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News and Updates: Remington Center Updates, Two Remington Center Professors Win Academic Staff Excellence Awards, Remington Center Launches the Federal Appeals Project to Expand Clinical Offerings, Professor LaVigne Develops Course Combining Practical and Theoretical Aspects of Criminal Defense Work, Meredith Ross Writes Introduction for Law Review's Colloquium on Empirical Research and the Justice System
Remington Center Updates
Numerous comings and goings in the Remington Center warrant mention, as well as a few honors:
Coming and Goings
Ken Streit will retire at the end of May as a Clinical Professor. In 1990 Ken began supervising students who served clients at Wisconsin's prisons for women and at the Ethan Allen School for Boys. Since then, he has supervised students at ten other maximum or medium security prisons. He was often involved in sentencing and correctional policy issues on the juvenile and adult level and served four years as co-monitor for implementing the federal court class-action settlement agreement at the Boscobel high-security prison. For the last two years, Ken has served as director of the Re-entry Project. He taught Substantive Criminal Law, Professional Responsibilities and Juvenile Justice Administration at the Law School. Ken will be replaced by Elyce Wos, who joined the Remington Center last summer as a supervising attorney.
Pete DeWind will retire at the end of May as a Clinical Associate Professor at the Remington Center. Pete spent 22 years at the Center, the last 13 as director of the Restorative Justice Project, where he supervised students facilitating contact between victims and offenders, usually in cases involving severe violence. Pete also supervised students in the Family Law Project, which handles family law cases for incarcerated parents. The Center has hired Jonathan Scharrer to take over Pete’s directorship of the Restorative Justice Program at the Center.
Carrie Sperling will join us as a senior supervising attorney in Wisconsin Innocence Project this summer. Carrie comes to us from Arizona State University where she is an Associate Clinical Professor of Law and formerly the Executive Director of the Arizona Justice Program. Before ASU, Carrie taught legal writing and research at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law. Early in her career, she had a private law practice and was a regional director for the ACLU of Texas. Carrie, a graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, has a fascinating, long, and varied list of publications and presentations in criminal justice reform and legal writing.
Jonathan Scharrer joined the Center at the beginning of May to begin the transition of the directorship of the Restorative Justice Project to him from Pete DeWind. Jonathan is a 2008 graduate of Marquette Law School where he worked with Janine Geske at the Restorative Justice Initiative. Since graduating, Jonathan has had a solo practice specializing in criminal defense and alternative dispute resolution, while at the same time performing significant work for various restorative justice programs and developing restorative justice programs in various communities in the Milwaukee area.
Sara Kelton Brelie has also just joined the Remington Center as a clinical instructor. Sara is a 2010 honors graduate of the Law School. While at the Law School Sara was a Remington Center intern in the Public Defender Project, the Criminal Appeals Project and the Restorative Justice Project. Since graduating from the Law School Sara has been clerking for the Hon. Richard S. Brown, Chief Judge of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.
Jeremy Newman, who supervised LAIP students this past year after graduating from the Law School in 2012, has been hired to continue his excellent work as a supervising attorney for LAIP students.
Lucy Brown has joined the Remington Center as an administrative program specialist and will be handling education program management, student services and advising, and program outreach. Lucy graduated from the Law School and most recently was a legal counsel with the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
Katherine Dellenbach will be a supervising attorney for LAIP this summer. Katherine was an LAIP student two years ago and a Project Assistant for LAIP this last year. She graduates from the Law School this May.
Ben Kempinen was recently honored with the the Law School's 2012 Clinical Teacher of the Year Award. Ben has taught at the Law School since his graduation in 1976, teaching the first-year criminal law curriculum, Trial Advocacy, Professional Responsibilities, and Advanced Substantive Criminal Law. At the Remington Center he has guided clinical students in the Legal Defense Project and Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons. He now directs the Center's Prosecution Project. He has litigated criminal law matters at both the trial and appellate levels, and has taught at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy,
Michele LaVigne was awarded the Pro Bono Service award by the Association for Women Lawyers. Michele was recognized for her commitment to improving the quality of justice for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. She developed a mock trial program at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf in Delavan. In 2004, the team competed in the State Bar High School Mock Trial competition for the first time and placed sixth in the state semi-finals.
Warren Beck, a second-year law student, has won the Melvin J. Friedman Memorial Scholarship for outstanding performance in the Wisconsin Innocence Project.
