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.”
The Alabama Law team of Caitlyn Prichard (’16), Logan Matthews (’16), and Grant Luiken (’16) competed in the national finals of the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition. Two hundred teams compete in regional tournaments around the country, and only the top twenty-four advance to the national finals.
The Alabama team’s brief won fourth place in the nation and the team advanced to the round of the final eight. There, the team lost on a tie-breaker and did not advance further. The top four brief and top eight finish were both the best an Alabama team has ever achieved in this premier national competition.
Professor Bryan Fair told WVUA 23 a proposed Fetal Heartbeat Bill that has passed the House in the state legislature wouldn’t survive a legal challenge. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), would ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected, but the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned similar bans in other states.
“Bills like these, I think, are largely political grandstands for legislators,” said Professor Bryan Fair. “They have no hope of surviving a legal challenge. They are a waste of tax-payer dollars.”
The team of Tom Causby (’16), Ellie Friedman (’16), Warner Hornsby (’16), and Corey Gross(’16) advanced to the semi-final round of the American Association for Justice National Trial Competition.
This year the AAJ competition had more than 200 law schools competing in 14 regional sites, and the 14 winners competed in New Orleans last week. Alabama faced the University of California Berkeley, Berry, Drexel, and California Western in advancing to the final four. In the semifinal the team lost a close vote to Georgetown. The team was coached by Robert Prince (’74).
Forrest Boone (’16) filed an amicus brief and argued in support of the appellant before the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces during oral argument, heard at the Law School.
United States v. Calyx E. Harrell was heard by a panel of five circuit court judges appointed for 15-year terms by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. The case involves the appeal of a U.S. Air Force officer who contends evidence obtained from a “dog-sniff” and police search of her vehicle was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment and should have been suppressed. Harrell was found guilty of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
The hearing was part of the court’s judicial outreach program. The court holds arguments at law schools, military bases and other public facilities as part of Project Outreach, a program developed to demonstrate the operation of a federal court of appeals and the military criminal justice system.
Before the hearing, Boone submitted a 15-page amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief he developed in Cameron Fogle’s Litigation Drafting: Military Court of Appeals course. As amicus, Boone was not a party to the case, but he offered information that could assist the court as it makes its final decision. Chief Judge Charles E. Erdmann described the brief as “very impressive” shortly after the hearing ended.
“This is a case where the government physically occupied private property for the purpose of gaining information,” Boone argued. “Overruling the lower court here does not require an extension of the law, rather the precedent of the Supreme Court mandates it.”
During the 10-minute presentation, Boone argued the trial court made two fundamental errors. The court ignored testimony and a video regarding the dog’s trespass, and it applied the wrong test to determine whether police conducted a search.
Boone argued the lower court was incorrect and should have suppressed the evidence as a violation of the Fourth Amendment because the case falls within the overlap of two U.S. Supreme Court cases: United States v. Jones and Florida v. Jardines.
“In Jones, the Supreme Court held that a mere trespass onto the exterior of a vehicle constituted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and in Jardines, the court applied that same trespass rationale to a dog sniff even when it could be said that that dog was pursuing an odor, attempting to find its source.”
When Judge Scott W. Stucky said he was having trouble following the argument about the whether the dog was acting in accordance with its training, Boone clarified his stance.
“Your honor, the point is that the officer didn’t make any action in response to the change in breathing,” he said. “The dog can’t have probable cause in his mind. Probable cause needs to be formed in the mind of the officer, which wasn’t present based on the breathing. The indication of this dog required the squaring off and the sitting, which didn’t occur until after the physical intrusion either onto or into the vehicle.”
Fogle and law students Jeremy Dalrymple (’17), Maurice FitzGerald (’16), Julie Munns (’16) and Gary Rowe (’16) contributed to the brief and served as practice judges for the oral argument. Each student wrote a full brief as part of the class.
