Catherine Smith to prospective law students: “Develop a strong sense of self to get the job done.”

April 11, 2015

Speaking at the 2015 National Diversity Pre-Law Conference & Law Fair on April 11, 2015 in Washington, D.C., Denver Law’s Catherine Smith offered attendees insight into the law school classroom. “Get comfortable with feedback and critique,” she told the prospective law students. “Develop a strong sense of self.” Saying she wished to demystify the classroom and the role of law professors, Smith counseled students that, “There is no endpoint. You can always learn more.” Be patient as a law student, she added. “Give yourself time to develop and acclimate.” Watch Dean Smith’s Keynote Address here.

Interview with Douglas Mincher

April 01, 2015

Douglas Mincher The MSLA office recently had the opportunity to speak with one of our alumni, Mr. Douglas Mincher. Doug was recently named Clerk of Court for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which has has appellate jurisdiction over federal cases originating in the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia. His new duties include leading operations for the Clerk’s Office and supervising staff for all non-judicial functions in the court.

Mincher earned his MSJA in 1989-1990 and when asked what guided his decision to pursue this degree Mr. Mincher stated,

I was originally considering a career in law during my undergrad years when a professor asked me to intern with the Court Administrator’s Office in the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas in Youngstown, Ohio. During this internship I learned the basics of how a court functioned. I found it very interesting and decided that post graduate study was the only way someone was going to hire me. I asked that same professor what program he recommended and he didn’t hesitate – DU. So, my wife and our two little kids moved to Denver for the year.

Mincher went on to state that,

I know the degree helped me in my initial hiring – it had to since I had almost no experience. I was hired in 1991 as the Assistant Court Administrator with the King County District Court in Seattle, Washington. After that, it was always a combination of experience, reputation, and education. You are not going to progress in a career in the courts without that combination. Actually, that’s probably true in any career.

Mincher credits his success to first and foremost to “the world’s greatest wife,” stating that “I married waaaay above my pay grade. Another reason is that I always had judges around that wanted their court to run better. Judges Linda Jacke and David Admire in Seattle, Judges Deborah Greene and Catherine Malicki in Atlanta come to mind. It’s always easier when the judges want to improve the operation.”

Mincher states that the most important lesson he has learned throughout his career is that of patience.

You’ll find an area that you want to change quickly and for the better, but you must be patient and explore all the ramification of making that change. I always keep Donald Rumsfeld’s quote in mind, ‘There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.’ It’s that last one that can get you in trouble.

Mincher’s favorite part about working in the courts is streamlining processes. He enjoys watching how a task is completed, then pondering the options to make it easier on staff, or more efficient, or more helpful to a judge, etc. If the options involve using technology, even better. He believes that funding is the largest issue facing today’s courts and is passionate about facilitating improvement within the courts. His favorite aspects of his job is promoting: “watching someone you hired develop into an excellent clerk or manager is fun too.”

When asked what advice he would give to those who aspire to accomplish what he has he stated “in a broad sense, you need to find your niche. Mine happens to be managing in the court environment. I find it attractive because you need a diverse skill set – IT, accounting, HR, security, facilities, case management, record management, procurement, etc. It’s a job where no two days are alike and that makes it interesting.”

Finally, when asked of any particular areas of study he would encourage us to include in the reassessing and development of our MSLA curriculum, Mincher stated that “the most difficult area for me to learn was accounting. I managed in the King County Court and the Municipal Court of Atlanta, both of which had millions in revenue from traffic fines flowing through each year. You need to understand financial controls inside and out or you’ll be on the news – and not in a good way.”

The MSLA office thanks Mr. Mincher for his time, and congratulates him on his recent promotion!

