AJMLS Student Selected for Gideon’s Promise Summer Law Clerk Program

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School student, Spencer Fredericks along with 15 first- and second-year law students have been chosen to join the highly selective Gideon’s Promise Summer Law Clerk Program class of 2014.

The clerks will assist public defender offices in the Southeast that partner with Gideon’s Promise, a nonprofit organization founded by AJMLS Professor Jon Rapping that works tirelessly to mobilize and train public defenders to provide the highest quality representation to people unable to afford an attorney.

As clerks, the students will be empowered to develop disciplined skill sets that will prove critical as they transition from students to the court room.

“These 16 students represent a small fraction of the young legal talent who are committed to improving the standards of the criminal justice system and to ensuring fair representation for all,” says Professor Rapping. “The experience they will receive as law clerks will serve as a cornerstone to their profession. We are proud of these outstanding students for their accomplishments and for their dedication to serving our nation’s most vulnerable citizens.”

This year’s Gideon’s Promise Summer Law Clerk Program class includes:
Spencer Fredericks, first-year, Atlanta John Marshall Law School
Amanda Belier, second-year, University of Cincinnati College of Law
Rachel Berman, second-year, Emory University School of Law
David Clark, second-year, George Mason University School of Law
Melissa DiRado, second-year, Syracuse University College of Law
Nicole Duncan, first-year, Loyola Law School
Caroline Heicklen, second-year, Georgetown University Law Center
Charles Henniger, first-year, Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law
Aaron Horth, second-year, Boston University School of Law
Amanda Koons, second-year, Northwestern School of Law
Tamara Lee, second-year, Charleston School of Law
Alicia Luncheon, first-year, University of Georgia Law School
Jessica Mann, second-year, Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law
Logan Noblin, second-year, UCLA School of Law
Veronica O’Grady, second-year, University of Georgia Law School
Nathan Stuckey, second-year, University of California, Berkley

Four of the 16 law students chosen for the Gideon’s Promise Summer Law Clerk Program are from Georgia law schools.

The Gideon’s Promise Summer Law Clerk Program is a partnership between Gideon’s Promise, participating law schools and public defender offices in the Southeast. The program recruits talented students who are specifically interested in leading proactive solutions that improve the struggling indigent defense system; have completed at least one year of law school; and display the characteristics and passion required to become a promising public defender.

Last year, Professor Rapping and Gideon’s Promise were featured in the HBO documentary, “Gideon’s Army,” which follows three young public defenders, trained by Professor Rapping and Gideon’s Promise, in their sometimes breaking quest for equal justice in indigent defense. The organization has now trained more than 250 public defenders, who each see an average caseload of 300 per year.

Gideon’s Promise currently partners with more than 32 public defenders offices across 13 states including: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Congratulations again to Spencer Fredericks on being selected for the Gideon’s Promise Summer Law Clerk Program.

AJMLS Alumnus Represents Plaintiff for Botched IV Test Injury

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School alumnus and Alumni Board member, Lawrence Schlachter, M.D., J.D., has garnered headline recognition in the Daily Report for a major trial win for a medical malpractice plaintiff.  According to the Daily Report, a Fulton County jury awarded more than $4.4 million to a man claiming permanent injuries when a bit of radioactive tracer solution leaked into his arm during a cardiology test at Piedmont Newnan Hospital. Along with Schlachter, the plaintiff was also represented by Lloyd Bell and Darren Summerville.

For more information on the article, “Jurors Hold Plaintiff’s Hand, Then Put $4.4M Into It” can be found on the Daily Report’s website.

Footnote from AJMLS Professor Used in Dissent of Justice Benham

The Georgia Supreme Court recently issued its opinion in the Warren Lee Hill case. Hill was sentenced to death following the 1990 murder of a fellow inmate in the Lee County Correctional Institute, in which Hill beat the victim with a board embedded with nails.

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School professor Michael Mears was quoted in a footnote by Justice Robert Benham who dissented along with Justice Carol Hunstein. The footnote used from Professor Mears is based upon a Daily Report article in which Mears discussed the unconstitutionality of the State Secret Act which protects the identity of the executioners and the names of the drug manufacturer.

