Rod Rosenstein Urges Adherence to Principle in May 13 Address to UB School of Law Graduates

In his May 13 commencement address to graduates at the University of Baltimore School of Law, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stuck to the high road, speaking of the importance of knowing who you are, how you want to be thought of, and not letting circumstances, even very challenging ones, alter your basic character and beliefs.

In addition to Mr. Rosenstein, guests at the Modell Lyric Theatre heard from Nicholas Hawkins, J.D. ’15, president of the UB Law Alumni Association, and Katrina Smith, valedictorian. More than 200 individuals received their Juris Doctor, Master of Laws in Taxation, or Master of Laws in the Law of the United States degree. Law Faculty Awards went to Sarah Simmons and Beatrice Thomas.

Rod Rosenstein speaks at commencementIn his prepared remarks, Mr. Rosenstein encouraged the newly minted lawyers to begin their careers with some sense of what they’d like their legacy to be at the end of their professional lives, and figure out a road map that will lead them in that direction. And that planning should be done, he added, with the knowledge that “everyone’s life is a product of random events and consequential decisions” — what happens to you that you did not expect, and how you choose to respond.

“As a lawyer, even a young one, you will be a person other people look to for wisdom and strength in difficult moments. If you succeed in acquiring wisdom, you will find yourself inadequate to the task. As Socrates observed, ‘true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.’ But you will need to summon the resolve to take charge in unpleasant times.

“Your parents may have felt that way when they faced challenging moments during your childhood. Sometimes there are no parents to guide you. No teachers to inform you. No bosses to order you. Whether you like it or not, you will need to take responsibility and bear the brunt of any resulting criticism,” he said. “Commence now to prepare for those moments.”

Not surprisingly, there was a lot of media interest in Mr. Rosenstein’s address, his first public appearance since resigning from the Department of Justice on May 11, 2019. The commencement was covered by local and national outlets, including CNN and C-SPAN, which intends to broadcast the speech at a later date.

Later in the day, Mr. Rosenstein delivered the keynote at the annual meeting of the Greater Baltimore Committee and spoke more directly of his tumultuous tenure as deputy attorney general, with barbs directed at former FBI Director James Comey, who has publicly criticized Mr. Rosenstein. That speech generated somewhat more media interest than his comparatively milder law school commencement address.

View coverage from The Baltimore Sun, The Daily Record, CNN, WBAL-TV, The Hill, The Washington Times, The Washington Post, and even Vanity Fair. Numerous smaller print and broadcast outlets picked up versions of the larger stories.

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Student Adanna Smith Finds Outlet for Her Passions in Law School, Moot Court Competitions

When Adanna Smith started college, she wanted to be a doctor. As an undergraduate at the University of Dayton majoring in biology, she took a class with a professor from Cameroon. After learning from him how dire the health care situation was there, she visited Cameroon for a month and volunteered at the Kumba District Hospital, assisting doctors and caring for patients.

Adanna Smith“That first time I went I was really torn up about the inequities of health care,” she said. “They have to do so much without technology.” So on a second month-long visit she brought 150 pounds of medical supplies and equipment, such as digital thermometers, that had been donated by her family and friends.

Her college mentors started urging her to consider a career in law instead of medicine. “I was more passionate about public policy issues and the disparities in health care than I was about actually doing the medical work,” says Ms. Smith. She changed her major to psychology and applied to law school.

That turned out to be a good move. “I have grown to love the law,” says Ms. Smith, 24, who will receive her J.D. degree on May 13. “I love to research. One of the reasons I’m successful in Moot Court is because I’m so well-prepared.”

To call her successful is a mild understatement. Ms. Smith won Best Oral Advocate at the National Black Law Students Association’s Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition in March. She also won first place and Best Oral Advocate at the regional competition in February. She is wrapping up service as president of the law school’s Moot Court Board.

Earlier this year, Ms. Smith and classmate Shaneel Myles went up against Prof. Kimberly Wehle and Prof. Phil Closius in the American Constitution Society’s “Clash of the Titans” Moot Court competition at UB Law — and won handily, according to the judges.

In spite of her Moot Court prowess, “Competition is very stressful to me,” Ms. Smith says. “If I take deep breaths and calm myself down, I do OK.”

