October 22, 2015

Lee Copeland: Serving the State

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Alabama State Bar President Lee Copeland (’82) welcomed the bar’s newest members in October and said they were joining what he considers the “best profession in the world.”

“One of their duties is to keep it that way,” Copeland said, “and they can do that by having a high degree of professionalism.”

Lee CopelandCopeland brings that pride and passion to his term as the 140th president of the 17,700-member association. As he crafted his goals for his term, he was mindful the association is one of a handful in the country that serves both as a regulatory body and that provides benefits to its members.

In his first video message to members, Copeland took on the matter of state funding, urging members to speak to state representatives about the importance of funding the court system. The court system, like many state-supported organizations, is weathering budget cuts. Copeland argues the court system shouldn’t be subjected to changes in state funding because it is a separate branch of the government with a constitutional mandate.

“We need a stand-alone, self-funding mechanism that will be able to adequately fund the courts so that they can comply with the mandate that’s in our constitution,” he said. “The bar is actively looking into that, but it’s a long-term problem. It’s not going to be solved overnight.”

While at Alabama Law, Copeland was the kind of student who skipped class to watch tapes of Francis Hare giving a closing argument, and he will never forget how Dean Charles Gamble, filling in for a professor one semester, “made the world of endorsements and promissory notes as exciting as watching “CSI” on TV. It was in law school that others learned Copeland doesn’t take himself too seriously. Back then, he was a member of a supper club of sorts, whose members called themselves the Squires. The Squires purchased a plaque, placed their names on it as loyal servants of the Law School, sneaked in one day and hung in on the walls shortly before they graduated. (For years it hung near the Bedsole Moot Courtroom, but has recently gone missing.)

After graduation, Copeland clerked for Judge Truman M. Hobbs, Sr. of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama and later joined Copeland, Franco, Screws & Gill, where his father, Albert Copeland (’51), had been one of the firm’s founders. His current practice is mostly litigation, and he handles Business, Commercial, Consumer and Insurance Coverage Litigation.

Copeland always wanted to be an attorney, and colleagues describe him as warm, friendly and engaging – attributes that will be helpful during his term as president of the state bar.

“I don’t know that he’s ever made an enemy in the practice of law,” said Judge Truman M. Hobbs, Jr. (’83).  “He represents his clients, but he does it with dignity and courtesy.”

Copeland is the kind of attorney that juries tend to like because he has what Attorney Bobby Segall (’71) calls “a lawyer’s personality.”

“Lee has excellent judgment,” Segall said. “He is someone with the gravitas to be heard. People respect his opinion, and he’s a great problem-solver.”

Another of Copeland’s goals addresses several challenges within the profession. The bar recently started a task force to explore the development of a program that would match recent law school graduates with lawyers who are looking to retire. The two attorneys would work together for a period of time, and then the practice would be turned over to the new attorney.

A similar program in Iowa has had some success, and Copeland said he would like to model the program in Alabama. When thinking about law firms, he said there is a tendency to focus on the larger firms. In Alabama, though, more than two-thirds of the firms in the state have five or fewer lawyers.

The partnership would help increase employment and help retiring lawyers turn over their practices to those they can trust. Finally, it would ensure that lawyers continue to practice in rural areas.

“A lot of our smaller counties could use more lawyers, frankly, but you’ve got to find a reason to get them there,” Copeland said.

Copeland plans to continue the video messages, logging one every quarter, so that attorneys will know what the association is doing and how they can help. “It’s a rule for lawyers,” he said. “You look around the community, and it’s the lawyers who are always the Sunday School teachers, Little League coaches, on the Rotary board. Lawyers are used to rendering service.”

October 20, 2015

Legal Writing Director Receives Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award

Kimberly K. Boone, Director of the Legal Writing Program and Legal Writing Lecturer in UA’s School of Law, received the University’s highest honor for excellence in teaching – the Outstanding Commitment to Teaching Award – from The University of Alabama National Alumni Association.

