We are pleased to announce that the Remington Center is Going Electronic! In particular, the Frank J. Remington Center is adopting a new electronic newsletter emailing system that we hope will improve the quality of our communications with our students, alumni and friends. If you would like to receive a copy of our electronic newsletter in future, please subscribe here.

In addition, the Remington Center now has a Facebook page available online. The page will allow current students, alumni, and community members to receive Remington Center updates right on their Facebook news feed. Updates will include news stories about the Center’s projects, information about Remington Center events, links to the systemic work and research of our clinical faculty, and other items of interest. There is also a discussion section to discuss current legal topics and reconnect with your fellow Remington Center alumni from around the country. If you would like to receive updates on your news feed, log in to your Facebook account and click on the “like” button at the top of the page.

Featured Articles

Remington Center Updates

By Clinical Professor Meredith Ross

Clinical Associate Professor Leslie Shear, Director of the Family Law Project, was named the Law School's 2011 Clinical Teacher of the Year. She was honored at a dinner with the Law School’s Board of Visitors in November of 2011. Professor Shear joined the Remington Center in 2001, after more than twelve years in private practice with the Madison firm Murphy Desmond, where she had been recognized by Madison Magazine as one of the city’s ten best family law attorneys.

In the fall of 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded two new grants, totaling over $1 million, to the Wisconsin Innocence Project (WIP). The first grant provides $249,901 to WIP through the Bureau of Justice Assistance Wrongful Conviction Review Program. The second grant, a part of the NIJ’s Postconviction DNA Testing Assistance Program, awards $778,329 to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance to disburse to WIP.

With these grants, WIP has been able to hire its previous grant-funded supervising attorneys, Tricia Bushnell, Ion Meyn, and Peter Moreno, as clinical assistant professors for another two years. In addition, WIP has hired a full-time attorney, Catilin Plummer (J.D. University of Michigan, 2011), to collaborate with the State Public Defender to identify and litigate possible claims of innocence for the grant period.

Clinical Professor Keith Findley, Co-Director of WIP, will join the Law School’s tenure-track faculty in the summer of 2012. Professor Findley will continue his affiliation with WIP and will focus his scholarly research wrongful convictions, forensic science and the law, eyewitness identification procedures, and false confessions. We are in the process of seeking a senior-level individual to replace Professor Findley in WIP.

In addition, Clinical Associate Professor Byron Lichstein will transfer to WIP, from his current position supervising students in the Criminal Appeals Project and LAIP. Clinical Professor John Pray, who has served as Co-Director of WIP for over a dozen years, will transfer from WIP to become the Director of the Criminal Appeals Project.

In June of 2011, Professor Walter Dickey retired from the Law School after more than 30 years of service. Since retiring, Professor Dickey has returned to teach part-time at the Law School, while also working as the UW Athletic Department’s chief compliance officer. Professor Dickey’s emeritus teaching duties at the Law School include continuing to serve as the Faculty Director of the Remington Center.

In the fall of 2011, Clinical Assistant Professor Kate Findley resigned from the Remington Center to become the head of the State Public Defender’s Trial Office in Lancaster. At the Remington Center, Professor Findley supervised LAIP students for several years. We are currently in the process of hiring a new supervising attorney in LAIP.

In June of 2012, Clinical Professor Meredith Ross, Director of the Remington Center, will be retiring from the Remington Center, although she will continue to teach Law School courses on a part-time basis. 

Return to Top

“Breakdown in the Language Zone” Goes On the Road

By Clinical Professor Michele LaVigne

A few years ago, I casually met with staff members at Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC), a unit of Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, to discuss the communication abilities of the juvenile offenders in their care. Despite my many years as a criminal defense attorney, I was very surprised to learn that at least a fourth of the kids at MJTC scored in the bottom first percentile in their ability to comprehend and process spoken language, and that none of the kids on the unit had language skills that could even be called “average.”

Naturally I was curious about such a seemingly peculiar circumstance, and began to do some research. I soon discovered that the shockingly low language scores of the MJTC kids were not only not uncommon, but they were in fact what experts expect to find among juvenile offenders.