Brandon Bergmann, a second-year law student and clinical student in the Criminal Appeals Project, has won a Bruce F. Beilfuss Memorial Award for outstanding service to the law school.
Cary Bloodworth, a second-year law student in the Family Law Project, has won the 2012 Leonard Loeb Family Law Scholarship for academic excellence and commitment to the field of family law.
Anita Boor, a second-year law student and clinical student with the Wisconsin Innocence Project, has won a Bruce F. Beilfuss Memorial Award for outstanding service to the law school.
Margaret Drees, a second-year law student and clinical student in LAIP, has won a Catherine Manning Memorial Award for outstanding performance in LAIP, Family Law Project, Restorative Justice Project, Re-Entry Project, or the Oxford Project.
Matt Gardner, a second-year law student and clinical student with the Wisconsin Innocence Project, has won the Leon Feingold Memorial Award for outstanding contributions to the economically disadvantaged.
Stephanie Hilton, a graduating law student and clinical student with LAIP and the Prosecution Project, has won the Wisconsin Public Interest Law Foundation's Jackie Macaulay Award for demonstrating outstanding commitment to public interest law.
Rachel Krueger, a graduating law student and clinical student with LAIP, has won a Catherine Manning Memorial Award for outstanding performance in LAIP, Family Law Project, Restorative Justice Project, Re-Entry Project, or the Oxford Project, as well as the Prison Ministry Project Award for outstanding service to an inmate involved in the Prison Ministry Project.
Matt Robles, a graduating law student and clinical student with LAIP and the Prosecution Project, has won the Abner Brodie Award for outstanding achievement in legal study and practical application of law.
Meredith Stier, a graduating law student and clinical student in the Criminal Appeals Project, has won the Clinical Legal Education Association Outstanding Student Award for a clinical law student who has shown excellence in field work, excellence in a clinical’s seminar component, and contributed to the clinical community at the law school.
Nicole Williams, a second-year student and clinical student in the Family Law Project, has won the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Family Law Award.
Two Remington Center Professors Win Academic Staff Excellence Awards
John Pray and Mary Prosser, both longtime clinical professors at the Frank J. Remington Center, were among the ten UW-Madison academic staff receiving the 2013 Academic Staff Excellence Awards in recognition of their achievements in leadership, public service, research, teaching and overall excellence. The awards for John and Mary are well-deserved and all of us at the Center congratulate them.
John was awarded the Robert and Carroll Heideman Award for Excellence in Public Service and Outreach. Although John may be best known to the public for co-founding the Wisconsin Innocence Project, at the Remington Center John is known for his incredible efforts on behalf of his clients and his students. A Clinical Associate Professor, John has worked at the Law School's Frank J. Remington Center since 1986; he is currently involved in two of the Center’s clinical projects, the Wisconsin Innocence Project and the Criminal Appeals Project.
John has worked tirelessly to reform the criminal justice system. He has trained police officers throughout the state, written amici briefs in high profile cases, and proposed and drafted legislation in areas such as the preservation and testing of DNA, eyewitness identification procedures, and mandatory videotaping and recording of interrogations. John has litigated many cases in the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals that have led to significant published decisions clarifying the rights of defendants in criminal cases. “It doesn't happen often,” says Pray, “but nothing beats walking an innocent person out of prison thanks to the hard work of law students and colleagues.”
John spends extensive time training students in the practice of criminal law. He debates cases with students and helps them redraft pleadings. John’s gentle style, approachability and humor draw students to him. His students, like his clients, trust and value him as a mentor, protector and friend.
John regularly speaks to community groups and lectures in the law school and in undergraduate courses. He recently completed a six-year term on the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners, screening State Bar applicants to ensure proficiency and fitness for the profession.
Mary was awarded the Chancellor’s Hilldale Award for Excellence in Teaching. Mary, a Clinical Associate Professor and FJRC Interim Director, received her law degree from UW in 1977. She joined the Remington Center in 2003 following similar work in the Clinical Programs at Harvard Law School. She teaches clinical students in the Legal Assistance to Institutionalized Persons program and first year law students in small sections of both substantive and procedural criminal law.
Mary is a remarkable teacher, making students comfortable while challenging them to go outside their comfort zone. Her clinical students describe her as allowing them to explore new approaches to address their clients’ concerns. She brings law to life for the students, emphasizing that they represent real people and must provide thorough research and the best possible advice and advocacy.
