"Law matters because of the effect
it has on the individuals it touches."
Professor Michele LaVigne is committed to improving the quality of justice for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
LaVigne traces her first awareness of the deaf community to high school in Buffalo, N.Y., where she rode the school bus with students from the neighboring school for the deaf. But it was as a public defender where she found her passion for advocating on the community's behalf. She was assigned to a child protection case where the parents were deaf and worked closely with experts on deafness. She soon learned just how inaccessible the legal system can be for deaf and hard of hearing people.
When she came to the Law School, her interest in working with the deaf and hard of hearing accompanied her. Among other projects, she has trained attorneys from around the country to improve their representation of deaf and hard of hearing clients. In conjunction with the law firm Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe, she has also developed and coached an innovative mock trial program at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf.
At the UW Law School, LaVigne is the director of the Public Defender Project, a clinical program in which law students assist in providing legal representation to indigent clients in the criminal and juvenile justice systems throughout the state. She is a longtime faculty member at the National Criminal Defense College and the Wisconsin Public Defender Trial Skills Academy.
LaVigne teaches criminal law, constitutional litigation (4th, 5th, 6th amendments) and trial advocacy.