In the end, this simple field trip to Mendota turned into “Breakdown in the Language Zone: The Prevalence of Language Impairments Among Juvenile and Adult Offenders and Why It Matters.” Co-written with Gregory Van Rybroek, J.D., Ph.D., who is the Director of Mendota, the article was published in 2011 in the UC Davis Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.

In the article, we looked at the high rate of language impairments among the populations frequently appearing in criminal and juvenile courts. We reviewed the substantial body of literature that describes the causes of language impairments and connects them with aggression, poor social skills, and lack of self-control. We also looked at research from the U.S. and other countries that has found alarmingly high rates of language impairments within correctional institutions.

One question that arose in the research and writing process was “why don’t we (legal professionals) know about this?” How is it that language impairments are so well known in certain circles and have such a large impact on the lives of the people we represent day and day out, yet there is virtually nothing in legal scholarship or case law on the topic? This article was an attempt to begin that conversation.

Now that the article has been published and is widely available via the internet, lawyers and policy makers have become very interested in continuing the conversation and in putting the research on language impairments to work. Since May, I have presented on this topic for a number of defender and legal organizations, including the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission Annual Conference; the Wisconsin State Public Defender Annual Conference; the Midwest Clinical Conference; and the annual “Through the Eyes of the Child” conference. I am currently scheduled to talk about language impairments at an upcoming National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) National Conference for Leaders of Defense Organizations; the Federal Defender Trial Skills Training in San Diego; and the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services Annual Conference.

In October, I had the opportunity to present at the National Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit in Seattle with Joseph Beitchman, M.D., Professor of Child Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Dr. Beitchman is one of the world’s leading authorities on the long-term behavioral, social, and cognitive effects of language impairments.

Then in January, I was lucky enough to be part of a series of presentations in Edinburgh, Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland sponsored by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. The RCSLT is working with government officials in the United Kingdom to improve speech and language services for offenders and to make the legal system more accessible.

The response to our article has exceeded my wildest dreams (we are talking about a law review article after all). To borrow from the title, language impairments have begun to matter--not just to me, speech-language professionals, and the staff at MJTC, but also to many lawyers who are constantly looking to improve the quality of justice for their clients.

The article is available online.

Return to Top

The Answer's in the Book: Using Lessons from Law School to Do Justice

By Nicholas Hahn (2L)

My client (I will call him “Sam”) was wrongly named as the father of his girlfriend’s child. Certain that he is not the child’s father, Sam was frustrated and terrified that he owed tens of thousands of dollars in child support arrears and interest.

Working on Sam’s and other clients’ cases in the Family Law Project has given me an amazing opportunity to use and fully engage with a wide range of the academic knowledge I have been exposed to in my law school classes.

Civil Procedure and Statutory Construction

Relying on the mother’s representations, Sam had signed a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form immediately following the child’s birth. That document became the basis for a subsequent court judgment declaring Sam to the child’s father and requiring him to pay birth expenses and child support.

I recalled from my civil procedure class hearing something about judgments and the circumstances under which they could be reconsidered or reopened. Unfortunately, we did not delve deeply into that subject in class, and we primarily studied the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure rather than the Wisconsin rules. Leslie Shear, my supervising attorney, suggested that I look at Wisconsin’s Family Code and § 806.07, the Wisconsin statute on relief from judgments.

After doing so, I felt pretty discouraged. In particular, § 806.07 makes it very difficult to reopen a judgment that is more than a year old. Since Sam’s judgment was about seven years old, I thought we would have an uphill battle convincing the court to reopen and void that judgment. But it just seemed wrong that Sam might be responsible for a child who was not his.

I kept going back to what Professor Dickey incessantly repeated to us in our criminal law class: “The answer’s in the book!” So I went back to “the book,” and found a statute that expressly allowed a man to ask the court to void a paternity judgment based on the Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity at any time, by showing fraud, duress, or mistake of fact. This was the statute I had been hoping to find!

Legal Research and Writing

Now that we had a strong legal basis to move to void paternity, I had to draft a motion and a brief. Relying on advice from my supervising attorney, extensive research, and the State Bar’s System Book for Family Law, I was able to put together a respectable motion and brief. Eventually—right before the hearing—we learned that the guardian ad litem would support our motion. Nevertheless, knowing that we had a coherent, solid argument gave me invaluable piece of mind. I knew that if necessary, I could convincingly argue that the judge could, and should, void Sam’s paternity judgment and his resulting child support orders.


