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Legal Aid Jobs Await Law School Graduates

June 02, 2015

Please click the link below for an interesting article about legal aid jobs.

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With Position Comes Power. Will You Use It? How?

March 13, 2015

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are exquisite tennis players. To the game they have brought strength and grace and resolve and toughness. They’ve succeeded and they’ve done it their way. So doing they taught tennis watchers a new model for success. They taught us that great players don’t have to emerge from the country club set or be the products of high-end tennis academies. The Williams sisters come from the playgrounds of Compton, California. They show us the best tennis player don’t require a cast of advisers and coaches and handlers that changes as often as the players’ court fashions. Venus and Serena had their father Richard and at some point they grew into self-reliant champions.

Their story is not entirely one of first impression in the game of tennis. Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe preceded them as African Americans who played the game at the highest level and won its greatest championships. Jimmy Connors honed his skills on the playgrounds of East St. Louis and was pushed forward, pressed and prodded really, by his mother. He too demonstrated fierceness. He too came into his own, depended on himself, and for a time stood at the very top of the tennis world.

Yet their difference is always how the tennis world sees the Williams sisters. Here’s an example: When they first began to stun the tennis world with strength and prowess, a plaint heard was that these two young women did not respect tennis tradition. They didn’t enter every tournament. They even skipped Grand Slam events! When they met in the finals of a tournament – and Venus and Serena were so good that this happened fairly often – the resulting match sometimes featured less than perfect tennis.

At the time I was an aging white dude learning the game. That was fun! I was soaking up the history of the game, reading about its greats as I tried with no great accomplishment to refine my strokes. And I bought into the criticism that, good as they were, Venus and Serena did not understand what playing the game meant and required. I was way wrong. Not for the first time and not for the last I adopted uncritically a perspective serving and preserving the powers-that-be, an understanding in line with the way things are.

Time has proven the Williams sisters to be wonderful exemplars of tennis excellence and true champions. They shaped careers that lasted longer than usual and included laudable success. This is especially true of Serena. She has spent time on the sidelines only to return to competition as strong as ever. Serena Williams turns 34 this year, well past the age when top players leave the court. She has won an incredible number of titles, including Grand Slams and Olympic gold medals, in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Today, Serena is ranked number one among all active women players. Any serious discussion of the greatest players ever includes Serena Williams.

Now to my point about position and power and the uses of power. The story dominating tennis this week is that Serena has announced she will end her fourteen-year boycott of the Indian Wells tournament. I won’t tell the story in depth, there are better sources and I hope you will read them. I like this telling by William C. Rhoden who writes as insightfully and incisively about sports and race as is possible. (I first typed “incitefully” above; though not a word dictionaries recognize, it describes how Rhoden writes, and I like it.)

Briefly, in 2001 at Indian Wells, Serena and Venus won through to the semifinals, where they were to meet. Venus, citing injury, did not play, moving Serena into the final match by default. Playing for the championship, Serena, along with Venus and their father who sat in the stands, was booed throughout the match by fans.

Serena won the championship match. Serena is tough. She and Venus announced they would never return to play again at Indian Wells, then and now a prominent early tournament on the women’s tennis circuit. Positioned as proven champions, the Williams sisters had the power to renounce their treatment at Indian Wells and choose not to grace that tournament with their talents again.

And now, in 2015, Serena has announced she will play at Indian Wells again. She’s ranked number one. She’s one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She has power. Her choice to return to play again at the place she renounced, as reported by Rhoden, is motivated by these times in which our nation is openly grappling with issues of race and power and politics: “I thought it was really good timing, not just for me but for Americans in general, to step up and say, ‘We as a people, we as Americans, we can do better, we can be better, we are better.’ ” Unstated by Serena is the opportunity she offers the fans at Indian Wells to cheer and applaud her with enthusiasm and respect as they should have done fourteen years ago.

Position brings power. Power can be used. This is how Serena Williams uses it. When you get power, how will you use it?

Randy Wagner (email me here)


Catherine Smith: Same sex marriage bans unconstitutionally harm children

March 09, 2015

Supreme Court precedent “unequivocally establish[es] that states may not punish children based on matters beyond their control.” And “state marriage bans inevitably and necessarily perform exactly this impermissible function because they deprive children of same-sex couples legal, economic and social benefits associated with the institution of marriage.”

So writes Denver Law’s Catherine Smith, who along with co-authors Lauren Fontana (Denver Law) Susannah Pollvogt (Washburn University School of Law) and Tanya Washington (Georgia State University College of Law) filed an Amicus Curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting petitioners in the marriage equality cases consolidated as Obergefell v. Hodges. Oral arguments will be heard by the Court on April 28, 2015.

Click here to read the entire brief.


Professor Sahar Aziz on incorporating race into the law school curriculum

November 01, 2014

Sahar Aziz, associate professor of law at Texas A&M University and pictured below, talks about incorporating race into law school teaching in the Fall 2014 newsletter distributed by the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations, located at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Studying race, says Professor Aziz, “is necessary to appreciating the historical basis that led to current public policy and legal doctrine.” The failure to incorporate race into the curriculum means that “law schools will continue to graduate critical masses of students raised in an increasingly segregated society who have minimal, if any experience, interacting with and understanding the experiences of persons from non-majority races, ethnicities, and religions.”

