November 24, 2015

Professor Steve Emens: Serving the State

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150820_MW_law_school_orientation Professor Steve Emens (’76) has been shaping prosecutors and public defenders for more than 25 years as the Faculty Advisor and a Coach for the Law School’s Intercollegiate Trial Advocacy Team.

Each semester, he and Robert Prince (’74), a Trial Attorney for Prince Glover & Hayes in Tuscaloosa, coach trial advocacy teams and accompany them as they compete against other teams across the nation.

In the classroom and in practice sessions, Emens focuses on the art of trying a case. He teaches students how to psychologically present a case and how to persuade a jury.

“The great lawyers understand the art of it: the psychology of dealing with a jury and the psychology of dealing with witnesses,” he said. “This is what makes it so challenging and so rewarding.”

After graduating from Alabama Law, Emens was managing attorney for the Alabama Legal Services System. In 1980, he joined the Law School’s clinical program as deputy director, serving as the director from 1983 to 1997. As an expert in clinical education, he has been a member of ABA accreditation teams. In 1984, Dean Emens began serving as director of the Alabama Bar Institute for Continuing Legal Education and has served on the board of directors of the Association of Continuing Legal Education Administrators. In 1995 he became professor of clinical instruction, and he teaches in the areas of trial advocacy, evidence, interviewing and counseling. He is currently on the faculty of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, the faculty of the Legal Services Corporation’s national training program and a member of the Alabama Defense Lawyers Trial Academy.

Emens and Prince share the teaching load, dividing up the cases. They examine each other’s problem and provide insight. The nature of the problem often requires several coaching sessions a week.

“He doesn’t coach to shine them up so they can win a competition,” Prince said. “Some schools do that. We don’t do that. We like to win, but that’s not the priority. The priority is teaching them how to be a trial lawyer.”

Emens helped Bridget Harris, a 2L, with the art of cross-examination. In practice, Emens noticed she was too aggressive when questioning a witness. He taught her she doesn’t have to be loud to get her point across, and he showed her how to lower her voice and make eye contact so that the jury would know what she is saying is important. Weeks later, Harris won the Best Cross-Examination Award at the National Trial Tournament hosted by the Michigan State Law School and the State Bar of Michigan.

Her win “proves his teaching style is effective,” Harris said.

Emens said the class attracts students who like people and can work well in a high-pressure, emotionally charged environment.

“I deal with very motivated students who want to learn the skills of being a trial lawyer,” he said. “The only place where they learn many of the skills of being a trial lawyer is in this class.”

Kayleigh Mohler, a 3L, received a perfect score for how she handled herself in the courtroom when her trial advocacy team traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to participate in the National Trial Tournament sponsored by the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. During the competition, Mohler said the UA trial advocacy team knew the evidence much better than the other teams, and the other teams often appeared scripted.

“We want to win a competition because we want our program to have the legitimacy,” Mohler said. “We know we have that legitimacy as far as being practice-ready from Dean Emens and Mr. Prince. We want to win our way. We don’t want (Emens) to write a script for us.”

Mohler also uses what she learned in Emens’s classes when she tries cases as a part-time paid law clerk for the Tuscaloosa District Attorney’s Office.  She knows how to enter evidence, where to stand when she’s giving a direct examination and how to preserve the record. So far, she has tried two jury trials and more than a dozen bench trials. It’s that kind of success that drives Emens to coach trial advocacy teams year after year.

“I do this not to win competitions,” he said. “I do it to get our students ready to try cases in the real world.”

November 23, 2015

2L Moot Court Fellows Win Regional Moot Court Competition

2L Moot Court Fellows

Peter Wertz, 2L Research Assistant and Team Manager; Eunji Jo, 2L; Briana Knox, 2L; Mary Lauren Kulovitz, 2L,; and Mary Ksobiech, Assistant Dean for Students and Legal Writing Lecturer.

Eunji Jo (’17), Briana Knox (’17) and Mary Lauren Kulovitz (’17) will proceed to the National Moot Court Competition in New York City after Alabama Law defeated Belmont University and was named Regional Champion in Oxford, Mississippi.

Within a field of 11 teams, the 2L Moot Court Fellows compiled a perfect record, defeating law school teams from the University of Memphis, Vanderbilt University, Mississippi College of Law and the University of Tennessee to advance to the final round of competition. Knox was named Best Oralist of the final round.

“Throughout the competition, the team demonstrated incredible knowledge, skill and professionalism in a field of primarily third-year students,” said Mary Ksobiech, Assistant Dean for Students and Legal Writing Lecturer.

The 2L Moot Court Fellows program allows students to gain two full years of moot court experience. They draft briefs and prepare oral arguments for two external competitions, and they assist with the Protective Life ABA Moot Court Team, which gives them additional insight into the legal writing and research process.

“As they work through these appellate problems, they teach themselves to become ‘experts’ on the issues,” said Ksobiech, who coached the team.

An extra year of moot court is invaluable experience for students who want to go into litigation. The team practiced two hours a day, five days a week to prepare for the competition.