In the classroom, Mary’s non-traditional teaching style has brought high praise from students who say she has made them think about how the law affects people and how to solve real world problems where black letter law does not provide answers. She has taught substantive and procedural law as interactive classes with significant writing required, giving every student careful and supportive feedback. Students are forced to act like a lawyer, not just think like a lawyer, bringing home the courses’ abstract legal concepts through mini-trial exercises.
Over the years Mary’s volunteer work has greatly benefited law students. She has been a moot court and mock trial coach, giving long nights of uncompensated work, and has served as a judge in national criminal law moot court and mock trial competitions. She has organized service projects to assist incarcerated, pre-trial detainees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and to facilitate absentee balloting for eligible voters incarcerated in Milwaukee’s House of Corrections.
Finally, Mary has been a leader in legal clinical education. She has mentored new clinical instructors at the Remington Center, taught her brand of experiential classroom teaching to many, and co-authored the only law school casebook on federal habeas corpus practice. She recently presented a paper on how clinical faculty communicate bad news to students and teach students how to communicate bad news to clients. She is presently working on a potentially groundbreaking study of the prosecution of youthful offenders for consensual sex offenses.
The Remington Center Launches the Federal Appeals Project to Expand Clinical Offerings
Starting in the fall semester of 2013, the Remington Center will expand to provide six additional law students with an immersion experience in the world of appellate advocacy and federal criminal law. The Federal Appeals Project, an extension of the Oxford Federal Project, will follow in the footsteps of the Criminal Appeals Project in combining a seminar on appellate procedure with work on the appeal of a federal criminal case in the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
Director of the Oxford Federal Project Adam Stevenson will supervise the students in the school-year clinic. Through the project’s seminar and work on active appeals, the students will gain a broad education in federal criminal procedure and sentencing. Participants will also develop and refine widely their skills in brief writing, oral advocacy, and case management.
Working in pairs, project students will manage all aspects of a criminal appeal, including investigation, briefing, and possibly even argument before the Seventh Circuit. In addition, in keeping with the Remington Center’s tradition of client-centered representation, students will work directly with clients from criminal cases arising from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana federal courts. Through this representation, students will assist indigent clients during a critical stage in their cases. Students will also have the opportunity to work with other attorneys, government counsel, and staff of the district courts and Seventh Circuit.
While focus on student education and client service will be the project’s primary goals, we also hope to serve those in the broader appellate practice community and the federal criminal justice system. Through pilot efforts including a Twitter account and a dedicated project Facebook page, the Federal Appeals Project and its students will provide materials on a variety of topics in appellate practice and federal criminal law. The project hopes to begin this further service this fall.
For more information about the Federal Appeals Project, please see the project’s website. In addition, if you have additional questions or comments, please contact Clinical Assistant Professor Adam Stevenson.
Michele LaVigne Develops Course Combining Practical and Theoretical Aspects of Criminal Defense Work
Remington Center Clinical Professor Michele LaVigne has developed a new criminal defense course entitled “Defense Function” that combines practical and theoretical learning for law students thinking of hanging out a shingle when they finish law school. The course focuses on the whole range of issues private practitioners face in criminal court, from attorney-client interaction to sentencing to managing cases and budgets. Michele, a former state public defender, is director of the Remington Center’s Public Defender Project. She is co-teaching the course with Adjunct Professor Dean Strang.
The class was created to support the growing number of new law graduates who are going to smaller firms or into solo practice. The emphasis on criminal defense prepares graduates to contract with public defender offices, a source of revenue for many new attorneys in small practices. Michele asked Dean Strang to team teach the course because of his extensive knowledge of the business side of private practice.
Michele says the course serves as the beta version for what will become a larger instructional strategy. "We're talking about new approaches for preparing students to be very good at criminal defense in the everyday world of private practice." The class, and Michele’s innovative teaching style, have generated a great deal of discussion and were the subjects of a recent feature in Law School News. That story is excerpted below.
According to the Law School News, students—and employers—appreciate the new course and the combined expertise Michele and Dean bring to the class, says student Rachel Krueger. "As private practitioners, we have to think about how we can manage our work and be profitable." When she graduates this spring, Krueger has a job lined up at a small firm where she’ll be the first attorney to practice criminal law. Her future employers were excited to learn she was taking the course, she says.