See the Florida Law Center for the Study of Race and Relations Fall 2014 newsletter here. Go to pages 10-11 to read Professor Aziz’ comments in full.

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Interview with Amanda Dunn

October 23, 2014

imageThe MSLA recently had the pleasure of speaking with current student Amanda Dunn, who is presently the Court Administrator for the Fort Morgan Municipal Court in Fort Morgan Colorado. Amanda was appointed to this position as the Interim Administrator in August 2013, appointed as the official administrator in November 2013, and has worked in the legal industry since 1998 and specifically with the judicial system since 2006. Amanda was recently named Employee of the Quarter, and credits her success to her overall demeanor stating that she is a very approachable person and is not afraid to raise concerns so that they can be addressed in a timely fashion. She is someone who can be relied upon to complete tasks without being micromanaged and is always willing to jump in and assist others in departments that are not her own. She goes on to state that in this line of work you have to maintain a sense of humor and remain personable, otherwise it is very easy to lose yourself to the negativity that sometimes surrounds you.

When asked what drew Amanda to the profession, she stated that “I was drawn to this profession after working for the law firm of Pabst & Milano in Brush, Colorado. Working at Pabst & Milano provided me with an insight into the legal realm and the court system. I quickly came to realize that the legal profession is something that I wanted to continue into the future. A particular instance that made me realize this is what I wanted to do was when we were working with a client who was going through a divorce after 30+ years of marriage. Coming to the office was difficult for her and she would often time break down in tears. Mr. Milano had me contact this client to find out when she would be bringing her initial documents back to the office for filing with the court. In speaking with this particular client it became apparent that she needed some accommodation in getting her documents notarized and back to our office. I made arrangements to meet with the client at her place of employment to notarize her documents and bring them back to the office. Later that afternoon I received a flower arrangement and thank you card from the client telling me how much she appreciated me accommodating her and helping her get her documents in order. Knowing that I had made a difference in this person’s life made my job extremely fulfilling and I wanted to continue on in this line of work. “

As an administrator, Amanda is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the court. She prepares the annual budget for the court as well as presents the budget to City Council. In addition to the preparation of the budget, she is also responsible for updating contracts and preparing RFQs and RFPs when necessary. Another responsibility of Amanda’s is case flow management and data analysis of court proceedings/case filings, and she works closely with the City Manager, City Clerk, Assistant City Attorney and Municipal Court Judge to ensure that the court is in compliance with new legislation and rules. As the administrator she is responsible for implementing new policies, procedures, and programs as well as ensuring compliance with existing policies, procedures, and programs. She is responsible for record requests as well as record retention and destruction. Because she is in a smaller community she also act as the backup to the City Clerk when coverage is needed at City Council Meetings. In addition to all of the managerial tasks that she completes, she also assists her clerk with case initiation, case closure, filing, and any other duties that need to be handled on a daily basis.
Amanda went on to talk about how much she loves the people she gets to work with, even stating that this was her favorite part of her job. “I have had the pleasure of working with many great judicial officers, court administrators, clerks of court and judicial assistants. I also enjoy the challenge that this position offers. It is exciting to be able to present new ideas that will increase efficiency and productivity while streamlining the work that is to be completed at all levels.”

Amanda believes that the major challenges facing the courts today, is the overall perception by the public. She elaborates stating that there are times when the court system is viewed in a negative light and it is for a plethora of reasons: unfriendly staff, lack of knowledge, bias opinions, etc. Amanda continues to state that she is very passionate about the public perception of the court, and feels it necessary to treat everyone who walks through the courthouse with dignity and respect regardless of the reason they are appearing. Amanda believes that it is important to implement programs that assist the public with understanding the court procedures such as the Family Court Facilitator programs or the Self-Help Centers that are now housed in most courts. She states that “if we continue to help the public understand the procedures and judges ensure procedural fairness I believe that on some level we can change the public’s perception of the judicial system.”

When asked specifically about MSLA, Amanda stated that although she was accepted to law school, she came across the MSLA program and found it to be in line with her current career as well as what she hopes to continue to do in the future. She is currently in her third semester of the program, and states that Applied Leadership and Management Theory, Human
Resources, Strategic Planning, and The Business of the Courts have been the most beneficial courses to her thus far. Amanda credits the MSLA courses with providing her with a better overall understanding of the court system, and that some of the courses she has taken thus far have shown her different areas of the court that she does not typically deal with, which she believes will assist her in becoming a more well-rounded employee who has insight to areas that she may have not otherwise been exposed to.

The advice Amanda would give to others who hope to one day work in court administration is to be persistent in your endeavors but always remain true to who you are. If there is one thing that this position (as well as previous positions) has taught me is that you have to remain personable and keep your sense of humor. There are a lot of people who rely on you to answer questions and fix their problems on any given day. You cannot allow the stress to overtake your ability to satisfactorily complete your job. I would also say that it is important to be open to new ideas. Allow your employees to be a part of the “team” and acknowledge their efforts and contributions.


