Project partner.

 . . . it has taken me a couple of weeks to get my bearings, both spatially and mentally, as I get re-acclimatized to life and my normal medication regimen after having experienced such a substantial period of life-altering confinement and deprivation. Be assured, however, that my gratitude to you all has increased exponentially with each passing day as the reality of your efforts has sunken in. I feel nearly at a loss for words to describe the level of appreciation your combined commitment to my defense has wrought for both [my fiancée] and myself, and the words “Thank You” seem so insufficient a reward for so monumental a feat for achieving the overturning of my conviction. . . . To feel your genuine concern for the well-being of us both was indeed appreciated and indicative of a professionalism that will serve your future clients well.

As I ran across the field for the Cane Toss during the Homecoming game this Fall, I could not help but smile. Even if I did not catch my cane, my partner and I had already given at least one person the feeling of justice he so desperately needed. That is all any law student can ever hope for.

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Looking Back: How My Work in the Remington Center Helped Me Find My Calling

Hannah Wrobel – UW Class of 2015

Hannah WrobelEach and every day at work I think about how grateful I am for my experiences as a clinical student in the Frank J Remington Center. My experiences in both the Restorative Justice Project and the Prosecution Project helped me discover my legal interests and passions, develop my legal skills, and help me find a career path that is both challenging and satisfying.

I am  a Victim/Witness Specialist in the Waukesha County District Attorney's Office. On a daily basis I assist victims of crime during the often difficult legal process and serve as a liaison between the victim of each case and the prosecutor. I also help  ensure that my office complies with the requirements of Wisconsin law regarding victim’s rights as recognized in our statutes and the Wisconsin Constitution.

In my position, not only must I have a keen understanding of doctrinal  law in order to explain the legal process and substantive law to victims, but I must also understand the “law in action” – how the myriad of system shareholders interact in any given case. Only with both – a knowledge of the theory and the practical – can I effectively serve as an advocate, counselor, and resource to those affected by crime. It is a unique position and one for which I was uniquely trained by my clinical advisors and mentors at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Like many students, when I began law school I had a generalized idea of what lawyers do. Had I been asked before law school I would have told you I was interested in criminal prosecution. After my first year doctrinal classes I applied and was accepted into the Remington Center’s Restorative Justice Project. I wanted to better understand the impact of crime not only on offenders, but victims, and their families and communities. During my two years in the RJP I worked with victims of violent crime, including family members of homicide victims. I helped them prepare to face the offender in a Victim-Offender Dialogue, three of which I facilitated. I learned much about the challenges faced by crime victims - emotionally, socially, financially, and in other ways that we can't even comprehend. All the while I was mentored and guided by Jonathan Scharrer, the director of the Remington Center's Restorative Justice Project.

At the same time I participated in the RJP many of my classmates participated in other Remington Center projects. Through our daily interactions I learn about their work and clients, as they did about my work with victims. The small teacher-student ratios and collaborative style of work made this among the most challenging and rewarding experiences in the course of my legal education.

After a year with RJP, I took part in the Remington Center’s Prosecution Project to better understand how the system functions before conviction, and the challenges of dealing with victim issues from the time of the offense through conviction. I was placed in St. Croix County, a medium sized county in northwestern Minnesota.

Under the supervision of District Attorney Eric Johnson and his staff I worked closely on a variety of issues, many which involved work typical of an assistant prosecutor and also spent time in the Victim/Witness Unit to understand what these specialists do on a daily basis. District Attorney Johnson and his staff were welcoming and flexible, encouraging me to explore a variety of aspects of the work of a trial level prosecutor. I quickly learned that my passion was working with victims, that this was the job that I wanted. I was fortunate to find such a job after graduation in Waukesha County. 

But for my experiences in the Remington Center, with the opportunity to work in a variety of situations, and with the encouragement and guidance of their clinical faculty, I have no idea where my post law school path would have led me or if I would have found a calling that would be both challenging and satisfying. Thanks to my work in the Remington Center I found out what my dream job was, where my own unique skills and interests best fit, and I am now doing it. For that I will be eternally grateful.

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