150820_MW_law_school_orientationBoone was honored because she has built the most rigorous and effective legal writing program in the nation, Dean Mark E. Brandon said.

“It is the only legal writing program I have ever been around that works as advertised. And it works splendidly,” Brandon said.  “It engages students, top to bottom, with instruction in legal institutions, with legal reasoning, and with the tools for building and clearly articulating legal arguments.”

Additional honorees are Dr. Mark E. Barkey, professor in the department of aerospace engineering and mechanics in the College of Engineering; Dr. Paul Houghtaling, associate professor of voice and director of UA’s Opera Theatre in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Dr. Timothy S. Snowden, associate professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences.

John Hodges, district vice president of the National Alumni Association, recognized, along with UA President Stuart R. Bell, the 2015 award recipients at the Tuesday, Oct. 20, fall faculty-staff meeting in the Bryant Conference Center.

An awards presentation also occurs at the NorthRiver Yacht Club with Lee Boles, president of the National Alumni Association.

About Kimberly K. Boone

Kimberly K. Boone is a magna cum laude graduate of UA’s School of Law. As a student, she was elected to Order of the Coif and Order of the Barristers. She was also a member of the Alabama Law Review and the Jessup International Law Moot Court Team. After graduation, she practiced with Lehr Middlebrooks Price & Proctor P.C. (now Lehr Middlebrooks & Vreeland P.C.) in Birmingham. She specialized in employment law matters. In addition to traditional litigation, she assisted her clients in creating employee handbooks, conducting internal investigations and providing EEO training for supervisors and employees. She was also a contributing editor for the Alabama Employment Law Letter and the Alabama Employer’s Desk Manual.

After five years in practice, she returned to the UA and joined the faculty. She has taught legal writing to one quarter of the first-year class since August 2000 and was appointed director of the Legal Writing and Moot Court Programs in 2003. She has also contributed to “1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School,” now in its second edition. Along with her outstanding colleagues in the legal writing program, she has been selected to present at three national legal writing conferences and many regional conferences. She is honored to mentor many of her students and to work with colleagues who recognize the importance of teaching students to write and speak clearly. She hopes to continue to improve the legal writing and moot court programs by working with practicing lawyers to understand the skills students must have to succeed as lawyers. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and business administration from Huntingdon College and was a member of the Hooding Team for UA Law graduating classes of 2014 and 2015.

October 15, 2015

Morris Dees Receives Courageous Advocacy Award

The American Board of Trial Advocates presented its Courageous Advocacy Award to Morris Dees, founder and chief trial attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, at the organization’s National Board of Directors Meeting in Charleston, South Carolina.

The organization presents the award to a judge or advocate anywhere in the world who has demonstrated exemplary courage in the representation of clients and a firm commitment to the rule of law, even at great risk to personal freedom and safety, according to a news release.

“ABOTA applauds Morris Dees and his staff of 75 lawyers for bringing systemic reforms — legally and peacefully — to society,” said Joel W. Collins, Jr., president of ABOTA. “Mr. Dees has served as a tireless champion for those who could not defend themselves. He has endured numerous death threats, had his offices burned to the ground and has opposed some of the most violent hate groups in America. All the while, he has adhered to the rule of law to fight against those who conspire against the very principles that provide freedom in our country,” Collins said.

October 14, 2015

Law School Ranks in Top 10 as “Best Value” for Fifth Consecutive Year

The University of Alabama School of Law is ranked 5th among the nation’s “Best Value Law Schools,” according to The National Jurist magazine’s rankings for 2015.

This is the ninth time since 2004 The National Jurist magazine has published the list, and it is the fifth consecutive year the Law School has been ranked among the top 10 “Best Value Law Schools” across the country.

“We are pleased that this ranking recognizes two things that students and faculty at the School of Law have long known. We provide a program of high quality. And our program is affordable,” said Dean Mark E. Brandon. “These are important markers of an excellent law school.”

