Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from duty and faces a trial before the Alabama Court of Judiciary after a complaint was filed last week. The complaint claims Moore “flagrantly disregarded and abused his authority” when he ordered the state’s probate judges to refuse applications for marriage licenses by same-sex couples. Moore opposes gay marriage based on his religious faith.
In 2003, Moore cited his religious beliefs in disregarding a federal judge’s order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from Alabama’s main judicial building in Montgomery.
Professor Susan Pace Hamill told the Associated Press that Moore’s actions in the two cases are consistent, but still wrong.
“The first thing any first-year law student learns is the supremacy of federal law,” said Hamill, who has observed Moore’s career for more than two decades as a researcher and law professor. “What a federal court says goes.”
Judge Myron H. Thompson reminded University of Alabama School of Law graduates they are following in the footsteps of lawyers who have transformed law in the state, the nation and around the world.
“It cannot be overstated that you law graduates have completed not only one of the finest, top-tiered law schools in the country, but a law school that can unabashedly boast graduating some of the finest lawyers not just in the state of Alabama but in this country,” Thompson said. “Lawyers who have literally changed the nature of the law for this state, this country, and in some regards, even for the world.”
Judge Thompson, Senior Judge, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, delivered the commencement address, and the Law School conferred 139 Juris Doctor degrees and six LL.M. degrees Saturday at Coleman Coliseum.
Judge Thompson said Sen. Howell Heflin, who earlier served as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, reshaped and redefined the line between law and equity in Alabama, and Justice Hugo Black revived a fundamental precept in the notion of freedom in the United States: the freedom to speak.
He observed Judge Sam Pointer is responsible for how lawyers litigate complex litigation, and Michael Figures, one of the Law School’s first African-American graduates, became a formidable figure in Alabama politics and may have been governor of Alabama, had his life not been cut short by illness.
Judge Thompson acknowledged Justice Janie Shores, the first woman justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, wrote a decision affording Alabama women equal rights as property owners in the state, and he recognized Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., who opened the door to full equality for African-Americans and perfected the Wyatt standards that are used to treat the mentally ill and the mentally challenged.
“Without question, every woman receiving a law degree in this state this year stands on the shoulders of Justice Shores,” Thompson said. “Every African-American receiving a law degree in the state this year stands on the shoulders of Michael Figures. And all who receive law degrees in the state today stand on the shoulders of Sen. Heflin, Justice Black, Judge Pointer and Judge Johnson.”
In his welcoming remarks, Dean Mark E. Brandon celebrated the achievement of the Class of 2016.
The median LSAT score for the class was 164, and its median collegiate grade-point average was 3.86. Some 47 percent were members of one of the Law School’s four legal journals, while 58 percent participated in at least one of six clinics, training and serving as student lawyers. Thirty-three graduates won individual awards for performance in regional or national moot court competitions or were members of a team that advanced to elimination rounds.
“This is a remarkable class—supremely talented, and well prepared to face the future,” Brandon said.
Angela M. Selvaggio, delivering the valedictory address, said graduates like to think they do everything on their own, and it’s just not true. She thanked family and friends at the ceremony as well as those who could not attend.
“And of course our support system includes the teachers willing to take the time to give us the tools for success in law school and beyond,” she said. “For many of us, one of those influential teachers has been Professor Susan Lyons. Today, we want to make sure that she in particular knows the gratitude we feel for her patience and her guidance.”
Degree candidates were hooded by Kimberly Boone, Director of Legal Writing Program; Cameron Fogle, Legal Writing Lecturer; Grace Lee, Associate Professor of Law in Residence; and Susan Lyons, the Ira Drayton Pruitt, Sr. Professor of Law.
The eight recipients of the Dean M. Leigh Harrison Academic Achievement Award were hooded first. Twenty-four students received the Public Interest Certificate for completing the program’s academic and externship requirements, while 39 students received the Order of the Samaritan honor for performing 50 hours of pro bono legal service and 40 hours of community service during Law School.
A reception honoring graduating students was held immediately following the ceremony on the Camille Wright Cook Plaza in front of the Law School.
Professor William Andreen has published an article that explores the threats posed by climate change to our nation’s water resources. The article, “No Virtue Like Necessity: Dealing with Nonpoint Source Pollution and Environmental Flows in the Face of Climate Change, 34 Virginia Environmental Law Journal 255-296 (2016), is available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2743981.
