Meet the Four New Faculty Members Who Joined UB School of Law This Year

UB Law is pleased to welcome four new faculty members this year: three tenure-track professors and a visiting professor.

Jamie Abrams is a visiting professor for the full academic year, teaching Torts/ILS, Family Law, and Rules & Reasoning. Her research focuses on reproductive and birthing decision-making, gendered violence, legal protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence, and legal education pedagogy.

Prof. Jamie Abrams
Prof. Jamie Abrams

She previously taught at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, where she received two teaching awards. She has also taught at Hofstra University School of Law and American University Washington College of Law.

In 2014, while at Louisville, Abrams founded the Brandeis Human Rights Advocacy Program to advance the human rights of immigrants and refugees. Prior to entering law teaching, she was in private practice, specializing in complex civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense and environmental law.

Abrams has a J.D. from American University and an LL.M. from Columbia University, both with highest honors. She earned her B.A. from Indiana University at Bloomington.

Sheldon Bernard Lyke is an associate professor teaching Trusts and Estates this fall. His research focuses on anti-discrimination laws regarding racial and sexual minorities in a comparative context. His current research explores anti-affirmative action practices in higher education.

Prof. Sheldon Lyke
Prof. Sheldon Lyke

His work is increasingly observing property law institutions in our shared social world — particularly the realms of higher education, fashion, and natural resources (i.e., parks, commons, and shared green spaces) — and understanding their role in creating and ameliorating social inequality.

Before joining the UB Law faculty, Lyke was an assistant professor at Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law and at Whittier Law School. He also has held positions as a visiting assistant professor at University of California Irvine School of Law (Fall 2016) and Northwestern University School of Law (2012 thru 2013).

In 2011, he was appointed the inaugural Dorr Legg Law and Policy Fellow at the Williams Institute (UCLA School of Law). Lyke has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago, a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, and an A.B. cum laude in sociology from Princeton University.

Matthew Sipe is an assistant professor of law teaching Introduction to Legal Skills/Civil Procedure this fall.

Prof. Matthew Sipe
Prof. Matthew Sipe

His research focuses on the relationship among law, innovation and ownership. His work has been published in academic journals such as the Wisconsin Law Review, the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, and the American University Law Review.

Prior to joining the faculty, Sipe taught at George Washington University Law School as the Frank H. Marks Visiting Associate Professor in Intellectual Property.  His previous position was at the U.S. Supreme Court, serving an appointment as a Supreme Court Fellow.

Sipe received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was an editor and author for the Yale Law Journal and the Yale Journal on Regulation.  Following law school, he clerked for Judge Kathleen O’Malley, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Judge Samuel Mays, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.  He received his undergraduate degree in mathematics and economics from the University of Virginia, where he was honored with residency on the Lawn.

Sonya Ziaja is an assistant professor teaching Environmental Law this fall. Her research interests focus on the overlapping areas of environmental governance and law, technology and society: How can environmental law and institutions sustainably adjust to rapidly changing bio-geophysical conditions and societal demands associated with climate change? And with what consequences for equity and democratic participation?

Prof. Sonya Ziaja
Prof. Sonya Ziaja

Her approach to these questions draws on her interdisciplinary background in geography, water policy and law, as well as her practical knowledge of energy regulation.

Ziaja’s scholarship is published in refereed interdisciplinary journals and books, as well as law reviews. She was a lead author of California’s Fourth Climate Assessment. Her research has informed the climate adaptation strategy of the U.S. National Parks Service and the first climate adaptation regulation of investor-owned energy utilities in California.

Before coming to UB Law, she worked in energy regulation at the California Public Utilities Commission and was the research lead for the Water, Energy, Climate Nexus at the California Energy Commission. Ziaja holds a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Arizona, M.Sc. in Water Science, Policy and Management from the University of Oxford, and J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

A warm welcome to these new faculty members.

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More Wins for Veterans Thanks to Student-Attorneys in UB Law’s Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic

The UB School of Law Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic (VAC) has three recent case wins to share with the community. Here are summaries written by Katy Clemens, clinical teaching fellow in the clinic.

In the first case, the VAC won disability benefits for a veteran whose right leg was amputated due to VA medical treatment that was negligent. We started with this case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, where student-attorneys Brendan Loughran, J.D. ’19, and Justin Hoy, J.D. ’19, served as lead counsel and won a remand of the case back to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals due to errors in the Board’s decision.