The ranking is designed to identify the law schools where graduates have the best chances of passing the bar and getting a legal position without taking on considerable debt. The National Jurist magazine considers the percentage of students who pass the bar exam, employment rate, tuition, cost of living and average indebtedness upon graduation.

For more information on the rankings, contact The National Jurist magazine.

October 8, 2015

Professor Delgado Helps Identify Best and Worst Supreme Court Cases Since 1960

Professor Richard Delgado was one of 16 constitutional law professors who helped Time magazine identify the best and worst Supreme Court decisions since 1960.

Time surveyed more than 50 legal scholars and received 34 responses. Decisions that championed civil and individual liberties or made democracy more participatory were repeatedly praised, while professors were more critical of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), which removed campaign-spending limits on corporations and unions, as well as Bush v. Gore (2000), which resulted in George W. Bush winning the 2000 presidential election.

Delgado chose Loving v. Virginia (1967) as the best decision. “The decision, which legalized interracial marriage, put the last nail in the coffin of the South’s system of racial apartheid.”

He selected Citizens United v. FEC (2010) and Bush v. Gore (2000) as the worst decisions. “Citizens United because it departed from precedent and distorted the political process in ruinous fashion; Bush v. Gore because it was unprincipled, result-driven, and exposed the court to well-deserved scorn.”

For more, read “The Best Supreme Court Decisions Since 1960” and “The Worst Supreme Court Decisions Since 1960.” 

October 6, 2015

Professor Carodine Weighs in on Federal Settlement Alabama Will Receive for Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Professor Montre Carodine recently told it’s “an unfortunate development” that Alabama legislators are moving forward with a plan to divert $950 million of a federal settlement for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill to the state’s General Fund.

Alabama lawmakers have not specified how they plan to spend the money that will go into the General Fund, and some are concerned the money will be used to alleviate future budget deficits.

“Those state officials who negotiated the settlement have continued with their plans to provide a windfall to the state’s General Fund despite the concerns raised earlier this summer by concerned citizens and some elected officials when the tentative settlement plans were announced,” Professor Carodine said. “This is an unfortunate development for those truly concerned about restoring the Gulf Coast region.”

For more, read “Disappointment Lingers for South Alabama Officials over Alabama’s Settlement in BP Oil Spill Case.”

October 2, 2015

Law School Selects Millard Fuller as 2015 Profile in Service

The University of Alabama School of Law Profiles in Service Series

Millard Fuller

Millard Dean Fuller

Millard Fuller, a 1960 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, co-founded one of the most well-known and successful nonprofit Christian organizations in the world, Habitat for Humanity International.

Fuller, who received his undergraduate degree from Auburn University, began his legal and business career in pursuit of monetary success – but after becoming a millionaire at the age of 29, he drastically changed directions and set out down a different path.  Fuller and his wife, Linda, gave their possessions away to charity and began working with Dr. Clarence Jordan at Koinonia Farm, a Christian community near Americus, Georgia.  The Fullers helped to initiate projects to aid the poor.  One focused on affordable housing.  Modest homes were built primarily by volunteers on a nonprofit basis and sold to low-income families, who paid no interest on the mortgages.  The families were expected to invest their own “sweat equity” by helping to build their own homes and the homes of other families.  This model became the basis for the Fullers’ founding of Habitat for Humanity in 1976.  By 2005, 200,000 homes had been built for a million people in 90 countries.  That same year, Fuller founded a similar housing ministry, The Fuller Center for Housing.

Fuller earned dozens of prestigious awards during his lifetime, including the Martin Luther King, Jr., Humanitarian Award, Professional Builder magazine’s Builder of the Year Award, the Bronze Medallion from the Points of Light Foundation, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.  In bestowing this award, former President Bill Clinton called Habitat “…the most successful continuous community service project in the history of the United States.”

Fuller passed away suddenly in February 2009 at 74. The University of Alabama School of Law is proud to count Millard Fuller among our most distinguished alumni.

