The Thomas L. Jones Reception Area of the Alabama Law Institute is nearing completion.
Alumni, friends and family donated nearly $165,000 to the project, and a portion of the funds was used to create the Thomas L. Jones Endowed Scholarship.
Professor Jones was appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama School of Law in 1962. Since then, he has served in virtually every position available to a member of the UA Law faculty, including Dean and Vice Dean. He was an integral part of the Alabama Law Institute, serving as the Acting Director from 1972 to 1974. He was on numerous ALI committees, both as a reporter and a member, from 1980 to 2013.
The Thomas L. Jones Reception Area will be dedicated at 4:30 p.m., January 18, in Room 326 at the Law School.
The Law School invites all alumni to register for its Diverse Experts Directory.
The Diverse Experts Directory is a clearinghouse of University of Alabama School of Law’s alumni and friends who have expertise in various fields. The purpose of the Directory is to provide the Law School’s students, student organizations, faculty, and staff with a resource for finding potential speakers and authors for programs, publications, and other initiatives.
One goal is to have a Directory that includes individuals of different races, ethnicities, genders, disability statuses, sexual orientations, practice areas, practice settings, and experience levels.
Participants are encouraged to create a complete profile with detailed information about their legal and professional expertise, as well as demographic data. This will help program organizers identify and include panelists and authors who are representative of the constituencies the Law School serves, as well as the legal profession.
Should you have questions or comments about the directory, please send an email to Daiquiri J. Steele, Director of Diversity & Inclusion and Assistant Professor of Law in Residence, at email@example.com, call (205) 348-4541 or visit law.ua.edu/diversity.
As you consider your charitable giving prior to the end of the year, remember that gifts made now could generate income tax deductions that may help reduce your tax bill for 2016. Here’s how to complete your 2016 gift to The University of Alabama School of Law by year end.
IMPORTANT: Credit card gifts mailed to The University of Alabama School of Law must be received by Friday, December 30, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. CST in order to be processed. The Office of Advancement Services will be open from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST on the following days during the holidays: December 29th, December 30th and December 31st. If you have any questions, please call our office at (205) 348-4767.
Gifts by Check
Mailed via USPS
Gifts may be mailed to the following address:
The University of Alabama
School of Law
Office of Advancement Services
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487
Gifts by Credit Card
Online gifts via credit card
The most convenient and expedient way to ensure that your year-end gift to The University of Alabama is received on time is to make it online via the UA giving website. You may make an online gift any time before 11:59 p.m. (Central Standard Time) on December 31, 2016. You may give using any major credit card and your receipt is automatically generated and delivered via email.
Please visit UA’s online giving form.
Credit Card gifts mailed via USPS and FedEx/UPS shipping
Credit Card gifts by telephone
Gifts of Securities
Giving stock that is worth more than you paid for it may result in additional tax savings. Stock transfers initiated and received on or before the close of the market on December 31, 2016, will be credited for 2016. To ensure proper gift credit to you, please notify us in advance when you are ready to make a transfer. For more information regarding stock transfers, please visit UA’s Gifts of Securities page.
Gifts via Wire Transfer
Our wire transfer instructions are as follows:
Bank: Cadence Bank
Address: 1108 Hwy 82 East
Starkville, MS 39759
Routing number: 062206295
Account Name: The University of Alabama
Account Number: 5700000820
Wire transfers must be received at UA’s bank on or before December 31, 2016, in order to be considered a 2016 contribution. Please contact UA at (205) 348-6718 and provide the name of who is making the wire transfer and for what purpose. You may also email Erica Gambrell.
Gifts via IRA Charitable Rollovers
The charitable IRA rollover, also called a qualified charitable distribution, was made permanent in 2015. Since 2006, many UA donors age 70 ½ or older have used this option to make qualifying charitable gifts that were excluded from taxable income and counted toward their required minimum distribution (RMD). To qualify, gifts must be transferred directly from the IRA provider to The University of Alabama and meet certain other requirements. This provision applies to people age 70 ½ or older at the time the transfer is completed. Please note that an individual taxpayer’s total charitable IRA rollover gifts cannot exceed $100,000 per tax year. We encourage you to check with your financial advisors about the best ways for you to take advantage of this opportunity as you consider gifts to the University and other charitable interests that are important to you.
It is simple to make a transfer. Contact your account administrator to request a check be delivered to the address below. Envelopes must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2016.
The University of Alabama
Tax Identification # 63-6001138
Attn: Office of Planned Giving
Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487
For more information, contact the Office of Planned Giving at (205) 348-0999 or toll free at (888) 475-4438.
Questions about year-end giving or supporting UA
Please call the Office of Advancement at (205) 348-4767 or toll-free at (888) 875-4438 or visit Giving to UA for additional information.
This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice. Before making your charitable gift, please consult with your financial, legal and other advisors.