“We always went in with the goal that we were going to dominate our side of the problem,’’ Knox said.

It is difficult for teams to know what judges will ask or how they will respond to an argument. To help prepare students for different kinds of questions, Ksobiech invited law professors and students to practice sessions to act as judges – a strategy Kulovitz said was effective.

“It’s one thing to structure your arguments on paper and be able to link different words and concepts together,” Kulovitz said, “but it’s another to be able to stand behind the podium in front of judges and be able to construct answers on the spot to their questions that are trying to undo your argument.”

Ultimately, the students said they wanted to win the competition for Ksobiech because she dedicated so much of her time to helping them prepare for oral arguments.

“She was at every practice,” Jo said. “Her level of dedication and enthusiasm for this team really motivated us to win.”

Ksobiech said the team will continue to practice oral arguments and will study the briefs submitted by the other schools advancing to the national competition. She plans to recruit former team members now in practice to help judge practice rounds.

November 16, 2015

Professor Joyner to Discuss Iran’s Nuclear Program and International Law in the United Kingdom


Professor Daniel H. Joyner will deliver three presentations in the United Kingdom to help support his forthcoming book, Iran’s Nuclear Program and International Law.

Professor Joyner’s first presentation is on a panel at the University of Westminster, in London, along with two former British diplomats: Sir Richard Dalton and Peter Jenkins.  The panel discussion will focus on the recent diplomatic agreement between Iran and the West, and Professor Joyner will discuss legal issues relevant to the new agreement.

Professor Joyner also will deliver presentations on the same theme at the University of Oxford and the University of Manchester. All three presentations will help raise awareness of Professor Joyner’s research in both academic and diplomatic communities. His book will be published by Oxford University Press in 2016.

November 12, 2015

Know Your Rights, Says Professor Gross in Op-Ed

Professor John Gross recently wrote an op-ed for that Americans should know their constitutional rights when dealing with police officers.

Earlier this week, in response to a noise complaint, members of the Tuscaloosa Police Department forced their way into an apartment, dragged three University of Alabama students out and then proceeded to use a Taser and batons on at least one of the students.

Despite the fact that the Chief of the Tuscaloosa Police Department, Steve Anderson, called the incident a “black eye” for his department and the city, many people expressed the view that if the students had acted differently, then the incident would never have occurred.  The argument they make is that if someone fails to cooperate with a police officer, if they disrespect authority, then they have no right to complain when that officer decides to use force against them.

While this argument might appear reasonable, it fails to take into consideration rights guaranteed by the Constitution, rights which are necessary for the maintenance of a free and democratic society.

Our First Amendment right to freedom of speech allows us to be critical of police officers. Our Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures permits us to exclude police officers from our homes.  Our Fifth Amendment right to remain silent means that we don’t have to talk to police officers.

For more, read “Know Your Rights When Dealing with Police Officers.”

November 12, 2015

Professor Carroll Comments on Case of 8-Year-Old Boy Charged with Murder of Infant

Professor Jenny Carroll told the Associated Press the case of the 8-year-old boy who was charged with murder in juvenile court may be challenging because of the boy’s age.

Birmingham police say Katerra Marsha Lewis, 26, and a friend left the 8-year-old boy to watch over five younger children while the women went to a nightclub. The boy beat Kelci Lewis to death last month when she wouldn’t stop crying and placed her back in her crib as if she were asleep, police said.

In many jurisdictions, children under the age of 10 or 12 are presumed not to have the capacity to form criminal intent and have difficulty understanding court proceedings, Carroll said.

“We recognize that children don’t have the same thought processes and don’t have fully developed decision-making processes at that age,” said Carroll, who has represented juvenile offenders.

For more, read “Mom of Slain Alabama Infant Disputes Allegations.”

November 6, 2015

Professor Elliott Weighs in on Spokeo v. Robins

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Nov. 2 in Spokeo v. Robins, a Fair Credit Reporting Act case that will address whether a person may bring a lawsuit when a company violates a federal privacy law.

A ruling that Congress can’t create a statutory right to sue without evidence of a concrete harm raises serious separation-of-powers concerns, Professor Heather Elliott told Bloomberg BNA.

“That ruling would significantly cut into Congress’s power to respond to many social problems, including environmental problems,” Elliott told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail. “The court would make itself the sole arbiter of what kinds of harms count for purposes of constitutional jurisdiction.”

“If the court ruled against Mr. Robins in this case, there could be some future case where the court says you can’t sue even if Congress gives you the right to, because in our view, you weren’t factually harmed,” she said.

November 6, 2015

Law School to Host E-Discovery and Technology Law Symposium

The University of Alabama School of Law will host a symposium on Legal Ethics Surrounding E-Discovery and Technology Law at 9:15 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13 at the Law School.

The symposium is co-sponsored by The Journal of the Legal Profession and will be held in the Judge Seybourn H. Lynne Lecture Hall in Room A255.