October 1, 2015

Feinberg Lectures on Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution


Distinguished Visiting Lecturer Kenneth Feinberg addressed the Law School about mediation and alternative dispute resolution, emphasizing the kinds of cases he administers fall into two categories and often take an unseen emotional toll.

Feinberg has managed claims arising from the nation’s “darkest moments” and posing the problem of determining what a life is worth, said Dean Mark E. Brandon.

As the nation mourned, Feinberg administered funds for several tragedies, including the Virginia Tech University shootings, the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shootings; the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings; and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Feinberg also administered funds after Americans were harmed during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010 and the General Motors ignition switch failure that was linked to the deaths of 124 people.

“It is probably no exaggeration to say that Mr. Feinberg has become one of the most active and successful mediators, arbitrators, alternative dispute resolvers in the history of the world,” Brandon said during his introduction of Feinberg.

Feinberg used his lecture to draw a distinction between the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, the claims paid by British Petroleum for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and those paid by General Motors. He said they are true alternatives to the American tort system, while he emphasized that other programs where Americans donated money, such as the funds paid to victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, are gifts because they do not limit the possibility of future lawsuits.

He noted that more than $61 million was raised in 60 days for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

“One thing you learn in what I do: Never underestimate the charitable impulse of the American people,” he said. “It is astounding how much money comes in, solicited or otherwise, to help fund private programs.”

In the cases of 9/11, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and the failure of the General Motors ignition switch, some may view those funds as alternatives to the tort system, but Feinberg said that is incorrect. Instead, he called them alternatives to tort litigation, what he referred to as a first cousin of tort system.

When deciding how much to pay a victim in cases such as 9/11, GM or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the systems that he oversaw paid victims for economic losses, but did not individualize payments due to pain and suffering or emotional distress.

“I don’t do that. How would anybody do that?” he asked.

But claims do take into consideration whether there was a death, the number of dependents and the spouse, making the awards different from person to person. Sometimes claims are adjusted when they are either too high or too low, he said.

By contrast, when the public provides charitable donations, every person who files a claim for that program receives the same amount of money. This was the case for funds administered for the Virginia Tech University shootings.

“All lives are equal because it’s not joined at the hip of the tort system,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg, who received his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1970, said he is often asked whether his law degree helps him administer funds.

“My law degree in all of these programs is largely a wash. It doesn’t help very much, although I took torts,” he said. “A divinity degree would be better, or a degree in psychiatry. You are dealing with very, very vulnerable people who are the innocent victims of life’s misfortune.”

He has heard countless stories: the story of the widow who lost her husband during the Sept. 11 attacks who had only 10 weeks to live and needed her claim processed within 30 days so that she could make sure her children would be provided for after her death, the man who lost his leg during the Boston Marathon bombing and didn’t want the money but rather wanted his leg back, and the widow whose husband saved the lives of others during the Sept. 11 attacks only to be killed by a man who jumped from 103rd floor.

Feinberg said listening to the stories is an essential part of what he does. It is part of the right to be heard in confidence, but that listening to such stories “becomes very debilitating.”

The nation came to the rescue of thousands of Americans who were hurt or killed during the Sept. 11 attacks, but Feinberg doesn’t think the nation will ever rally to help in quite the same way.

“I spend a fair amount of my time defending the 9/11 victim fund as sound public policy. It was the right thing to do. Don’t ever do it again. Bad things happen to good people every day in this country, and there is no 9/11 fund.”

October 1, 2015

Bradley Hargett: Serving the State

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Bradley C. Hargett (’16) was surprised when he learned in June that he had won the Alabama State Bar’s Pro Bono Law Student Award.

“I had no idea I had been nominated and it was very exciting to know that the state bar recognizes the efforts of law students and attorneys in pro bono service,” he said.

Hargett had always intended to help others while he attended law school. It’s how he was raised. As a 1L, he met a group of students who encouraged him to get involved early and stay involved. As a 2L, he worked as the student coordinator for the Reentry Assistance Clinic and enlisted other students to help parolees aBradley C. Hargett2nd probationers with various legal and social needs.  Students and lawyers were placed in the Tuscaloosa Office of Probation and Parole one day per month, where they helped fulfill requests as simple as getting a driver’s license renewed or reinstated to the more complex issues of securing housing.