Professor Stephen Rushin is quoted in AL.com about how Sen. Jeff Sessions, as U.S. Attorney General, would oversee an ongoing federal investigation into overcrowding in Alabama prisons.
Jini Koh (‘04 ) knows stories about products that find their way to American shores.
As counsel in the International Trade Group in Crowell & Moring’s New York office, she has worked around the world — from an apparel floor in Sri Lanka, to a distribution hub in Germany, to agricultural production in Russia, to a solar energy plant in Shanghai.
Sometimes the label that displays the country of origin doesn’t tell the entire story of an item.
“You’re growing cotton in Uzbekistan, which is made into fabric in China, which is then cut and sewn into a garment in Vietnam, which then ends up here,” she said.
Koh’s practice focuses on advising clients on import regulatory compliance, trade remedies and international trade litigation, and she draws from a wide range of experience when addressing trade and customs issues.
Koh emigrated with her family from Korea to the United States when she was 2 years old, and she majored in international relations and environmental studies while an undergraduate at Tulane University. At UA Law, she noticed all of the international trade cases went to the U.S. Court of International Trade, and she later clerked for Judge Nicholas Tsoucalas of the U.S. Court of International Trade for two years. From there, she went to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, where she consulted and advised on customs and duty issues.
She understands the intense competition for manufacturing goods overseas and what factors are considered when imported items are priced. Any country that exports apparel to the United States, for example, pays a customs duty, which is a primary revenue raiser for the federal government. The duty is high, she said, because cotton is heavily protected in the United States. Another factor is that the cost of producing items in the U.S. is much higher than it is elsewhere, which is one reason why the cost of labor is such an important factor in trade.
“We worry about outsourcing, but so does China,” she said. “China has to compete with Bangladesh, where the labor rate is one-third of what it is in China.”
It’s a complex regulatory area that requires a deft hand. Koh handles day-to-day compliance work and emergency situations, where a client may be undergoing an audit or answering questions about fraud and litigation.
“Given the complexity and the combination of those very different categories of work, you have to be super quick and nimble on your feet,” said Alexander H. Schaefer, a partner at Crowell & Moring. “That’s Jini’s strength. She can parachute into any of these situations and help manage it efficiently and productively.”
Koh is also a resource for her colleagues.
“She does not hesitate to say: ‘I don’t know that. I will call someone and get back to you,’” said Monica M. Welt, who was in the Torts/Advertising and Product Risk Management group at Crowell & Moring and is now Director of Compliance at Big Lots.
Koh has known she wanted to be a lawyer since she was in middle school in Huntsville, Alabama. The education she proudly received at UA Law enables her to navigate complex trade agreements with ease. The curriculum focused on the application of the law and the analytics of law, teaching her strong fundamentals that she applies daily to the unique problems that her clients face. It is also where she learned how to think like a lawyer.
“What are the boundaries? What does it mean? What is the obligation? What is both compliant and operationally efficient for a company to execute? That’s the kind of thinking that matters every day,” she said.
One thing that matters to Koh is helping those who have served in the military overseas. Crowell & Moring has a deep commitment to pro bono work, and the firm encourages lawyers to step outside of their usual practice areas when searching for pro bono projects. In 2012, Koh, who has two brothers who have served in the U.S. Army, helped U.S. Navy and Marine Corps veterans sue the federal government for illegally cutting their disability benefits.
“I’m not a soldier. That wasn’t my calling, but I can do what I do in a way that it helps someone else.”
The veterans had been discharged for combat-related injuries they sustained during their tours of duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs continued to deduct their disability separation pay from their disability benefits contrary to a 2008 change in the law.
The case helped bring the U.S. Navy’s and Marine Corps.’ delay in compliance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, which allows veterans wounded in combat to receive both disability severance pay and VA disability compensation, to the attention of the U.S. Department of Defense and the VA.
Judge Margaret M. Sweeney ruled in 2015 that the Court of Federal Claims lacked jurisdiction to hear the class action complaint because Congress required veterans to seek administrative relief through the VA process instead. After the case was dismissed, the DOD and the VA identified 210 veterans who received a total of $1.5 million.
“There was no intent to do wrong by anyone. The U.S. government is just a big entity,” Koh said. “We brought the lawsuit to force the Navy to go back and find the class, find all of the effected soldiers and on a comprehensive level fix their cases rather than have the veterans find them.”
Shomari Figures (‘10) advises the nation’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.
As the White House Liaison for the U.S. Department of Justice, Figures ensures the Obama Administration places the right people into appointed positions, those who are going to pursue an interest in justice and fairness, as well as preserve the rights of everyone regardless of their background.
He is responsible for all political personnel movements at the Justice Department. By coordinating that process, he provides his personal insight to Lynch as well as senior staff about those who are under consideration for positions, including those that require confirmation from the U.S. Senate.