On this day in the classroom, students watch as LaVigne and Strang loosely reenact an actual 1996 Wisconsin court case that involved alleged hunting crimes. The two instructors, playing the roles of public defender and client in an intake interview, interrupt their performance frequently to invite critiques and questions from students.
We're like archaeologists," Michele told her third-year UW Law students. "We uncover the shards of a client's story, piece by piece, just like the scientists in South Dakota who discovered Sue the T. Rex."
The bones of a client narrative emerge as Michele and Dean show how dialogue can build trust and rapport in an attorney-client relationship—or cause it to go awry. "You already have the DA’s account," Dean says. "In order to represent your client fairly, you need to take care to learn who he is, what he does, what he cares about."
Student James Drennan calls the class a "3-D learning experience," where he observes and interacts with attorneys who have been doing criminal defense for a long time. "Skills-based courses like these will help me hit the ground running after graduation," he says. "It's an invaluable experience, and might even make the difference between becoming a good attorney and a great one."
But today, Michele and Dean are demonstrating for their students how to be legal archaeologists. "We're getting shards of information here, and we have to put them together. This case is our 'Sue,'" Michele says.
This course is not the first time Michele’s teaching has been singled out by law students and her colleagues. In 2008 she won the Law School's first Clinical Teacher of the Year Award.
Meredith Ross Writes Introduction for Law Review’s Colloquium on Empirical Research and the Justice System
Meredith Ross, the longtime Remington Center director who retired from the Center in 2012, wrote an Introduction in the most recent edition of the Wisconsin Law Review (Vol. 2013, No. 1) for the Colloquium Essays. An undercurrent running through the Essays is whether law school clinical programs have a positive legal effect on the populations they serve. This issue is one that both today and historically has shaped important empirical work of the Law School and its legal clinics. Meredith highlights this work in her Introduction to the academic discussion of the Essays.
The Essays deal specifically with the role empirical research plays in identifying, measuring, and clarifying crucial issues in service delivery, resource allocation, and access to justice in American law and society. The colloquium was inspired by an article, and the reaction to the article, that raised questions about the efficacy of legal assistance from law school clinical programs. The article, Randomized Evaluation in Legal Assistance: What Difference Does Representation (Offer and Actual Use) Make?, was written by D. James Greiner and Cassandra Wolos Pattanayak for the Yale Law Review. In the article, the authors report the results of a study they undertook to determine the effect of randomized offers of representation by the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a clinical program of Harvard Law School, to persons pursuing unemployment appeals. The authors came to the conclusion that such offers of representation had no significant effect on the likelihood of success of the unemployment appellants, but did cause the proceedings to be delayed by an average of approximately two weeks.
Although much of Meredith’s Introduction and the other Essays address the social science behind such studies of legal service provision, the Introduction segues into the roles the University of Wisconsin Law School and the Remington Center have played, both historically and now, in empirical legal research. Empirical research pioneers from the Law School who are singled out include Professors David Trubek and Frank Remington.
Professor Trubek was involved with the landmark Civil Litigation Research Project in the early 1980s. According to Meredith, that project “looked outside the courthouse to consider the social landscape and processes by which disputes came into the legal system in the first place . . . [and] ‘revolutionized how scholars understood legal problems and disputes. Scholars stopped regarding disputes as found objects in the world and instead recognized disputes for what they are: social constructs.’”
Professor Remington directed a decade-long study of the criminal justice system that began in the mid-1950s and was funded by the American Bar Foundation (ABF). The five-volume study described the “then-little understood practices such as plea bargaining, the exercise of discretion at all points in the system, and the use of the criminal justice system to address not only serious crime, but also social problems such as mental illness and substance abuse. . . . [T]he ABF study ‘revolutionized’ the prevailing understanding of a legal system.”
The Frank J. Remington Center was a direct outgrowth of Professor Remington’s empirical research into the criminal justice system. According to Meredith, unlike many clinical programs at other law schools, the Remington Center’s origins were not based on a large-volume legal services or “skills training.” “[T]he Remington Center’s educational goals were to develop professional responsibility and judgment in law students and to introduce them to the on-the-ground complexity of the criminal justice system.” Professor Remington believed that those graduating from law school had sufficient technical legal skills, but lacked a sufficient understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system. To alleviate this insufficiency, Professor Remington started the Correctional Internship Program where students observed the justice system by riding in police cars, chauffeuring Wisconsin Parole Commission members to meetings, and assisting recreational staff and social workers in prisons. By the mid-1960, these students began assisting inmates with their legal concerns, and in 1969 the Program entered into a service contract agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Prisons, and a short time later with the federal Bureau of Prisons, to provide these legal services.