“Once I selected Forrest’s brief, the entire class edited it,” Fogle said. “We worked as a team to make it the best product we could make it in order to get it ready for filing.”
Working with the students in the class also helped Boone shape the argument. “There are some of the arguments I made that people didn’t agree with, but their counter arguments helped me make my argument stronger,” he said.
Hosting the court allows the Law School to show it is producing some of the best students, legal minds and oral advocates in the country.
“Within a week of filing the amicus curiae brief, the government saw fit to file a response, which often doesn’t happen,” Fogle said. “He was writing at a level that was as good, if not better, than what would be expected from a practicing attorney.”
Boone recently accepted a position as an associate at Williams Gautier, PA in Tallahassee, Florida, where he will practice civil litigation. He said he hopes the experience will give his new colleagues confidence in him and that they may tap him for future appellate arguments.
“It’s extremely valuable to say that you’ve argued before a federal appeals court in an actual case,” Boone said. “Getting that experience prior to entering practice is a big leg up and puts me ahead of a lot of people in this stage of my career.”
Professor Jenny Carroll recently told Al.com Alabama is a one-party recording state, meaning one of the people in the conversation may record, or allow to be recorded, without informing the other party, she said.
But if you are a third party — someone who is not part of the conversation and you don’t have consent – “you are probably out of luck under Alabama law,” Carroll said.
The Dorbin Association presented a $10,000 donation to Turning Point Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services.
The donation is the largest in the association’s history, and leaders said they were honored to raise the money for an organization that supports women. In February, the association held a silent and live auction at Glory Bound in Tuscaloosa. The event featured everything from jewelry to ballroom dancing lessons. Businesses, community leaders, and law professors donated the items, and law students bid on their favorites.
“The entire Law School pitched in on this: professors, the administration, and the students,” said Dorbin President Hannah Hooks Stokes (’16).
Turning Point can house up to 16 women and children at a time. In 2015, the shelter served 840 clients and answered 852 calls on its 24-hour crisis hotline. The association’s donation will allow Turning Point to advocate for clients in the court system, conduct more educational outreach, and secure housing and other necessities for clients, said Belinda Jones, Director of Domestic Violence Services at Turning Point.
“On behalf of Executive Director Emily Kelly and the Turning Point Board of Directors, we can’t thank you all enough,” Jones said.
Legal scholars and members of the law enforcement community visited The University of Alabama School of Law to discuss policing after Ferguson.
The symposium on “Redefining Clearly Established Rights after Ferguson: § 1983 Claims and Community Policing from Hope v. Pelzer to Kingsley v. Hendrickson” was held in the Bedsole Moot Court Room.
The highly publicized and controversial deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and Tamir Rice have sparked a national conversation about community policing and the use of deadly force. This symposium will draw together experts from across the nation to examine the complicated set of issues that arises in the context of policing and use of force. The colloquy will consider both the constitutional and civil rights dimensions of the use of force, with particular focus on avenues for rendering existing legal remedies more responsive to current concerns.
The symposium was co-sponsored by the Alabama Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Law Review, a journal committed to fostering scholarly dialogue in the vital and interconnected areas of civil rights and civil liberties.
Professor Julie A. Hill and 12 Law School students recently visited the Cayman Islands as part of the offshore financial transactions course.
The Cayman Islands is a world leader in offshore finance. It is the second largest domicile for captive insurance companies, a jurisdiction of choice for investment funds, and a top provider for trust and company management services. Cayman also has sunny weather and beautiful beaches.
This combination of finance and fun drew students from the University of Alabama to the Law School’s offshore financial transactions class. Students spent time early in the semester in Tuscaloosa mastering the basics of captive insurance, investment funds, and securitization. They then traveled to Grand Cayman during spring break for a week of intensive courses taught by Caymanian financial experts.
The class is offered in conjunction with Texas A&M School of Law, and twelve Texas A&M students attended the course.