We had submitted our motion and presented information to the guardian ad litem, and now we were at the hearing before the judge. My supervising attorney had encouraged me to conduct the direct examination of our client. I did my best, trying to elicit facts that would show fraud, duress, and/or mistake of fact. I had to stop a few times to retrace my questions, trying not to lead while laying a proper foundation. While I was thrilled when the court reporter told me after the hearing that I did a good job, her follow-up suggestion that I refrain from saying “okay” so much will stay with me forever.

Justice Was Done

At the close of the hearing, the judge sided with us and ordered genetic testing, emphasizing that if the testing proves Sam is not the father, all related orders (including child support) would be vacated. I felt extremely satisfied that I had played a role in making sure that the system that had saddled Sam with a mountain of debt eventually “exonerated” him.

My Remington Center internship brought to life many of the concepts I had been learning in the classrooms during my first two years of law school. I am deeply grateful that I had and took the opportunity to round out and enhance my law school experience by participating in the Family Law Project.

Return to Top

Wading Into the Swamp

By Bryce Cummings (2L)

Last year Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported nearly 400,000 individuals from the country, slightly more than half of whom had been convicted of various crimes while residing here.

The specific crimes that may subject non-citizens to deportation are often unclear. Immigration law categorizes offenses with its own language, using terms such as “crime of moral turpitude,” “aggravated felony,” “crime of violence,” and others that often overlap, and in many cases are only vaguely defined by statute. Some enumerated offenses can result in automatic deportation. For other offenses, much depends on the severity of the sentence, the number of convictions, or the factual circumstances of the offense.

To further magnify the confusion of those subjected to deportation proceedings, the immigration court system currently guarantees no right to an attorney. Most individuals cannot afford representation and are blindly shuffled through the proceedings. When I began work in LAIP last summer, I knew absolutely nothing about this dense, convoluted mess of immigration law. To be frank, I initially had little desire to wade into the swamp.

In May, I was assigned to a client who was nearing the end of his multi-year prison sentence and preparing for proceedings in immigration court relating to his convictions. My client--I will call him “Jeff”--immigrated to the United States with his family when he was one year old. He grew up in Wisconsin, excelling in athletics and his schoolwork. With no prior criminal record, one night Jeff drove friends to a home where those friends proceeded to commit a crime. He ultimately pled and was convicted as a conspirator for his involvement in the incident.

Despite promises made to him when he decided to plead to his charges, Jeff subsequently faced mandatory deportation from the United States. The nature of his convictions left him with no defense to deportation in immigration court. Deportation posed severe punishments that he had never anticipated: permanent separation from his family in Wisconsin, and exile to a foreign country where they speak a language he is not fluent in, and where he knows no one. For all practical purposes Jeff is as American as I am, but because he was born abroad, he now faced deportation from the only country he has ever known.

Building on initial work by some previous LAIP students, my supervisor, Mary Prosser, and I worked to see what we could do. I was initially hesitant, and admittedly pessimistic over our chances of having any impact on the situation. Mary clearly was not. To get a sense of what we were dealing with, together we started pouring through statutes and case law. We had long conversations with an incredibly helpful national expert in the field, and regular discussions with an outstanding local immigration attorney.
As I immersed myself in the project, it quickly evolved into a more personal challenge. As I became more familiar with the law and began to understand the legal options available to us, I grew increasingly fixated on seeing it through.

Getting to know Jeff himself was even more motivating. After years of incarceration, he had responded to his confinement exactly the way the system hopes all inmates will. Jeff had maintained a nearly spotless conduct record. He completed all programming that the system had recommended to him, as well as a long list of voluntary academic coursework to better himself. Acknowledging the mistakes he had made, Jeff served the full length of his prison sentence without complaint, and was prepared to reenter the community as a better, more productive member of society than when he was first locked away.

As the case proceeded, I quickly saw that our success in court would require much more than sound legal reasoning. As importantly, it required diplomacy: understanding the personalities of other attorneys, anticipating their concerns, knowing when to push an issue, and knowing when to compromise.