Their dissent cited a botched execution last month in Oklahoma, Benham saying Georgia’s approach to executions could lead to such “macabre results.” Benham wrote that the secrecy law has the effect of creating “star chamber-like proceedings.”

The footnote reads:
“See also Land, Greg, Oklahoma’s Botched Execution is a Wake-Up Call in Georgia, Says
Law Professor, Daily Report (May 1, 2014), quoting Professor Michael Mears as follows:
“The defense bar is …about protecting the Constitution. How do we know what [drugs] they’re using and not telling us about?”

The full article can be found online through the Daily Report.

AJMLS Professor Accepts the Eleventh Annual Ridenhour Prize for Gideon’s Army

Gideon’s Army, an HBO documentary about the non-profit organization of AJMLS professor Jon Rapping, recently received the 2014 Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize. The film follows three young public defenders as they struggle with staggering caseloads, long hours, low pay, and trying to balance their commitment to public service with a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point.

The annual Ridenhour Prizes recognize acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society. In reflecting upon its decision, the awards committee said, “We are thrilled to have selected Gideon’s Army which celebrates the legion of idealistic young public defenders who are fighting for equal justice for the disenfranchised within our broken and biased legal system, while struggling to stay one step ahead of poverty themselves.”

Professor Rapping accepted the award with Gideon’s Army director and producer, Dawn Porter. An excerpt from his speech reads:

Now, I started my career as a public defender here in D.C. which is one of the few really well functioning public defender offices in the country. I wasn’t aware at that time about this crisis, and then I went south and worked in Georgia and Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. And I saw criminal justice systems that just processed human beings, that literally accepted an embarrassingly low standard of justice for poor people. And I met these young inspired public defenders who would go into this work for the right reasons and very quickly have the passion beaten out of them. And soon they would either quit or they would become resigned to the status quo.

And so that led to my wife and I starting Gideon’s Promise, an organization that recruits, mentors, trains and support public defenders in an effort to build a community of change agents to go into courtrooms and broken systems and remind them of our American ideals.

Well, we started in 2007 with 16 lawyers and two offices. We will this summer have roughly 300 public defenders from 15 states. [applause] As we were building this, we realized we needed someone to share this story with the country, with the world. And so we started looking for a filmmaker, a storyteller, and we met Dawn Porter. Dawn was a new filmmaker. We invited her to come down and meet our lawyers. We had no idea at the time how brilliant Dawn is. We had no idea at the time how committed she would become to this cause and we certainly had no idea the impact that her work would have.

And what Dawn has done with “Gideon’s Promise” is she has reminded us that we can’t have equal justice without public defenders. She’s reminded us that public defenders are heroes. She shined a light on the public defenders who do this work and the people that they represent, which is a critical first step to raising our national consciousness and addressing this issue.

The full video of Professor Rapping’s acceptance speech is located below.

John Marshall Law Journal Climbs Washington & Lee Law Review Rankings

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School is pleased to recognize the John Marshall Law Journal’s ascent in the Washington & Lee Law Review Rankings. Since its inception in 2008, the law journal has climbed nearly 200 spots on Washington & Lee’s cumulative score index for student-edited U.S. law journals and reviews. The law school is proud to see how far the law journal has  come in such a short time. It is also impressive to see that the John Marshall Law Journal outranks some well-recognized journals. For more information about the John Marshall Law Journal and other student organization, click here.

AJMLS Students Participate in Law Day at the Georgia Bar

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School students recently participated in Law Day. Law Day is a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law, to recognize the role of the courts in our democracy, the importance of jury service and maintaining the integrity of the courts.  The official Law Day designated by Congress in 1961 is May 1st.

Georgia holds Law Day during the month of May at different locations around the state like churches, the Georgia Bar, community centers, and high schools. This year’s Law Day event was held at the Georgia Bar. The theme set by the American Bar Association for this year was ‘American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters’ due to the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The event was held in conjunction with Atlanta Public Schools (APS), several Georgia Bar Associations and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.  The morning session was focused on educating APS high school students and registering them students to vote.  AJMLS students participated in registering students and providing voter simulations. The evening session was a CLE for attorneys open to the public.