The Clean Water Act has been a success in many ways, Andreen wrote. The discharge of pollutants from both industrial and municipal point sources has plummeted and the loss of wetlands has been cut decisively. As a result, water quality has improved broadly across the entire nation.
Despite that progress, many of our waters remain water quality impaired. The primary reason lies in the inability of the Clean Water Act to effectively tackle two significant sources of water pollution: nonpoint source pollution (diffuse runoff from, for example, fields and logging operations) and hydrologic modifications (such as water withdrawals and dams). In contrast to the Act’s approach to point source discharges and the loss of wetlands, Congress left control of both nonpoint source pollution and hydrological modifications primarily in state hands. While some states have responded well to the challenge, most have not been equal to the challenge. New approaches are needed to deal more effectively with both problems, the magnitude of which is staggering: over 40,000 nonpoint source impaired waters and thousands of flow-impaired water bodies.
Climate change, moreover, will exacerbate both problems. Heavier rainfall events have been increasingly common all across the nation, and this trend will likely intensify. In places like the Northeast and Midwest, where this effect is expected to be most pronounced, the effect on water quality will be profound. More intense storms will produce more erosion and stormwater runoff, resulting in more nonpoint source pollution. In addition, hotter and drier conditions in a number of other regions, but especially in the Southwest, will place greater strains upon stream flows, wreaking increasing damage to aquatic ecosystems as well as threatening the adequacy of water resources for human use.
Crafting a more effective federal-state partnership to combat both problems has proven impossible for over forty years. Many states and their allies in Congress have resisted such efforts, citing traditional state interests over land use and water allocations. The problems, however, are serious and will grow more severe as the climate changes. Reform is becoming imperative.
The U.S. Supreme Court granted review, vacated the judgment and sent the case of Alabama Death Row inmate Bart Johnson back to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in January that Florida’s sentencing program that allows judicial override in death penalty cases was unconstitutional. Alabama has a similar sentencing program.
The court didn’t vacate Johnson’s death sentence, said Professor Jenny Carroll. What it did was vacate the Alabama court’s affirmation of the death sentence and asked that court to reconsider its decision in light of the Hurst v. Florida ruling, she said.
Holly Caraway (’10) serves as chief counsel in the Office of the Senate Minority Leader in the Alabama legislature and is careful not to fall into the partisan divide.
She prefers to build bridges, educate and enlighten anyone who may not view politics or policy the way she does. The only way she knows how to do that is through forming relationships, and she builds those relationships on honesty and respect. For Caraway, cultivating relationships is a requirement of the position. Without them, it’s unlikely any legislation would find its way to the calendar, let alone a committee.
“If you get bogged down in the partisan politics, then the voiceless are never going to have a voice,” she said.
Policy is her passion. She attends meetings with or on behalf of the eight Alabama senate democrats she advises, and she reads legislation and advises them in regards to what is good democratic policy.
She views her position as an opportunity to help improve living and working conditions for the state’s residents. This includes legislation involving education, corrections and Medicaid, just to name a few. Her overarching goal for policy is to make sure it is providing a better quality of life for all Alabama citizens, especially children, seniors and those who don’t have a voice in state government.
Caraway learned how to work well with others while she was pursuing her JD/MBA at Alabama. She not only learned how to work with other individuals but to trust them in a team setting.
“My caucus is my team,” she said. “Or, whoever I am working with on a piece of legislation is my team. Learning to trust your teammates was just a wonderful experience for me.”
Caraway has a built-in network in Montgomery. As the only public law school in the state, Alabama Law has provided many of the colleagues and friends she interacts with on a daily basis, including Alabama State Bar Association leaders, lobbyists, legislators and other state employees.
“The collegial environment that exists at the Law School is unparalleled,” she said. “I read all these stories about law school students being cut throat, gunning against each other, and tearing each other down to get to the top; that was definitely not my experience at law school. Yes, it was competitive but not at the expense of friendship and treating people the way they should be treated.”
She serves as another pair of eyes and ears on the senate floor, where rules are important and can be used to a senator’s advantage. What has added to her longevity as well as her credibility is that Caraway understands the rules and how best to apply them.