Ultimately, to distill months of work, worry, and countless cups of coffee into a few sentences here, we found grounds to vacate Jeff’s convictions based on a constitutional defect. With the hard-earned cooperation of a very considerate prosecutor, and the attention of a compassionate circuit court judge, Jeff eventually pled to a new set of charges that we had carefully ensured would remove any grounds for his deportation. He has since been released on supervision and reunited with his family in the community.

A couple weeks after the case was over, Jeff invited Mary and me to his home for a celebration with his family. Anticipating a small gathering, we arrived to find the small house packed with dozens of members of Jeff’s extended family and local ethnic community. The day included blessings from a Buddhist monk, more traditional food than we could possibly have eaten, and an overwhelming number handshakes and hugs.

The experience drove home to me just how powerful the human impact of the Remington Center’s work can be. Too often, we as law students focus almost exclusively on the abstract and academic aspects of our work. This was very real, and very humbling.

At one point during the case, I had the chance to speak with a prison guard who had formerly supervised Jeff. The guard spoke very highly of Jeff, though he could not recall many incidents or specific details about their interactions. Curious, I asked why. The guard responded simply: “because he was one of the good ones.”

The Remington Center’s legal services help former and current inmates in considerable ways every day. Still, it strikes me as rare that the Center can make a profound impact on the life of someone as deserving as Jeff. I was inspired during the entire process by the passion of my supervisor, and the Center’s staff who supported us along the way. The undertaking was like nothing I have ever experienced, and I feel privileged to have played a part in it.

Return to Top

New Notions of Justice

By Katherine Dellenbach (2L)

When I first came to law school, my idea of justice was taken straight from movies. I imagined a lawyer standing up tall in front of a courtroom, waving her fist in the air as she proclaimed that her client was not guilty. I imagined courtrooms with wooden walls and chairs; and judges perched on high podiums, with stern and disciplined looks upon their faces.

To me, justice was simple: the guilty ones go to prison, the innocent go free. No gray area existed. The justice system was black and white, with lawyers who were striving to be as fair as they could be, judges who were almost omnipotent in their understanding of the law, and clients who were either remorseful or steadfast in their innocence.

Working in LAIP changed my view of justice. My clients have taught me that justice is something much more flexible. Justice is knowing where one stands in life. Justice is understanding why things happen the way they do. For my clients, justice comes in the form of communication. Above all, they want to know the reasons why they are in prison, what more they could have done, and what they can do in the future to improve their situation.

When I started at the Remington Center, many of my clients didn’t even really understand why they were in prison. “I thought my plea deal was for probation.” “I didn’t realize that the judge could sentence me for this long.” “I don’t believe I have been treated fairly by the courts.”

In some ways, a good percentage of my job has focused on explanation. I have done a lot of legal research and writing--not for the courts, but for my own clients. Justice often comes in the form of a letter to my client, describing how the law applies to his case and what has happened to him, and a follow-up conversation to make sure the client understands.

For example, one of my clients was insistent that the court had mistakenly applied the law at his child support hearing. During our early meeting on the issue, he had all the correct statutes and cases in front of him. However, access to the correct law did not give him the insight he needed to understand his current situation. I had to sit down with him to go through the statutes, explain that his child support was calculated correctly in light of changed facts, and to describe how the law actually applied to his situation. It was then that I realized that it is one thing to know the law that applies to one’s life, but it’s a lot different to actually understand it.

In many ways, justice is achieved outside of a courtroom. It’s finding a mistake in a client’s case or simply informing a client as to his or her situation. Justice is taking a case after everyone else has given up on it and going over it in painful detail to ensure that the client was treated fairly.

I have had successes. One in particular stands out.

My client had an illegal sentence--he was sentenced to 8 years over the statutory maximum sentence. I filed a successful motion to correct the error. A bittersweet victory meant that he had 8 years less to serve… of a nearly 150-year sentence.

As I sat across from my client, he looked at me and told me that he could not even express how grateful he was that I had helped him. Imagine, a man in his 60s, grateful despite the fact that he is going to be in prison for the rest of his life.