Still, she loves the intellectual challenge. “Moot Court is a well-rounded experience. You’re doing a lot of research, you’re writing a 35-page brief. Then you probably change your argument after finishing the brief.”

Ms. Smith says she is still interested in international health care law as well as appellate advocacy. After graduation, she will spend a year clerking for Baltimore Circuit Judge Julie R. Rubin. But it’s likely she will be back to UB to visit. “I love this place,” she says.

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UB Innocence Project Clinic Helps Gain Exoneration of Wrongly Convicted Man; Brother Also Exonerated

Exonerees greet their family after their release.

Kenneth “JR” McPherson, left, wearing skullcap, and Eric Simmons, right, in blue shirt, embrace relatives shortly after their release from custody. Photo by Amy Valdivia

After serving 25 years in prison following wrongful convictions for conspiracy to commit murder, brothers Kenneth “J.R.” McPherson, 45, and Eric Simmons, 48, were fully exonerated on May 3 and went home to their families. The exonerations were sought by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) following investigations by the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic (UBIPC), which handled Mr. Simmons’ case, and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP), which represented Mr. McPherson.

Those recent investigations determined that two of the State’s witnesses in the 1995 trial had provided unreliable evidence: One witness, whose rent was being paid by police, said that she saw the shooting from a third-floor window 150 feet away — a location recently determined to have made such an observation impossible — and a 13-year-old boy who had been aggressively interrogated and threatened with homicide charges until he named Mr. McPherson and Mr. Simmons. That juvenile later recanted his statement, but the men were convicted anyway.

Exoneree Eric Simmons speaks at press conference

Eric Simmons, center, thanks Brianna Ford, to his left, for her efforts in securing his exoneration at a May 3 news conference following his release from custody.

In addition, the defendants’ alibis were not thoroughly investigated at the time, and exculpatory evidence was not shared with the defense, in violation of discovery rules. Investigations by UBIPC and MAIP confirmed the alibis, undermined some of the State’s other evidence, and produced a credible witness who supported the defendants’ claims of innocence.

Brianna Ford, deputy director of the UB School of Law Innocence Project, represented Mr. Simmons and investigated his case after the CIU asked the UB legal clinic for assistance.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Charles Peters, after remarking on the apparent sloppiness on both sides of the original trial, granted the writ of actual innocence presented by the State’s Attorney’s Office, effectively exonerating the brothers.

Read the Baltimore Sun and Maryland Daily Record coverage of the event.

Support the important work of the Innocence Project Clinic, and all of the law school’s clinics, here

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Meet the Five Award Winners Being Honored at UB School of Law’s May 16 Alumni Banquet

Five accomplished and inspiring UB School of Law alumni will be recognized at the 3rd Annual Law Alumni Awards Banquet on Thursday, May 16 at the Columbus Center, 701 E. Pratt St., in downtown Baltimore. Buy your tickets to the banquet.

The banquet is hosted by the UB Law Alumni Association (UBLAA), the official alumni association for the law school. This is UBLAA’s signature alumni event and will feature cocktails and dinner from a top local caterer, Chef’s Expressions.

This year’s honorees are:

  • Rising Star: Lauren E. Lake, J.D. ’16. Ms. Lake is a litigation associate at Gordon Lauren LakeFeinblatt and a member of the firm’s Community Engagement Committee. She is incoming chair for the Bar Association of Baltimore City Young Lawyers Division and is also active in the Maryland State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section.
    She was selected as a recipient of the Emerging Leaders United 2019 Philanthropic Five Award by United Way of Central Maryland and named a 2019 Leadership in Law – Generation J.D. Honoree by The Daily Record in recognition of her contributions to the Baltimore legal and civic communities.
  • Adam RutherByron L. Warnken Award: G. Adam Ruther, J.D. ’07. After graduating from law school, Mr. Ruther began his legal career as an assistant state’s attorney for Montgomery County, MD, where he served until 2011. He then returned to Baltimore to serve as a prosecutor in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office until 2015.
    From 2008 to 2015, Mr. Ruther taught as an adjunct professor in the UB Law Intro to Legal Skills and Moot Court programs, and joined his mentor, Prof. Byron Warnken, in co-authoring updates and future editions of Prof. Warnken’s treatise, Maryland Criminal Procedure. In 2015, Adam left government service and joined the law firm Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, LLP in Baltimore, where his practice focuses on commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense.
  • Judge Robert M. Bell Award: Susan K. Francis, J.D. ’11. Ms. Francis is deputy Susan Francisdirector of the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, which provides the linkage for thousands of low-income Marylanders to private attorneys who provide essential pro bono representation throughout the state.
    Ms. Francis has more than 20 years of nonprofit experience, primarily focused on poverty-related issues. She participates in many committees of the Maryland Bar Association and Bar Association of Baltimore City, and on The Daily Record‘s Editorial Advisory Board. Ms. Francis also is a member of the Baltimore City Council’s Commission on Aging and Retirement Education (CARE). Susan recently received the Legal Excellent Award for Advancement of Advocacy for Justice from the Maryland Bar Foundation.
  • Judge Kendra AusbyDistinguished Judicial Award: The Hon. Kendra Ausby, J.D. ’97. Prior to her appointment to the bench in 2010, Judge Ausby had a career in public service. She began her career as an assistant public defender in Baltimore City District and Circuit courts. In 2001, she joined the Maryland Office of the Attorney General as an assistant attorney general for the Department of Juvenile Services, where she practiced primarily torts and employment law.Judge Ausby was appointed Associate Judge to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in February 2010. She currently presides as Judge-in-Charge of the Domestic Court Docket for the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. She serves on the Court Management Committee, the Judicial Ethics Committee, and the Maryland Circuit Judges Association.
  • Dean’s Award: Nathaniel C. “Niel” Fick, J.D. ’75. Mr. Fick is a veteran trial Nathaniel "Niel" Ficklawyer and a court-approved mediator and arbitrator who has been practicing law for 42 years.
    He has extensive experience in the negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation of complex disputes. Mr. Fick is active in numerous professional organizations, including Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and the Civil Justice Foundation, both of which he helped found.

We would like to thank our event sponsors, without whom this event would not be possible.

Partners: The Daily RecordMarcus W. Corwin, P.A. and Venable LLP.

Associates: Warnken, LLC.

Advocates: Brown & Barron, Council BaradelGordon Feinblatt, Miller & Zois, Nelson Mullins and Whiteford Taylor Preston LLP.

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Baltimore Exoneree Attends National Conference on Wrongful Incarceration with UB Innocence Project Clinic Faculty

Clarence Shipley Jr. got long-overdue justice when he was released from prison last December after being exonerated for a slaying he did not commit. He served 27 years in prison, proclaiming his innocence the entire time.

Attendees at the Innocence Network conference.

From left, Prof. Michele Nethercott, Brianna Ford, Jermeka Shipley, Clarence Shipley Jr., Lauren Lipscomb, Brian Ellis and Emily Pate.

Mr. Shipley and his wife,  Jermeka Shipley, traveled to Atlanta from April 11 to April 13 to attend the annual conference of The Innocence Network. They were joined by UB School of Law Professor Michele Nethercott, who had worked with others to secure Mr. Shipley’s release; Brianna Ford, deputy director of the UB Innocence Project Clinic, and colleagues from the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP).

The group included Lauren Lipscomb, chief of the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) at the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office; Brian Ellis, a paralegal and investigator at the CIU, and Emily Pate, a paralegal who works with MAIP and the UB Innocence Project Clinic.

Prof. Nethercott made a presentation, “Starting from the Beginning: Strategies for Evaluating and Working Up Your Case,” which offered participants tools for identifying claims, obtaining records, prioritizing witness interviews, and deciding if and how to work with opposing counsel.

Mr. Shipley and his wife were invited to participate in workshops for exonerees and their families on topics such as, “What Now?: A Journey Toward Healing After Exoneration,” “Financial Management: Finding Your Purpose,” and “Boo’d Up: Building Relationships After Wrongful Incarceration.”