Larry Johnson talk on Lawyering in the UN Video

October 14, 2014

Can’t make it to the Larry Johnson talk on Lawyering in the UN at noon today? Watch it here.


Denver Law at the 2014 SALT Teaching Conference

October 11, 2014

Denver Law sent a strong and vocal contingent to the 2014 SALT (Society of American Law Teachers) Teaching Conference, held October 9 thru 11 at the University of Nevada Law Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law.

SALT is “a community of progressive law teachers working for justice, diversity and academic excellence,” goals falling squarely in line with the aims of Denver Law attendees, all members of RPL – the Rocky Mountain Collective for Race, Place and Law. And Denver Law’s RPL members shined at the Conference:

Margaret Kwoka, assistant professor at Denver Law, received the inaugural SALT Junior Faculty Teaching Award, recognizing “an outstanding, recent entrant into the legal academy who demonstrates a commitment to justice, equality and academic excellence through teaching.” Read more about Professor Kwoka’s award here.

At Thursday’s Twelfth Annual LatCrit-SALT Junior Faculty Development:

  • Roberto Corrada spoke on a panel devoted to “Professionalism & Balance: Academic and Personal Success.”
  • Margaret Kwoka participated in that day’s Mock AALS Interview panel.

At the Friday/Saturday Conference entitled “Legal Education in a Time of Change: Challenges & Opportunities”:

  • Roberto Corrada, Alexi Freeman, Rashmi Goel and Lindsey Webb described the formation of and the the many activities undertaken by RPL at Denver Law.
  • Beto Juárez contributed to a panel discussing “Curricular Innovations in a Time of Crisis: How to Move Law Schools to Embrace the Intercultural.”
  • Patience Crowder and Alexi Freeman led a panel devoted to “Lawyering for Social Justice Movements: How the Legal Academy Can Maximize Impact.”
  • César García Hernández and Chris Lasch’s panel discussed “Teaching Crimmigation Law.”
  • Randy Wagner and Susannah Pollvogt (law professor at Washburn University and RPL member) presented their ideas on “Progressive Pedagogy in a Box: Using the Multistate Performance Test as an Inclusive Teaching Tool” at the Progressive Marketplace of Ideas.

It was a busy and excellent three days for Denver Law, for RPL, for LatCrit and for SALT.


Margaret Kwoka Wins SALT Teaching Award

October 10, 2014

Margaret Kwoka, assistant professor at Denver Law, received the SALT Junior Faculty Teaching Award at the Society of American Law Teachers 2014 Teaching Conference. The award, given for the first time, honored Professor Kwoka as “an outstanding, recent entrant into the legal academy who demonstrates a commitment to justice, equality and academic excellence through teaching.”

SpearIt, Associate Professor at the Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law, presented the award, offering these words:

“I served as the chair of the selection committee for this award and saw firsthand how our winner impressed the entire committee. For its very first selection for this award, the committee wanted to set a high bar wanted to set a high bar, and in doing so unanimously chose Professor Margaret Kwoka from the University of Denver.

“Professor Kwoka was selected from a pool of 12 strong nominations. To the committee her work embodied SALT’s commitment to teaching excellence, social justice, and diversity.

“She impressed the committee by demonstrating:

• a deep commitment to teaching social justice concepts, focusing on diversity and access to justice;
• strong support for students outside the classroom; and
• scholarship that aims to improve student education and further social justice teaching.

“Testimony to her approach in the classroom is found in these comments from a student:

Professor Kwoka did not show up, teach, and go home. She imbued even the most abstract and dry legal concepts with significance, showing her students that law does not exist in a vacuum, but, on the contrary, has great consequences upon individual lives’ and should be used as a tool to improve those lives.

“From another student came these words:

Civil Procedure certainly is not one of the glamour subjects of law school, but through the use of interactive exercises and small group discussions, Professor Kwoka conveyed the importance and significance of civil procedure in litigation. As a litigator, taking Professor Kwoka’s classes had an undeniable impact on the attorney I turned out to be.

“I could go on describing more about her. But I am here to say that SALT stands proud in awarding Professor Margaret Kwoka the First Annual Junior Faculty Teaching Award. Congratulations!”

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SpearIt (Thurgood Marshall School of Law), Olympia Duhart (Shepard Broad Law Center), Margaret Kwoka (Denver Law), and Ruben Garcia (UNLV Law)


Catherine Smith: Gay marriage bans deny children of same-sex couples critical benefits

September 29, 2014

Catherine Smith, Denver Law’s Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity and Inclusiveness, and Susannah Pollvogt, Associate Professor at Washburn University of Law, argue in Slate that The U.S. Supreme Court should recognize that gay marriage bans have “a deeply detrimental effect . . . on gay couples’ children,” violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.

See Dean Smith’s recent scholarship on the topic here.


Denver Law Announces Live Client Guarantee

May 07, 2014

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