My client felt as though everyone had given up on him. He went through multiple trial attorneys and finally settled on a plea deal that was less than ideal for him; his appellate attorney filed a no merit report saying all the issues on appeal would be frivolous;, and the Court of Appeals denied him relief of any kind. For ten years, my client remained steadfast that there was some issue that everyone had missed. As it turned out, he was right.

My client’s victory did not come in the form of release from prison. He will not see the outside of prison walls before he dies. My client’s victory is that someone helped him. Justice for him was the idea that someone would sit down and take the time to make sure that he was treated fairly.

Justice isn’t the lawyer in court waving her fist. It’s not just that the guilty go to prison and the innocent go free. Justice is self-awareness. Justice is taking power and comfort in the knowledge that each client understands his or her situation. Justice is ensuring that all are being treated as fairly as possible. And above all, justice is ensuring that there are good people out there who are willing to fight for it.

Return to Top

Thanks to the Friends of the Remington Center’s Board of Directors

For the past dozen years, the Remington Center has been fortunate to have the support of the Friends of the Remington Center Endowment, Inc. (FORCE). FORCE is a private nonprofit corporation whose primary purpose is to raise funds to help support law students enrolled in the Remington Center’s summer clinical programs.

FORCE’s goal is to make it financially possible for students to participate in the summer program, and to minimize the amount of debt that students owe upon graduation. As Professor Walter Dickey points out, “We want to give today’s students the same opportunities that we had in law school to engage in real-world learning.” Each year, Remington Center/Economic Justice Center students receive “supplemental” stipends from FORCE, in addition to stipends provided by the Law School.

FORCE is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, many of them graduates of the Remington Center. Over the past year, the Board has undergone some significant changes. The Board has lost several directors, including Bill Conley, who resigned after his appointment as a United States District Judge; Nick Chiarkas, who stepped down after retiring from his position as the Wisconsin State Public Defender; and Dane County Circuit Judge Sarah O’Brien, who resigned for personal reasons. In addition, sadly, Attorney Jack DeWitt, a former member of the Board, passed away in February at the age of 93. FORCE acknowledges and appreciates the significant contributions of these and other Board members over the years.

FORCE has also added Board members in the past year, including Remington Center grads Carla McKenzie, who practices law in Washington, D.C. and Jake Remington, of Murphy Desmond SC; UW Law School faculty members Cecelia Klingele and Byron Lichstein (both also Remington Center grads); Attorney Dean Strang of Hurley, Burish & Stanton SC; and State Public Defender Kelli Thompson.

Currently, the following individuals serve on the FORCE Board of Directors: Attorney Jon Axelrod; Attorney Steve Bablitch; Attorney Fran Croak; Attorney Doug Dehler; Emeritus Professor Walter Dickey; Attorney Ed Garvey; Attorney Steve Glynn; Emeritus Professor Herman Goldstein; Attorney Ben Gonring; Attorney Celia Jackson; Attorney Michelle Jacobs; Emeritus Professor Jim Jones; Assistant Professor Cecelia Klingele; Clinical Associate Professor Byron Lichstein; Attorney Carla McKenzie; Emeritus Professor Margo Melli; Circuit Judge Emily Mueller; Attorney John Norsetter; Attorney Christine Remington; Attorney Jake Remington; Dr. Patrick Remington; Clinical Professor Meredith Ross; Attorney Dean Strang; Attorney Kelli Thompson; Attorney Nancy Wheeler; and Attorney Mary Wilburn.

Although FORCE is a private nonprofit, it has entered into an agreement with the UW Foundation, the fundraising arm of the University, to deposit its funds at the Foundation. In addition, in 2011 the Board agreed to a two-year pilot project in which the Foundation would reach out to grads and friends of the Remington Center to solicit donations to FORCE. So, if you are contacted by the Foundation, you can be assured that this is with the express approval of FORCE. FORCE continues to make all decisions about how donated funds will be spent.

In 2011, FORCE provided over $26,000 in supplemental stipends to summer students. As the student articles in this newsletter demonstrate, the Remington Center provides a formative experience to developing professionals. We thank the FORCE Board for its continued good stewardship, and we thank our graduates and friends for all their support.

If you would like to donate to FORCE, you can pay online here or you can send a check, made out to FORCE, to the Remington Center at 975 Bascom Mall, Madison, WI  53706.

Return to Top

Log in to edit