“The end goal is to reduce recidivism, to take out the stumbling blocks that keep them from reentering society fully,” Hargett said.

Hargett helped coordinate a Free Legal Advice Clinic for Veterans and a Wills for Heroes Clinic for first responders, fire fighters and and police officers to ensure they have the proper documents in case of an emergency. Hargett, on his own initiative, became the Law School’s unofficial law school representative for the Alabama Responsible Lending Alliance, and he has been an active participant with the local affiliate of Tuscaloosa Citizens Against Predatory Practices.

“I’ve always known that with this profession comes a responsibility to give back to the community, and I took that to heart as soon as I got to Law School,” Hargett said. “I knew that that was something I had to do.”

Hargett has been an enthusiastic supporter of pro bono programs at the Law School, helping promote existing programs and helping to form new ones. Glory McLaughlin, Assistant Dean for Public Interest, said she has been consistently impressed with Hargett’s maturity, level of professionalism and his dedication to the pursuit of social justice.

“When I have seen Brad volunteer at pro bono clinics, he has demonstrated compassion for the clients he comes into contact with, and has been willing to go above and beyond the expectations of a student volunteer in order to obtain assistance for clients,” she said.

Hargett is rooted in Alabama and pursuing his third degree at the Capstone. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in American Studies. When he graduates from the Law School, he plans to practice in Tuscaloosa or Birmingham as a criminal defense attorney.

He has matched his interest in criminal defense with his coursework. He took Criminal Procedure with Professor Pamela Pierson, Sentencing with Judge Joseph Colquitt and Jury Selection with Professor Steve Emens. With Professor Pierson’s help, he enrolled in an independent study and worked in the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s office to get a sense of what life would be like on the other side. Last summer, he clerked at Rosen Harwood and was an intern at the Community Law Office in Birmingham.

Hargett comes from a family of lawyers. His father, Chris Hargett (’80), was a Chief Assistant District Attorney in Tuscaloosa County. His maternal grandparents, Jane and Frank Dishuck, (‘47 and ‘46) practiced law together.

“I like to say that my father was a career prosecutor, and so I’ve got to balance the family karma,” he said.

Before he attended his first class, Hargett worked at Cartee & Lloyd and has returned various times during his law school career. Michael Cartee, a private practice attorney in Tuscaloosa, described Hargett as someone with “remarkable intellect, sterling character,” he said. “He’s going to do very well in law practice.”

Hargett knows he will spend a fair amount of time in court as a criminal defense lawyer.

“Seeing everything that my father did, that matched up with “Perry Mason” and “Law and Order” that you see on TV,” he said. “Becoming a lawyer, I thought that means getting in the courtroom and so that’s what I want to do.”

September 28, 2015

Professor Delgado Named Faculty Fellow for Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study

Professor Richard Delgado has been selected as a faculty fellow for the Texas A&M University Institute for Advanced Study for the 2015-2016 academic year.

Each faculty fellow will partner with one or more of the departments offering graduate degrees housed in Texas A&M’s 16 colleges or schools, or the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Delgado, the John J. Sparkman Chair of Law, is widely acknowledged as a founder of critical race theory. He has received six Gustavus Myers Awards for outstanding books on human rights in North America, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and is among the most cited legal scholars in the United States with more than 5,000 citations.

Delgado will collaborate with faculty-scholars and law students at the Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth. Additionally, he will interact with faculty and graduate students in the Colleges of Education and Liberal Arts on the main campus.

Each year, the institute selects its faculty fellows from among top scholars who have distinguished themselves through outstanding professional accomplishments or significant recognition, including two Nobel laureates, a Wolf Prize recipient, a recipient of the Hubbell Medal in Literature for Lifetime Achievement, a recipient of the National Medal of Science, and an awardee of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.