Panel discussions were held with leaders from the League of Women Voters, Counsel of the GA Democratic Party, Georgia Republican Party, Georgia State Law Professors, The Carter Center, Amnesty International, UGA Law Professors, the Human Rights Network, SVP of Legal at CNN, the Georgia Secretary of State, Civil Rights Activists, Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients and a US Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

AJMLS 1L Students Shine at the Intraschool Moot Court Competition

First-year students at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School recently competed in the law school’s Intraschool Moot Court Competition. With the guidance of professors, alumni and the Moot Court team, these 1L’s proved that they possess the skill and talent needed to excel in their legal education and careers. Congratulations to the winners of the Intraschool Moot Court Competition:

*Best Appellant Oralist: Amber Reed
*Runner-Up: Emily Napier


*Best Appellee Oralist: Shawnta Williams
*Runner-Up: Ingrid Saffrey

*Best Appellant Brief: Stephanie Housefield
*Best Appellee Brief: Ingrid Saffrey

The competition was the culmination of a great deal of hard work from many divisions within the law school. Professors Cato, Dalton, Doneff, Gelin, Jaffe, Jeffries, and Luna worked tirelessly to prepare their classes for the competition. Many members of the Moot Court helped bench students in their Legal Writing classes.

Professors Tandy and Van Detta, along with alumni coaches Michael Bauer, Ben Stidham, and Thomas Lyman, devoted their entire Saturday to judging the advocates who made it to the Semi-Final Round. Stefanie Hilliard, Nick Kitchens, Ella O’Kelley, Kim Stahl, Drew Turner, Tracy Udunka, Mathis Wilkens, and Daniel Ybanez helped judge and coordinate the various levels of the competition.

Student/alumni Moot Court brief graders spent countless hours grading bench briefs. The brief scoring team consisted of alumni Ben Stidham (Chair), alumni coach Michael Bauer, Irena Chernova, Homer Jordan, and Rodrigo Silvo.

The advocates did such an outstanding job that Judge Ray from the Georgia Court of Appeals told the courtroom full of AJMLS students that he now understood how the John Marshall Moot Court team was able to beat his law school (UGA) at Georgia Intrastate.

Under the direction of the faculty advisor and alumni coaches Michael Bauer and Thomas Lyman, the Moot Court program has made tremendous strides this year. Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School is eager to see how this next generation of advocates will further advance the AJMLS Moot Court program.

National Institute for Trial Advocacy Invites AJMLS Professor to Teach Trial Advocacy Basics

The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) is the nation’s leading provider of legal advocacy skills training. A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado, NITA pioneered the legal skills learning-by-doing methodology over 40 years ago and has since remained the ultimate standard in continuing legal education.

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School professor Suparna Malempati was recently invited to join the Rocky Mountain team to teach new lawyers the basics of trial advocacy.  She spent fours days training the participants on closing arguments, direct examination, and cross examination skills. You can read more about her experience on the Advocacy Teaching Blog.

NITA’s team of practicing lawyers, professors and judges from around the nation dedicates its efforts to the training and development of skilled and ethical legal advocates to improve the adversarial justice system. NITA’s mission is to:

  • Promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy;
  • Train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in pursuit of justice; and
  • Develop and teach trial advocacy skills to support and promote the effective and fair administration of justice.

For more information about NITA, please visit the website at www.nita.org. View a full list of Professor Malempati’s published articles and media appearances on her faculty profile.

Daily Report Interviews Professor Mears on Botched Oklahoma Execution

“The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on Tuesday should serve as a wake-up call to Georgia officials scrambling to find ways to put inmates to death without trampling constitutional guarantees and basic human decency,” said Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School professor, Michael Mears, in a recent interview with the Daily Report.

Professor Mears, who is also the founding director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, spoke candidly with the Daily Report about the recent execution.

“This is certainly not the first botched lethal injection execution, and if the states continue to allow prison guards to ‘play doctor’ we will have more of these outrageous execution botches,” said Mears. “It is one thing to kill a person. It is another thing to conduct experiments on them under the guise of carrying out an execution.”

The full interview can be found on the Daily Report’s website. For more information on the published works, media appearances and accomplishments of Professor Mears, visit his faculty profile.