She spent time observing how the Alabama senate operated and did not interject herself into a situation until she understood the politics and the procedural way of what was actually happening, said Patrick Harris, Secretary of the Alabama Senate, who is responsible for the procedure, rules and general operation of the Alabama senate.
“She would come in after a session and ask questions about what happened on the floor, why it happened and which rules applied to the situation,” he said.
She uses that knowledge on the floor. “She works across the aisle. The passion she has for people shows through this process and the ability to hear both sides and understand the issues,” said Sen. Quinton Ross, who serves as Alabama Senate Minority Leader. “She has great working relations, which makes for a healthy environment for the exchange of ideas and trying to find solutions to many of our issues.”
It is for that reason Caraway encourages other lawyers to consider public service. Talented lawyers are needed to serve members of the state even if the salaries that come with those positions aren’t as high as those for practicing in other areas of law.
“Your profession is serving a larger cause than yourself or your family,” she said. “You’re actually working for the citizens of the entire state, which is a great responsibility, and that’s why we need every graduate of the law school to consider it as a law path.”
Caroline Cease (’15) is starting her legal career with three federal clerkships.
She is clerking for Judge L. Scott Coogler on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama until August, and she will immediately begin clerking for Chief Judge Edward E. Carnes on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Her third clerkship will be for Judge Peter Hall on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the experience will remain with her throughout her legal career.
“You’re getting to know a federal judge really well and seeing how things work from the inside,” Cease said. “You get to see a lot of different cases, so you’re learning about different areas of law.”
In 2015, 12 UA Law students and graduates clerked for federal judges and 12 clerked for state judges. The position requires excellent legal research and writing skills and provides a rare glimpse into a legal mind.
“It’s a phenomenal learning opportunity,” said Lezlie Griffin, Assistant Dean for Career Services. “You learn skills and you build a relationship with a judge who can become your mentor, serve as a reference – and what better reference to have no matter what position you end up applying for in the future. A judge is the best reference you can have.”
Cease said no two days are the same. She reviews filed motions and researches the legal issues so that Judge Coogler (‘84) can formulate his opinion. She attends hearings, writes memos, schedules telephone conferences, and answers questions from attorneys regarding filing issues and other issues that can arise in their lawsuits.
She received the offer to clerk for Judge Coogler after she interned for him the summer of her first year. After she completed her second year, Cease interviewed with Judge Carnes and walked away with an offer. She interviewed with Judge Hall in his New York chambers during her third year after she met him during the Campbell Moot Court Competition.
Cease credits her law professors with helping her land the positions.
“Going it alone can be a scary process, and it’s good to have someone there who can walk you through it, talk you through it,” she said. “The Law School does a good job of that.”
Professor Carol Andrews first approached Cease about whether she was interested in clerking. Professor Kenneth Rosen, then-Chairman of the Judicial Clerkship Committee and who clerked for Judge Ed Carnes, guided her through the entire clerkship application and interview process throughout her time in law school. Legal Writing Instructor Anita Kay Head helped review cover letters and other relevant application materials.
Professor Fredrick Vars, the current Chairman of the Judicial Clerkship Committee, estimates judges receive hundreds of applications for each position. The application process is open, but class rank weighs heavily in hiring decisions. Students are attracted to clerkships because they open doors.
“When I moved to Chicago, having done a court of appeals clerkship, I got to pick which firm I wanted to work for,” said Vars, who clerked for Judge Bruce M. Selya on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Judge Joan B. Gottschall on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The committee’s goal is try to get a clerkship for every student who wants to clerk, Vars said. The Law School holds informational sessions three times during the academic year, and members of the Judicial Clerkship Committee provide counseling, as well as review resumes and cover letters. Students may also peruse a binder in the Career Services Office that lists former clerks and indicates whether they are willing to provide information about a judge or the clerkship process.
“Sometimes students underestimate their chances or are unwilling to take a chance because they know these are tough jobs to get,” Vars said. “The only way to know you won’t get a clerkship is not to apply.”
Alex Darby (’15), a staff attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, encourages students to apply. She is one of four 2015 Alabama Law graduates working with more than 60 attorneys who handle a variety of issues from immigration to employment discrimination. She said the position has strengthened her analytical and writing skills.
“It’s such a wonderful learning experience,” she said. “It provides great insight into the federal litigation process.”
