Prof. Laura Rovner provides testimony re: solitary confinement to U.S. senators
June 21, 2012
DU’s Trial Team Wins National Championship
June 12, 2012
THE NATION’S BEST LAW STUDENT ADVOCATE IS RIGHT HERE IN OUR OWN BACKYARD.
Third year law school student Chris Wilcox stood before former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth Starr, waiting with bated-breath for the presiding judge’s next words.
Mr. Wilcox, a member of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law’s National Trial Team, was in Texas this past spring, competing in the Top Gun National Mock Trial Championships. As the name implies, Top Gun gathers the country’s best law student advocates to compete in the year’s climactic trial advocacy tournament.
Being a graduating third year law school student, this was Mr. Wilcox’s final tournament in which he could compete. His reputation was that of a very hardworking student with much talent, but with great humility. But being from the small town of Miles City, Montana, he was never one to celebrate, and rarely smiled at his achievements. Mr. Wilcox himself had been named Best Orator two years in a row in DU Law’s Hoffman Cup, named after DU Law’s late, esteemed alumnus and former Dean, Daniel Hoffman. He and his teammates, while having come close to winning tournaments, had never prevailed, and certainly had never won a national championship. So standing in the Championship Round of Top Gun, opposite the team from Yale Law School, and this being the sixth round in two days, Mr. Wilcox was both invigorated and enervated.
Top Gun is a tournament like no other. It is the most arduous of all tournaments in the nation. Like most trial advocacy tournaments, in each round the advocates present their cases before a jury of three scoring jurors and a presiding judge. The advocates are scored on their application of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the logical cohesiveness of their case theory, theme and thesis, and the prowess they exhibit “in the well” in examining witnesses, presenting evidence, objecting, and all things trial.
What makes Top Gun definitively unique, aside from the fact that it attracts the best teams in the country, is that the case itself is not released until twenty four hours before the competitors must present the case for trial. There are six witnesses to start, with new witnesses and live depositions being added as the rounds progress. And, only the competitor and one coach per school may read and develop the case. There is no other outside help or assistance.
“Educationally, it’s a very effective learning forum. It closely emulates the practical aspects of trial work and readies a student for trial work,” said David Schott, Director of The Advocacy Department at DU Law, and the coach who attended Top Gun this year with Mr. Wilcox. “It is very similar to the processes and pressures that Assistant D.A.’s and P.D.’s experience. The advocates and their coaches have less than a day to prepare their case. The advocates meet their witnesses just a few minutes before trial. They are advocating predominantly ‘on their feet’.”
One more little twist is the advocates and coaches do not know which side of the case their school will be required to present in any given round. Thus they only have twenty four hours to prepare both sides of the case for trial. This is where the tournment actually gets grueling. The competitor and lone coach essentially lock themselves into a room for eighteen hours or so, and begin analyzing both sides of the case, and outlining cogent approaches to each side.
Top Gun is the brainchild of Professors Jerry Powell and his colleagues in the trial advocacy department at Baylor Law School. Baylor is home to one of the top five Trial Advocacy Department’s in the country. (The Advocacy Department at DU Law, having never been ranked previously in the school’s history, catapulted to 11th place this year.) Professor Powell and his team purposely make the tournament a tough experience to test not only the critical thinking skills that are learned in the first year of law school, but to add the real world pressures and practices too. Most observers resoundingly agree that Baylor has succeeded in their mission.
With the nation’s law schools realizing they have to forge a revised avenue to their century-old doctrinal approach to law school education, and focus more on professional skills, Top Gun is “applied critical thinking” at its best. A student who can succeed in Top Gun is a student who is ready. They are ready to step into a courtroom and ready to advocate at a high level.
“As I stood there before Judge Starr, all I could think was, ‘This is it.’”, reflected Mr. Wilcox, “This was everything I had worked for, everything I had been taught. This is what all the late nights and long hours were about that my wife Kate had endured with me.”
Judge Starr’s next words were, “The 2012 Top Gun National Champion is…The University of Denver.”
Applause and cheers erupted throughout the courtroom.
…If one looked closely, a small smile could be seen creeping over Mr. Wilcox’s face. He is ready.
International Journal for Court Administration Now Available Online!
June 11, 2012
Access the Journal by clicking here
There’s More to Law than Lawyering
June 06, 2012
April 13 & 14 International Law Anniversary Weekend features an exciting selection of speakers
May 31, 2012
This past year, an exciting anniversary took place—The Denver Journal of International Law and Policy turned 40. One of the first of its kind, the Journal was forward-looking and unique and has continued through the years with a tradition of superior and innovative scholarship. (Indeed, most recently, Washington and Lee University School of Law ranked the Journal 32nd nationally for student edited international law journals, and 38th in the world overall for the subject matter of international law). To mark the occasion, and to celebrate this legacy of excellence, students and ILSP faculty and staff collaborated to host an International Law Anniversary Weekend (April 13-15, 2012) featuring an alumni awards dinner, an all-day academic symposium on Emerging Issues in International Law, and a champagne reception officially launching the 40th Anniversary Edition of the Journal—a Festschrift honoring the general founder of the Journal, Professor Ved P. Nanda.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the exciting symposium on Emerging Issues in International Law. Numerous prominent scholars and dignitaries addressed topics such as the future of international criminal prosecutions, prosecuting crimes against humanity in domestic courts, and corporate social responsibility, sustainability and human rights. Notable speakers included Professor David Aronofsky, General Counsel, University of Montana and Professor of International Law, University of Montana School of Law; Mr. Anthony Carroll, recently appointed Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Professor John P. Cerone, Director of the Center for International Law and Policy at New England Law; Ms. Kate Doyle, Senior Analyst of U.S. Policy in Latin America at the National Security Archive; Mr. Larry Johnson, former Assistant Secretary General for Legal Affairs at the United Nations and currently Adjunct Professor at Columbia Law School; Professor Jennifer Moore of the University of New Mexico; Professor Ved P. Nanda, Professor John E. Noyes of California Western School of Law; Mr. Jose Antonio Pelaez Bardales, lead prosecutor in the ground-breaking prosecution of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, and current Attorney General of Peru; Mr. Robert Petit, former prosecutor with the Office of the Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and current Counsel and Team Leader with the War Crimes Section of Canada’s Federal Department of Justice; Dr. Daniel Warner, founder of the Program for the Study of International Organizations at the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva and current Assistant Director for International Affairs at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).