2015 Denver Law Pipeline Conference features 24 speakers and over 100 attendees

March 28, 2015

The 2015 Denver Law Pipeline Conference, held Saturday, March 28, addressed topics of social justice lawyering, access to legal education, what law school is like, and the kind of work lawyers do. Attendees included over one hundred diverse students – undergraduate, high school and middle school – interested in law school and the legal profession. Highlights of this great day at Denver Law:

• To open the conference, Justin Hansford, Assistant Professor at St. Louis University School of Law, Kimberly Norwood, Professor at Washington University School of Law, and Carlton Waterhouse, Professor at Indiana University McKinney School of Law, spoke on the topic, “Lawyering for Social Justice: Race, Activism and the law on the Ground in Ferguson.”
• The 24 speakers at the 2015 Pipeline Conference included Denver Law students, faculty and staff; faculty members from five additional law schools; admissions officers and representatives from Denver Law, Colorado Law, Washburn Law and Wyoming Law; and four local attorneys.
• In addition to plenary sessions for all attendees, the conference included break-out sessions designed for undergraduate students and for high school/middle school students.
• Students registering to attend the conference came from 24 colleges and universities and 33 high school and middle schools.

DU Law’s VIS Team Wins Shanghai Moot Competition

March 19, 2015

shanghai moot competition

Spring 2015. The University of Denver Vis International Commercial Arbitration Team won the 5th Annual Moot Shanghai Competition in Shanghai, China. The Moot is a ramp-up tournament to competition in Hong Kong and Vienna. Thirty-two teams from twelve countries competed in four preliminary rounds followed by Quarter, Semi, and the Championship Round. Vis East team members Katie McAuley and Samantha Peaslee competed against the Pontifical Catholic University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) in the final round, winning the entire moot. Samantha Peaslee also received a Best Oralist Honorable Mention.

Pictured: Samantha Peaslee and Katie McAuley

Jessup Team Headed to Worlds for Third Consecutive Year!

March 17, 2015

Jessup team 2nd place


Spring 2015. Our Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Team competed at the Pacific Regional competition in Portland, Oregon. Defeating Hastings, the reigning five-year champion, our squad advanced to the Championship Round. For the 3rd consecutive year our team will be advancing to the international rounds (“Worlds”) in Washington D.C. Teammate Matt Thornton placed in the Top 7 Oralists. The team, pictured below, is comprised of J. Matt Thornton, Alex Jennings, Maral Shoaei, and Philip Nickerson. Coached by Megan Matthews, who is assisted by Molly McNab, and Coach Emeritus, John Powell.

Advocates Cup Champions!

March 16, 2015


advocates cup champs

March 2015. The Advocates Cup was successfully launched as the newest facet of DU Law’s Experiential Advantage Curriculum™. Pairing 1Ls with 2L & 3L partners, to help students be practice-ready graduates, The Advocacy Department proudly announces the following winners:


Arielle Hanser Steve Visioli Reid Dechant
Gavin Jacobs

The Professionalism Award

Elizabeth Austin
Alita King
Mackenzie Shields
John Steele

Best Overall Advocate
Dustin Heard

Best 1L Advocate
Tim Tarr

Both Best Advocate Winners received a free bar review course generously donated by Themis Bar Review

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.

Catherine Smith is Keynote Speaker at Diversity Pre-Law Conference, April 10-11, 2015

March 05, 2015


Shaquille Turner, 2L: “I am walking in my purpose”

March 04, 2015

Shaquille Turner, Denver Law 2L and President of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA), writes about his 2014 summer studies in Cape Town, South Africa in The Docket:

“This year has been the best year of my life thus far. I was able to visit the African continent—a desire I’ve had for a while that was fulfilled this past summer; I truly feel confident in my approach to law school, a confidence I thought I would not attain; and I am in the process of cultivating a beautiful relationship. Life is good. I am over half-way finished with law school and I feel that I am on the right path. I am walking in my purpose. There is a threefold challenge now: I must continue to glean every piece of wisdom I can from every experience law school provides; I must intentionally prepare for life after law school; and I must resist the temptation to succumb to discouragement and burnout.* If I can do these things, I know that I will be fine.”

The article is entitled Law Student Chronicles: Likhona Means Hope. Read the full text here.

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