Professors Heather Elliott and Ronald Krotoszynski strongly encouraged Kara Deal (’15) to pursue clerkships. She is clerking for Judge Susan L. Kelsey on the Florida First District Court of Appeals. Deal said she knew before she graduated she wanted the practical experience.
“I can’t imagine a better vantage point for how the law really works,” she said. “It provides a great insider’s perspective. I’ve learned probably as much during the clerkship as I learned during all three years of law school.”
Deal cast a wide net for positions because she had been told it would be tough to land a clerkship. She applied for several positions in Alabama and then broadened her search to Tennessee and Florida. In May, she will begin clerking for Justice Tom Parker on the Alabama Supreme Court.
“It’s been a tremendous education experience so far,” she said, “and I’m really excited to have another year to gain more knowledge.”
2015 UA Law Clerks
Stanley E. Blackmon,U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Morgan L. Booker, Presiding Judge William C. Thompson, Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
Gloria L. Breland, Judge James P. Smith
Brock E. Brett,Administrative Office of Courts
Abigail Castleberry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Staff Attorney’s Office
Caroline Cease, Judge L. Scott Coogler, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Alex W. Darby, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Staff Attorney’s Office
Madison R. Davis,Fourteenth Court of Appeals
Kara Deal, Florida First District Court of Appeal
Christopher Driver, Judge L. Scott Coogler, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Alyse N. Gillman, Chief Judge Karon Bowdre, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Mark Anthony Husted, Judge Michael G. Graffeo
David A. Kidd, State of Alabama, Administrative Office of Courts
Ayla Luers, Judge Dennis O’Dell
Misha Mitchell, Judge James Hughey, III, Alabama Circuit Court
Michael Morris, Judge Madeline Haikala, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Tiffany Ray, U.S. Court of Appeals for 11th Circuit, Staff Attorney’s Office
Peggy Rossmanith, 37th Judicial Circuit of Alabama
Sam Schott, Judge Jay Zainey, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Caroline Sims, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Staff Attorney’s Office
Matthew Slaughter, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
Professor Heather Elliott recently told Politico the result of liberals and conservatives swapping sides on the issue of when states can challenge the federal government in court could have unintended consequences.
The court could squelch the case on standing grounds, handing a win to President Barack Obama. At the same time, that could make it more difficult for environmentalists, unions and others to use the courts to challenge the future actions of either a Democratic or Republican president.
“It strikes me as having the right fight on the wrong territory,” said Elliott, a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “I worry that if groups that support the current administration’s position get too out there with their arguments about standing … that’s going to come back to bite when we have the next change in administration. Now you want to get in the courthouse door, but you’re stuck with the doctrine you’ve set up to keep other people out.”
Frances Isbell (’17) has been selected as one of 16 graduate students of the inaugural class of the Albert Schweitzer Fellows.
The fellows will receive $2,500 and spend the next year learning how to effectively address the social factors that impact health, while developing lifelong leadership skills.
“We are confident that the Alabama Schweitzer program will make a lasting impact on the health of communities in and around Birmingham, Alabama, as our fellows first learn to serve and support vulnerable people in living healthier lives, and then take those skills with them when they establish themselves professionally as leaders in their field,” said Kristin Boggs, Director of the Alabama chapter of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.
As part of her fellowship, Isbell will open an Alabama chapter of NMD United, a non-profit association composed of adults living with neuromuscular disabilities that provides resources to promote independence, so that she can help create a network for teens and adults with neuromuscular conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She also will organize pro bono legal clinics, aimed at helping that population access the resources they need to live independently.
“I thought this would be an opportunity for me to do that because it provides a network that allows me to work with other professionals trying to do similar goals,” Isbell said. “Also, it provides funding to bring in speakers and help with outreach projects.”
Isbell plans to develop and present financial planning workshops for individuals with disabilities so that they can learn about the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, or the ABLE Act. Individuals with disabilities face financial challenges, but they often do not have access to the same financial planning tools as other Americans who are planning for college and retirement. The ABLE Act is designed to ease financial challenges faced by individuals with disabilities by making tax-free savings accounts available to cover qualified expenses such as education, housing and transportation.
“It’s really going to impact the disability community in the next few years, so I want to do an outreach project because most people haven’t even heard of the accounts,” she said.