Figures’s personal story is very much intertwined with the office where he works. He often meets in the Attorney General’s Conference Room, which was once Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s office. It was in those chambers that Kennedy discussed the integration of The University of Alabama that ultimately led to the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. Gov. George Wallace tried to block the entry of two African-American students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, to The University of Alabama. Wallace ultimately stepped aside, and Malone and Hood registered for classes. That move also cleared the way for Figures’s father, the late state Sen. Michael A. Figures, to become one of the first African-American graduates of The University of Alabama School of Law in 1972.
“So every time you sit in there, you’re literally sitting in the chambers that paved the way for my father to go to The University of Alabama’s Law School, for Vivian Malone and James Hood to go to The University of Alabama as undergraduates,” he said. “It’s a very fulfilling experience to get to work where I work.”
The position also comes with compelling responsibilities. Figures has been tasked with updating senior leadership about the status of the Clemency Initiative, a program announced in 2014 by former Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole that prioritizes the clemency applications of non-violent, low-level offenders with no significant criminal history or ties to large scale criminal organizations, and who have served at least 10 years in federal prison and who, by virtue of changes in law, would have likely received a substantially lower sentence today if convicted of the same crime.
Figures communicates with the Office of the Pardon Attorney and helps implement one of President Barack Obama’s primary goals: eradicating the effects of the harsh sentencing laws of the “war on drugs.”
Prior to working for the Department of Justice, Figures served as the Domestic Director of the Presidential Personnel Office at the White House. While there, Figures witnessed the process of Lynch being nominated and confirmed as Attorney General.
“Being a part of that nomination process, seeing the unjust delay in her confirmation — given her impeccable qualifications — seeing that come to fruition and seeing her confirmed was not a personal accomplishment, but it was definitely one of my proudest moments of being here,” he said.
“Every major accomplishment the administration makes, especially on the criminal justice side or the justice side in general, is something I feel a personal stake in.”
Figures could have landed elsewhere. When his mother, Alabama Sen. Vivian Figures, suggested he attend law school and follow in his father’s footsteps, he said he wasn’t interested. Vivian Figures prayed on it, and her son later came to her and said he had decided to attend law school. She thought it was the perfect fit for him. She had watched as her son developed the attributes that would serve him well as a lawyer. He was intelligent, inquisitive and engaged.
“I remember him as a child holding conversations with adults as if he was their age, and of course, the adult was always amazed,” she said. “He always had so many questions for which he wanted answers.”
Vivian Figures said her son grew up to be a prolific writer and an excellent critical thinker, and it is those skills Ashley Elizabeth Keenan remembers from her her time working with him at the White House. Keenan and Figures worked on a small team, where they were tasked with staffing the domestic policy–focused agencies along with several boards and commissions.
“In that kind of fast-paced, frenetic work environment, there were a lot of long days,” she said. “I think he proved quickly that I could rely on him, and he had my back. He always said it wasn’t about knowing the answer to something; it was about how to be resourceful to be able to find it.”
Figures said the Law School prepared him for the challenges he faces in Washington, D.C. It was in law school where he learned how to communicate with others, how best to present a case or issue in a persuasive manner.
“I just feel like I got a very practical legal education, not just grounded in theory but how these things play themselves out in the real world,” he said. “Education was so conducive to what I do now: communicating with people who don’t often see things the same way initially.”
The University of Alabama School of Law is pleased to announce Grace Soyon Lee has been named Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
She will serve the academic needs of students and the faculty and work closely with students as she helps build campus community. She will ensure that the Law School reports accurate information to the American Bar Association and other organizations, including U.S. News & World Report, as well as identify and help solve student concerns.
She wants all students to know they can come to her with individual concerns as well as to share ideas they may have about making the Law School a better place for themselves or for students in the future. Her door is always open, not just when a problem arises.
“I want to counteract that assumption and let people know that they don’t have to come to me just when they have a problem with a capital P,” she said.
Lee joined the Law School as an Assistant Professor in 2008. She had been Associate Professor of Law in Residence, teaching Contracts, Secured Transactions, Sales, and Business Planning. Her teaching load will decrease to one course per academic year as she takes on administrative duties, and she is looking forward to increasing her “footprint” on the Law School.
In the classroom, she provided knowledge in a structured environment. Some students sought additional advice outside of the classroom, and Lee found she enjoyed making those types of connections. Her new position affords more opportunities to work with students holistically about their career and shape their path at the Law School.
Lee received her B.A. from Williams College; M.A. from the University of Chicago; and J.D., Cum Laude, from Northwestern University School of Law. After law school, she clerked for Judge Richard A. Enslen of the Western District of Michigan and worked as an associate in the Chicago offices of Mayer Brown LLP and Latham & Watkins LLP.