“It is a great opportunity for students to learn first-hand from attorneys and other finance professionals,” said Hill, who has taught the course for the past three years. “Students leave Cayman with a better understanding of sophisticated financial products and with professional connections that will help them in their careers.”
When not in class, students made the most of the beautiful island. They swam with stingrays, snorkeled in clear water, and relaxed on the beach. University of Alabama law student Said Jabbour (’17) described the trip as “both very fun and educational.”
Cameron Smith (’07) observes public policy across the country and explores how it could apply to the state of Alabama.
He is a Senior Fellow and State Programs Director for the R Street Institute, a conservative Washington D.C.-based think tank, where he evaluates public policy, including technology, juvenile justice and energy.
Smith has been in the position for about a year. “I get to move around the country and see areas for improvement but also best practices,” he said. “I’m a Federalist who truly believes that states are laboratories of democracies, and that we can learn from that.”
Public policy changes can be difficult to sell in a state that is steeped in pride and tradition. Smith spends most of his time educating others about their options and trying to inform the discussion on everything from the state’s budget to school choice.
Before joining R Street, Smith had a number of posts in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. He was legislative counsel for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he served as counsel to Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky., where his primary legislative project was the REINS Act. The legislation, which has passed the House several times, would give Congress more oversight on spending, make the executive branch more accountable to the legislative branch and possibly save money.
“The current Congress needs to have the authority for writing law, not a Congress from 30 or 40 years ago,” he said.
Smith’s work on the REINS Act is a prime example of his legal intellect, said David Lasseter (‘05), a federal lobbyist who works in government relations for United Technologies Corporation, an American aircraft manufacturer.
“He has a strong legal mind but also a strong political orientation, which allows him to understand the legal implications of policy and how to make sure they are the ones advocated for.”
Cindy Hayden (’02), director of government affairs for Altria, a tobacco and wine company, has known Smith for about 10 years. She first met him when he interviewed to be her law clerk for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“He has remarkable intellect, a sense of humor, a good attitude and is a hard worker,” she said. “After that first year with him, I knew those characteristics would ensure his continued success. He can analyze a complicated case or piece of legislation quickly and then distill it down to the need-to-know information that connects it to people in the real world.”
Smith will work with anybody who will work with him on the issues. “We’re a pragmatic group that really wants real solutions,” he said. “We don’t just want to talk about ideas in a vacuum.”
Writing a regular column for Al.com keeps those ideas flowing and allows him to have wide conversations about the issues that affect the state. It’s easy for those who work in public policy to develop a closed perspective on the issues they handle, he said. Writing a column exposes him to others’ ideas and allows readers to respond to his ideas.
“For me as a lawyer, sometimes I get wrapped up in law and public policy and focused on those issues, and it’s helpful as a writer to know that most people care about the human condition,” he said. “This isn’t simply a clinical exercise about winning the argument. Here’s an opportunity to move us forward, to help us have a better future.”
His most successful column was about his brother’s suicide, and he knows exactly why it’s the one readers remember.
“It lets them see my heart and who I am,” he said. “It’s an experience that shaped my life. Being able to reach people as human beings is absolutely critical if we want to have a better tomorrow for Alabama.”
It was in those early days of his career at UA Law that helped shape Smith’s career and his perspective. He vividly remembers Professor Bryan Fair’s Race, Racism and Law and Gender and Law courses. Both showed him the importance of looking at all perspectives and that those perspectives are held in good faith and are meaningful. Judge Joseph Colquitt, he said, taught him to appreciate the complexity of law.
“He definitely had a real impact on me in terms of my approach to criminal law, helping me understand it’s not so simple,” he said. “It’s not always just a matter of checking the boxes and someone’s guilty.”
Alabama Law also provided Smith with a solid network of professionals. Many of his classmates remain in his professional circle. While they may not have the same perspective, they have the same bond with the law school and the profession.
“It’s not always what you do, it’s who you do it with,” he said.