The Shipleys’ expenses were covered by an anonymous donor who wanted to help support exonerees after reading a Jan. 4, 2019 Baltimore Sun op-ed by UB’s Ms. Ford decrying the fact that in Maryland, exonerees receive no remuneration of any kind as they restart their lives after years of wrongful incarceration.

At one point during the conference, all the exonerees in attendance stood together on stage as it was announced that they had served a combined 1,000 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. The group included the so-called Central Park Five, who discussed their ordeal in one of the presentations.

Support the important work of this and other UB School of Law clinics by donating here.


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Earn a Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law; Program Now Presented Completely Online

Family law is an exploding field, with over 40 percent of trial court filings in Maryland relating to family law. In addition, family law cases are becoming extremely complex, as they so often involve social and behavioral issues, individuals in crisis, and efforts at alternative dispute resolution.

To help equip lawyers with the in-depth and cross-disciplinary knowledge they will need to excel in the field, the UB School of Law created the nation’s first and only post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law. As of Fall 2019, pending approval by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, this innovative curriculum will be offered fully online. Applications are being accepted through Aug. 1, 2019.

The certificate program is designed for new attorneys just beginning to practice family law, and for experienced practitioners seeking to add this expertise to their practice. The fast-paced curriculum blends theory and practice and offers knowledge and skills that lawyers can use in their practice now through a hands-on, real-world experiential curriculum.

Financial aid is available to students in the program who meet credit requirements for federal financial aid: 6 credits in spring or fall, 4 credits in summer. Applicants who meet the program’s advanced standing requirements may request a course waiver for “The Craft of Problem-Solving and Advocacy in Family Law.”

The 16-credit, five-course program is administered by the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at the UB School of Law. The program can be completed in 12 months. Hands-on and practical, it offers an interdisciplinary education in all aspects of family law, including child development, financial issues, advocacy and family psychology.

The summer capstone requires students to work through a family law case from start to finish. After completing his capstone in 2018, student Castell Abner said, “This is a great course. This is exactly what I wanted. I am getting my money’s worth. Every lawyer should have this experience.”

The certificate was developed by UB School of Law faculty in close collaboration with an advisory committee of leading practitioners and judges. The law school is widely recognized for the quality and breadth of its family law courses, clinical and experiential offerings, family law center, and the Family Law area of concentration within the J.D. program.

Please direct questions about the Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law to Professor Barbara Babb, director of the Post-J.D. Certificate in Family Law, at 410.837.5661, or

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Three UB Law Alumni ‘Run Into’ One Another in Army JAG Corps Training at Fort Benning

Christopher Numer, JD ’18, wasn’t expecting to make instant friends when he moved to Fort Benning, GA, to begin training for the U.S. Army JAG Corps. But, as he reported in an email earlier this year, “I was pleasantly surprised when I ran into two other guys from UB Law! Matthew Chalker (2008) and Jake Nelson (2018).

“We thought it was really cool and we wanted to share the story with you back at UB,” Lt. Numer wrote. “We just wanted to keep in touch with UB and also would be glad to talk to any students who may be interested/have questions about Army JAG.”

three alumni in Army JAG corps

From left, Lt. Jake Nelson, Lt. Matthew Chalker, Lt. Christopher Numer

The officers are currently in phase two of their training at the JAG Legal Center in Charlottesville, VA. Lt. Numer, who serves in the Army Reserves, says JAG officers perform a wide variety of roles for the Army, helping soldiers with legal problems, credit issues, marital difficulties and military disciplinary matters.

After initial training, JAG officers are assigned to specific areas, such as being chief counsel for a military unit. “They assign you where they need you,” Lt. Numer says. “They provide training as you go.”

Lt. Nelson is on active duty in the Army and will be assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. “I’m looking forward to being involved in national security,” he said. “I like working for something bigger than myself.”

Lt. Chalker has a legal practice in Arnold, MD, but he joined the National Guard in June 2018, fulfilling a dream he’s had since he was 16. “It was always something I wanted to do,” he said. “But at every junction in life it didn’t really work out. I woke up one day and said, it’s now or never.”

Now that he’s in the service, he said, “It’s awesome. On a personal level it’s been fulfilling. On a professional level, it’s different. It’s brought back some of that excitement I felt when I first got out of law school.”

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