Gonzalo Rodriguez (‘18) is using a case he worked on in Los Angeles to continue pursuing environmental justice while in law school.
As an intern for the Communities for a Better Environment, an environmental justice program in Los Angeles, he contributed to a lawsuit that alleged the city of Los Angeles routinely approved oil drilling applications without complying with the California Environmental Quality Act, and exposed black and Latino residents to disproportionate health and safety risks.
The lawsuit, filed by Youth for Environmental Justice, the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition and the Center for Biological Diversity, was settled in October. Prior to the settlement, the city’s planning department implemented new procedures and guidelines to ensure that it complies with California’s environment regulations when granting permits for oil wells, according to a news release.
“It was a great experience being able to participate in this process and to put in place these protections that will hopefully assist us in alleviating the problem of environmental injustice in the City of Los Angeles,” Rodriguez said.
As part of the Lawyers & Social Change, a practicum course taught by Professors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Rodriguez is continuing his work. He and other students are surveying social change movements and identifying their challenges. Using his knowledge and feedback from his classmates, Gonzalo is crafting a plan for addressing environmental issues in the city he calls home.
“In my case, since I am very passionate about environmental justice, the plan I have been working on is related specifically to this matter as well, to oil and gas drilling in the Los Angeles Basin.”
Before Rodriguez applied to law school, he knew he wanted to practice environmental law. As a child, he lived near a tire factory in Uruguay, where he felt the vibration of trucks and smoke stacks billowed pollution.
He applied to the University of Alabama School of Law because he had followed the work of Delgado, who has won six Gustavus Myers awards for outstanding books on human rights, and Professor Heather Elliott, an expert on Alabama water law and policy.
Rodriguez is confident he made the right decision and has secured a clerkship with Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, for summer 2017.
“I am hoping that will give me more experience and the tools to be able to, once I graduate, come back to my community in Los Angeles and continue fighting for justice.”
A paralegal told Michael Forton his very first case was impossible to win.
Forton was a law student when he advised a man who had been laid off and was trying to collect unemployment. His client said he trusted Forton and wouldn’t blame him if he lost the case. Losing, however, would come with a heavy cost to his client: The man and his family would have to return to Haiti.
Forton was determined. He learned that if someone worked for a temporary employment agency in Florida and was hired as an employee, the worker could collect unemployment.
“We went to the hearing, and we won – and so I could sleep again,” he said.
Forton has been taking on similar cases ever since.
In July, he became the Director of Advocacy for Legal Services Alabama, where he will focus on impact litigation.
Legal Services Alabama is a state-wide nonprofit law firm that provides free legal representation to over 10,000 poor Alabamians each year in civil cases. Forton wants the agency to plan, prepare and file cases that go beyond the individual and improve the legal system or the law for everyone.
The agency is currently waging a battle within the state of Alabama about garnishments for residents who make less than $1,000 per pay period. Garnishing 25 percent of an income from someone who makes so little can destabilize a family, Forton said. In the wake of the mortgage crisis, the agency is also helping residents prevent foreclosure and retain ownership of their most valuable asset.
Those are just two reasons Lawrence Gardella, who retired as the Director of Advocacy for Legal Services Alabama earlier this year, is pleased with the choice of his successor. Forton, he said, has a real passion for helping poor people and approaches cases creatively.
“It’s not always being locked into the obvious way of solving a problem but really looking at the broadest possible solution for a client,” Gardella said.
James A. Tucker, Executive Director for the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, has known Forton since he was in law school. Tucker said Forton’s work at Legal Services Alabama demonstrates the fundamental truth that every client deserves the best representation the attorney can provide, despite the client’s ability to pay or his station in life.
“Mike is the living, breathing embodiment of what is required of the best public interest lawyers,” Tucker said. “He works just as hard, or harder, for his clients as any new associate at a big firm is expected to work. Several years ago, when he was asked why his caseload was higher than that of other attorneys, he replied simply that he had clients who needed him.”
Practicing public interest law can be exhausting, but Forton didn’t let the pressure of his cases weigh heavy on his shoulders. Forton credits his time clerking in law school with preparing him for his career in public interest law. Sometimes his clients thanked him; sometimes they didn’t. “If I hadn’t been prepared, I wouldn’t have been able to stay,” he said.
Forton is, however, acutely aware that the work of his firm can be very different from that of a private firm because most of his clients cannot otherwise afford an attorney. “When you work for a larger firm and you tell someone you can’t help them, it doesn’t hurt your soul,” he said.
Forton has represented those who might not otherwise find representation, making sure they have access to the legal system and that the law is applied the same way for everyone.
“What I really love is the things we do are changing the future,” Forton said. “I honestly believe the work we do is making the state, the country and even the world a better place.”
Professor John Gross writes an op-ed for AL.com about President-elect Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
For more, read “Trump’s immigration policies would restrict justice.”