Three speakers will present their perspective on this ever-changing field in the practice of law. They are: Allison Skinner, owner of Skinner Neutral Services and an adjunct professor on E-Discovery at The University of Alabama School of Law; The Hon. Ronald Hedges, a former U.S. Magistrate Judge, adjunct professor at Rutgers School of Law and an advisory board member for The Sedona Conference; and Marc Jenkins, an adjunct professor at Vanderbilt Law School, associate general counsel and executive vice president of knowledge strategy for Cicayda, and a member of The Sedona Conference.

November 4, 2015

Birmingham Police Chief and Major General A.C. Roper Guest Lectures in Professor Carodine’s Race Trials Class

On November 3, Birmingham Chief of Police A.C. Roper guest lectured in Professor Montré Carodine’s Major Race Trials class.

Chief Roper discussed the challenges facing law enforcement today and outlined strategies for more effective policing of all communities, including communities of color.  He also engaged the students in a roundtable style discussion and took their questions. Chief Roper is the father of 3L Krystle Roper, who is a student in Professor Carodine’s class.

“I invited Chief Roper because he is a dynamic speaker and leader doing exceptional work right here in Alabama. But I also wanted to provide balance to our class discussions on race and law enforcement, particularly in light of the national conversation taking place right now on these issues,” Professor Carodine said. “It is crucial to get perspectives from law enforcement officials as we grapple with these issues. And it was a special experience for all of us to see Chief Roper and his daughter Krystle interact — Krystle introduced her dad. It reminded us that the police aren’t just some unfeeling inhuman machines, but they are fathers, mothers, spouses, siblings, sons, and daughters — they are a part of our community.   Having the chief of police for a major U.S. city sit down and visit with us humanized the police in a way that is much needed throughout the country.”

Chief Roper is a Birmingham native who has over 30 years of law enforcement experience. He has been serving as Birmingham’s Chief of Police since 2007.  He studied at several universities and holds a B.A. and two Masters degrees, one of which is from the University of Alabama.  Chief Roper is also a Major General in the Army Reserves, currently commanding the 80th Training Command in Richmond, Virginia.  He has received numerous military awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star and the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, which is given annually to the top U.S. Army Officers in the nation. He is a highly sought after speaker and has lectured nationally and internationally.

Race Trials Class

November 3, 2015

Law School Launches Business of Being a Lawyer Video Library

The University of Alabama School of Law announces today the launch of The Business of Being a Lawyer video library,, which integrates the “real world” practice of law with legal education. Two years in the making, the BBL video library is the first of its kind in legal education.

The BBL library provides more than 100 interviews of lawyers and judges from all types of practice of law, including private practice, in-house counsel, public interest, criminal prosecution and defense, as well as lawyers in fields such as business and higher education.

“The legal profession is undergoing dramatic changes which present opportunities for law students and lawyers who are aware of them and know how to adapt to them,” said Pamela Bucy Pierson, the Bainbridge-Mims Professor of Law at the University of Alabama School of Law. “The lawyers in this library have shared their time and experience, providing advice that is practical, helpful, candid, and often humorous, on how to thrive in the legal profession of the future.”

Legal, psychology and financial experts in the library address:

  • Economic trends in the legal profession
  • Managing Stress, finding balance and building resiliency in the practice of law
  • Gallup Strength Finders and how to use these strengths in the practice of law
  • Financial planning advice for students and lawyers
  • Business etiquette issues that arise in the practice of law

About BBL

The Business of Being a Lawyer (BBL) is a law school course, CLE and book (West Academic, 2014) created by Pamela Bucy Pierson, the Bainbridge-Mims Professor of Law at the University of Alabama School of Law, working with colleagues in academia and with practicing lawyers. BBL is based on the premise that each lawyer is a business – her own business. Whether working for a law firm or in solo practice, in a public interest or government office, or in a law-related field, lawyers need to understand their own balance sheets – their assets, liabilities, strengths, weaknesses, investments made in themselves, and investments needed. The Business of Being a Lawyer addresses the following four topics: (1) current economic trends in the legal profession and how these trends impact law students and lawyers, (2) personal financial planning basics, recognizing that one’s career choices are enhanced, or restricted, by one’s financial situation, (3) issues of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), skills for building EQ, and how such skills help navigate professional and personal challenges in the legal profession, and (4) “Free Agency”: how to be an effective free agent throughout one’s career, recognizing the fact that the average lawyer changes jobs seven times in a career.

October 23, 2015

Professor Rushin Weighs in on Obama Administration’s Strategy on Misconduct in Police Departments

Professor Stephen Rushin recently told the Los Angeles Times the Obama administration has taken police departments to court over allegations of misconduct or violations of civil rights.

“Under Bush, the Department of Justice took the view that they could not force, or did not want to force, police departments into court,” said Rushin, an expert on federal enforcement of police reform. “Under the Obama administration, they take the view that if a city isn’t willing to play ball, that the DOJ will go to court and force that city to comply.”

For more, read “Has Obama Administration’s Stepped-up Pressure On Police Departments Worked?”

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