The Remington Center and related Law School clinics have not lost their commitment to the empirical inquiry pioneered by Professors Trubek and Remington. Today, the professors working in these clinics continue to develop meaningful fact-based information and seek to learn more about the justice system. As examples, Meredith points to the work of Clinical Associate Professors Mary Prosser and Marsha Mansfield. Professor Prosser is pursuing an interdisciplinary study with a clinical psychologist at UW-Madison to determine whether “risk instruments” that are used to predict future dangerousness for sex offenders are accurate for young male offenders convicted of consensual underage sexual offenses (statutory rape). Meredith believes this study, which is based on a randomized cases from eight Wisconsin counties over nine years, “has the potential to significantly affect practices in Wisconsin and beyond.”
The work of Professor Mansfield, who directs the Law School’s Economic Justice Institute, centers around the Family Court Clinic she developed several years ago at the request of local judges concerned about the inefficiencies and substantive outcomes associated with unrepresented litigants in family law matters. Professor Mansfield has undertaken a study comparing outcomes and other factors in cases for unrepresented litigants assisted by the Clinic students and for those not assisted.
Meredith Ross is justifiably proud of the empirical work done at the Law School and its clinics, even if empirical results are not always flattering or self-affirming. She concludes her Introduction to the Essays by quoting wording from a 1894 Board of Regents meeting about the University of Wisconsin: “Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”
LAIP Student Wins 42-year Sentence Reduction
by Rachel Krueger (3L)
Over winter break the Remington Center won one of its most significant sentence modification cases. A Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge modified our client’s sentence by 42 years. The client, who committed his crime when he was 19-years-old, originally received an 82-year sentence. With the sentence reduction, the client is now parole eligible.
The sentence modification was based on the client’s substantial assistance to law enforcement in a case involving a rape and murder that occurred in the 1970s. Attorney Byron Lichstein assigned the case to me at the beginning of my LAIP appointment in May of 2011.
Through a long fact investigation, I learned the impressive extent of the client’s assistance to law enforcement investigators and the prosecuting agency. More significantly, I discovered that the law enforcement officers involved with the investigation of the rape and murder supported our client’s sentence reduction and were willing to testify in court on his behalf. Throughout the school year, I had dozens of phone conversations with the prosecuting agency, law enforcement, and the client to build our case.
As my year with the Remington Center came to an end, I made one of the best decisions in my law school career -- I decided to stay on the case. In the summer of 2012, we submitted a detailed motion seeking to modify our client’s sentence by 42 years. The prosecutor did not object to a hearing on the motion nor did he file a response to our motion. With no objection, the court set the matter for hearing.
Two nights before the hearing, Attorney Lichstein and I practiced for the hearing. At the end of that session we discussed the likelihood of success. What judge would ever cut a sentence by 42 years, especially considering the serious nature of our client’s crime? As a realist with a healthy skepticism of the criminal justice system, I reminded myself about the uphill battle we faced, but I also had a strong feeling we would have at least some success. How often do law enforcement officials testify on behalf of a defendant?
In January of this year, twenty months after being assigned the case, I presented our case to the court. As I spoke to the client through the small door in the holding cell prior to the hearing, I could tell he was extremely nervous, understandably so. He was finally going to find out if he would ever live outside of prison. As I tried to calm his nerves, he asked me again if I would talk to his family if we lost, to try to explain to them why the system would not recognize his bravery. He knew we could lose; I had been crystal clear with him about that, but I reminded him that we would cross the bridge when we got to it. We needed to stay positive and put on our best case.
After a two-and-a-half-hour hearing, the judge rendered her decision from the bench and granted our motion. The judge agreed with our argument that, consistent with the Court of Appeals decision in State v. Doe, 2005 WI App 68, and the evidence we provided from law enforcement officials, modifying our client’s sentence would promote public safety by encouraging others to come forward with information that could help solve crimes. The judge also agreed that modifying our client’s sentence was fair and just because the client risked his safety by coming forward with the information about the rape and by testifying in open court. The extraordinary nature of his assistance was proof that the client was not the same person he was when he committed his own crime as a young man. The client, who testified during the hearing, moved the court, witnesses, and even the bailiffs with his story of courage and with his empathy for the victim.