Isbell’s project will provide a much-needed resource to an underserved community. Individuals with neuromuscular conditions often face challenges in everyday activities, including transportation, voting, finding housing and applying for Social Security.
“Frances’s community service project will create a network in which persons with neuromuscular conditions and others can share information that helps to overcome barriers to life’s opportunities and resources,” said Jamie Leonard, Vice Dean of the Law School, who specializes in disability law.
Organizing the pro bono clinics will fill a gap in the current legal services accessible to people with disabilities and enable them to live more independently.
“Frances came to law school with a passion for disability rights law, and she has pursued this passion from day one,” said Glory McLaughlin, Assistant Dean for Public Interest. “Due to her dedication to this area of law, she is uniquely suited to recognize the most pressing needs of people living with disabilities and to create effective programs for meeting those needs.”
The 16 Alabama fellows will join about 240 other 2016-17 Schweitzer Fellows working at program sites across the nation, as well as one in Lambaréné, Gabon, at the site of The Albert Schweitzer Hospital, founded by Dr. Schweitzer in 1913. Upon completion of their fellowship year, the 2016-17 Alabama Schweitzer Fellows will become Schweitzer Fellows for Life and join a vibrant network of more than 3,200 Schweitzer alumni who are skilled in, and committed to, addressing the health needs of underserved people throughout their careers.
Professor Pam Pierson was recently tapped as a new member of The XXXI, an honor society that selects 31 outstanding women for membership each year.
“I am honored to be invited into The XXXI and humbled to meet the talented, strong, confident women who are XXXI members,” Pierson said. “It is exciting to see the impact they have in every aspect of life at The University of Alabama. I look forward to joining the women of The XXXI in their leadership traditions at our University.”
Pierson was the only faculty member at The University of Alabama selected for this honor. The membership consists of 18 University juniors, eight University seniors, three University alumnae, one University faculty member, and one leader in the state who does not have to be a student or graduate of the University of Alabama. New members are selected by the year’s previous inductees, making this an especially great honor for a Law School faculty member to be selected by an organization whose membership consists of a majority of undergraduate students.
The XXXI was founded in 1989 to honor women with a commitment to The University of Alabama, the city of Tuscaloosa and/or the state of Alabama through service, leadership and exemplary character. UA Law School alums have a strong tradition of service and leadership in The XXXI. UA Law graduate Allison Alford Ingram (’92) was a founding member of The XXXI. In addition to Professor Pierson, currently at the law school are XXXI members Martha Griffith (’12), Assistant Director for Admissions; Caroline Strawbridge (’97), Major Gifts Officer; and law students Christy Boardman (’17), Maria O’Keefe (’18), Jordan Patterson (’17), and CadeAnn Smith (’18).
Neena Speer (’17) urged aspiring law school students to tell their own stories, own those stories and use them to help develop leaders during a talk at The National Diversity Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair in Washington, D.C.
“I think everyone’s common goal is to be accepted and respected, so when I think about diversity I think about bringing that to the classroom,” she said.
Speer was a featured speaker at the pre-law conference, a national outreach, networking and empowerment event designed for diverse aspiring lawyers. The conference connects students with law school admissions counselors and provides information to help them succeed in law school.
Speer was invited to talk at the conference by Executive Director Evangeline M. Mitchell. During her 15-minute speech, Speer shared her own story about diversity. It begins with her parents, her role models. Her mother is from India, and her father is African-American, which she said is not a “typical combination.” Both of her parents, especially her mother, taught her lessons about acceptance and respect.
“When I go see my mother’s family, we touch every adult’s – and I mean anyone who is older than me – feet as a sign of respect,” she said.
It’s that same kind of respect students need to bring with them to succeed in law school. When students don’t respect their elders, they miss the opportunity to learn, she said.
Law school can be a humbling experience. Speer reminded students that they may not excel in every class, but there are many places where students can use their talent. For example, a student may excel in trial advocacy and participate in a law clinic.
As for diversity, it’s an asset. Those who can’t accept and respect other people may find it difficult to succeed in life and at work.
“When you are diverse, you learn how to develop leaders because you always look at different cultures, different personalities, different situations,” she said. “Diversity is not just about being black or white; it’s about learning how to deal with multiple personalities.”