For more information on the 40th anniversary book, Perspectives on International Law in an Era of Change, please contact Journal Editor in Chief, Brianna Evans at email@example.com.
Thank You, Kevin Bowling, MSJA’78, for Your Dedicated Service!
May 17, 2012
Thank you, Kevin Bowling, for your dedicated service to the courts and congratulations on your election to the NACM presidency!
Current NACM President, Kevin Bowling, graduated from the Master of Science in Judicial Administration (MSJA) program in 1978 and has over 30 years of experience in the judicial system. Kevin is currently the Court Administrator for the 20th Judicial Circuit Court and Ottawa County Probate court, and also serves as an attorney referee for a juvenile court. Kevin’s career has taken some interesting and unexpected turns; he reflects on how the MSJA impacted his career, while imparting some pearls of wisdom to the new generation of MSLAs.
As an undergraduate, Kevin studied political science and public administration at Providence College and had envisioned himself beginning law school immediately thereafter. Kevin’s pre-law advisor informed him of a unique program out in Denver: the MSJA program which, at the time, was run by Harry Lawson. The advisor assured Kevin that if he could survive Harry Lawson, he was guaranteed a job following graduation. Kevin assumed the challenge and, needless to say, survived. He attests that while Harry was harsh, he was a great mentor and pushed him to discover things on his own.
Kevin’s initial intended career path was to defend juvenile delinquents. He planned on completing his JD and moving back to his home state of Rhode Island to do trial work in this area. Instead, after earning his MSJA at the University of Denver, followed by his JD at Cooley Law School in Michigan, Kevin went to work for the Michigan Supreme Court, beginning his 30 years of service to the courts. Since then, he has had experience at almost every court level, except federal. In fact, his diverse experience includes time in the National Center for State Courts, in Michigan as a state judicial educator, and in Nigeria doing international law work. Kevin agrees he has been fortunate to experience the judiciary from a number of different perspectives and he thanks the MSJA for preparing him to wear all of those different hats.
Kevin learned a number of things while earning his MSJA. First and foremost, Harry Lawson taught him that it does not work to be a dualistic thinker in the courts. “There is a lot of grey,” Kevin says, “and rarely black and white.” He further states, to be an effective administrator, “one must be able to work with people at all levels, and one must not be rigid. Flexibility is extremely important in administration. Help others when you can. Also, learn the skills associated with individual projects and jobs.” To all MSLAs and administrators, “do your homework, do it carefully, and always cover your bases.”
Kevin has faced a few challenges throughout his career and explains that the lessons learned in the MSJA were instrumental in helping to address and overcome these issues. Leadership in any organization is challenging, but in the courts there can be “a vacuum of leadership at the highest level.” Administratively, the repercussions from this can be difficult. Some court leaders are not as familiar with administration as others and this can be challenging to overcome. Leaders must be strategic thinkers and visionaries; “it is great leaders that make the courts a great place to work.” Limited resources are also a challenge. Kevin contends that if the courts are not properly funded, then justice is affected; ultimately affecting the individual freedoms of the public. The ability to think critically and strategically, communicate effectively and with purpose, and to be amenable to change is how he has overcome his greatest obstacles and adapted to challenges unforeseen. Kevin says, “all of my experiences kick back to my time in Denver.”
For the new generation of MSLA students: Kevin believes there are critical skills you will need to be successful in your administrative careers. You will need basic knowledge and an understanding of the courts and you should be eager and willing to learn. He emphasizes that communication skills are also vitally important and cannot be overstated. This includes speaking, writing, and the ability to listen and interact with others. Honed communication skills are absolutely crucial for your career to be successful. The legal landscape is changing; you must bring problem-solving skills and vast amounts of creativity to the table. Newer and older generations must adapt to the changes in the field, making these skills critical for the future of our courts. Finally, relationships are the crux of success. You should spend time developing your interpersonal and negotiation skills, as they will be put to good and frequent use.
For all current MSLA students, Kevin ended with this piece of advice:
“Be persistent and open to continuing your learning. Courts all over need bright, energetic MSLA students. Be flexible and appropriately aggressive. Don’t ever be afraid to get more experience.”
Alumni in the News
May 09, 2012
Mother Jones magazine features Civil Rights Clinic solitary confinement case
May 01, 2012
Clinic Newsletter, Spring 2010
April 11, 2012
Denver Post: Hitting “resset” with Russia’s Putin
April 03, 2012