Somewhat in shock from the decision we just received from the bench, I circled the courthouse trying to find my vehicle as I called the client’s sister. Rather than having to share bad news with his family, I was able to deliver the great news. She burst into tears.
This was a unique case all the way around. Law enforcement officials gave strong testimonial support and the district attorney’s office did not oppose a reduction in the sentence, although it argued in court for a lesser reduction. It is an example of law enforcement and defense attorneys working together to use one of the few mechanisms available to defendants to reduce their sentences for post-conviction actions or behaviors.
The outcome of this case made me proud of the Remington Center for all of the work that we do. With free, quality representation, we provide an incredible service to the State of Wisconsin, and with the representation of this client, even law enforcement recognized the important service we provide.
I want to thank the Remington Center, especially Attorney Lichstein, for the opportunity to be involved with this case and for the trust in my abilities. The case was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life. It is unlikely that I will ever experience such an extraordinary case again, but the lessons I learned along the way will contribute to my representation of other clients. These lessons include the importance of extensive preparation, recognition that waiting for information can be better than rushing the process, that building relationships with those who are influential in the system can open doors, and that, even as a realist, a little hope is not misplaced and can go a long way for you and your client.
A 2L Finds "It" at the Innocence Project
By Matt Gardner (2L)
First year law students are inundated with an incredible amount of advice. The expectation at the Law School is that students will take this advice, work hard, and eventually come to understand what will make them successful. Professors are often heard saying, "at some point it will all come together." There is a general understanding during the first semester or even into the second semester that the law student will come around and start to "get it." I was never sure what I was supposed to get. How to be a good law student? How to be a good lawyer? I didn't really know.
My first year came and went, without the so called "eureka" moment. To me, the law school classroom was a hypothetical world that I was unable to connect to. Nothing seemed real, except for the pressure of academic success. There was nothing that really motivated me. I began to question myself, thinking that I made a mistake by coming to law school. I needed something real, tangible, a face, a name, a real life scenario. I finally found what I was looking for in the Wisconsin Innocence Project.
The Innocence Project classroom was much different than the hypothetical world I had been living in. Our classes dealt with real world skills like interviewing clients, indigent criminal defense, post-conviction procedure, and even introductions into DNA and other forensic evidence. I was given my own cases, cases with real people, real stories, things that mattered. The work was meaningful.
Over the course of the summer and into my 2L year, I was writing motions for post-conviction DNA testing, conducting interviews and investigations, and visiting my clients in their institutions. After a lot of hard work, one of my DNA testing motions was filed and a hearing was scheduled. Having reached a sufficient number of law school credits, I was able to argue the motion in court. Ultimately, it was our client's decision who he wanted to be his advocate in court. I was very humbled when the client put his faith in me.
The day of the hearing arrived. I had my suit on, in a beautiful classical style courthouse. I looked like a lawyer but I wasn't sure if I could act like one. I paced up and down the hallway adjacent to the courtroom while my supervising attorney Lanny Glinberg attempted to calm my nerves. There was nothing anyone could have said at that moment, I needed to be nervous - this was real - it really mattered.
I took the first chair at defense counsel's table, quickly filled my water cup several times in an effort to keep my throat from closing up, and waited for the bailiff to announce the judge and for the judge to announce the case.
Before I even had time to think about what I was doing, I was stating my appearance and beginning my argument. I don't think I even dared to breath for the first minute or so, but slowly my heart rate decreased, my palms became less sweaty, and I felt like I was hitting my stride. The judge asked questions and well-prepared answers left my mouth as though it was muscle memory. Before I knew it, my argument was done, and it was the state’s turn.
I took a deep breath and sat back in my chair, filled my water, and in this moment I "got it." Finally, things made sense to me in a very real way. It wasn't in a 9:00am torts class, or even a hypothetical motion in legal research and writing, where "it" came together. I do not doubt that these classes laid a very important foundation, but I needed the experiential learning to bring it all together.
We won the hearing for our client, and for the first time, I knew I could be a lawyer. I knew I could be a successful advocate, and I knew that I had made the right decision. "It" all made sense.
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