Student-attorneys Calvin Riorda, J.D. ’20, and Erin Cullinan, J.D. ’20, took over before the Board, obtained a crucial medical opinion for the veteran, and drafted a brief arguing the case to the Board. VA granted the claim in July 2020. Current VAC student Keith Rohr is now working with the client to appeal for a higher disability rating than the one assigned by VA, due to the client’s inability to work.

Erin Cullinan
Erin Cullinan, J.D. ’20

In the second case, VAC represented a UB student who served in Iraq and was stationed very close to an open burn pit for hazardous waste materials, and was not provided personal protection. Eventually, the veteran was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia. VAC student-attorneys Riorda and current student Dalia Alezra won the veteran service-connected disability benefits for his leukemia, due to a medical opinion and brief arguing that it had been caused by exposure to the pollutants from the burn pit. Burn pit-related claims are a new and burgeoning area for VA, and this August 2020 decision may help future veterans.

In the third case, VAC has been representing the veteran for four years on a variety of claims. In a September 2020 decision, VA granted service-connected disability benefits for chronic fungal infection of the veteran’s feet due to lengthy periods of time in boots in the desert during deployment, as well as a chronic shoulder disability caused by a serious fall on active duty. The veteran was ably represented first at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims by student-attorneys Shane Nolan, J.D. ’19, and Ashley Aguilar, J.D. ’20, who won a remand back to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and then at the Board by student-attorney Alyssa Smith, who obtained a medical nexus opinion and drafted the brief.

These are just some of the victories student-attorneys in UB Law’s nationally renowned clinics have achieved. Even in this pandemic, their work continues unabated.

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UB Law Prof. Starger Blazes New Frontiers in Legal Scholarship with Innovative Research and Publishing Platform

How can academic legal research best inform contemporary “real world” legal debates? How can technology improve the process of legal research? Such questions animate the recent work of UB Law Prof. Colin Starger and showcase the innovation happening at UB Law.

Before his career as a criminal defense attorney and then law professor, Starger worked as a computer programmer. In an article just published in a new online law review, the MIT Computational Law Report, Starger leverages his coding background to present original data on a pressing problem in the criminal justice system in an original way.

The problem explored by Starger concerns the presumption of innocence (POI), one of the fundamental rights theoretically granted to defendants in the criminal justice system. And yet, the new research undertaken by Starger suggests that at this very moment thousands of innocent people are languishing in jail awaiting trial on charges that are more likely to be dropped than pursued.

Prof. Colin Starger
Prof. Colin Starger

“Every day, hundreds of thousands of legally innocent criminal defendants are deprived of their liberty and caged in jails, despite the bedrock principle [of POI],” he wrote in “The Argument That Cries Wolfish.” To prove his theory, Starger wrote code to locate and review more than 150,000 Maryland District Court cases from a scraped database of Maryland court records. Looking at the state’s four largest counties between 2013 and 2017, Starger found that more than 60 percent of the time, cases were nolle prossed, meaning the charges were dropped. Those defendants, however, had spent an average of 46 days in jail awaiting trial.

To encourage an open source approach to legal research, Starger took the novel step of writing a web portal that allows users others to interact with the rich data underlying his empirical claims. Starger and his editors at MIT also made all the code and data underlying the project available on an open-source website called GitHub. The article itself is hosted on a platform that is optimized to be read on a phone or tablet and contains hyperlinks to all of the underlying sources quotes in the article.

“I suspect that sites like represent the future of legal scholarship,” Starger says. “Traditional law reviews do not allow readers to easily and directly access all the evidence and research needed to understand academic arguments. In my view, this new way of delivering legal research is less ‘black box’ and encourages greater conversation and interaction between academics and the general public.” Starger adds that he hopes his article will help policymakers recognize and confront the reality of pretrial mass incarceration.

He shared his concerns on this topic in a Sept. 7 Baltimore Sun op-ed, co-written with University of Maryland Carey Law Prof. Doug Colbert and two of their students.

Starger brings his technology perspective into UB Law’s classrooms as well. He is the director of UB Law’s Legal Data & Design Clinic and co-teaches a class on Coding for Lawyers with Matthew Stubenberg, the Associate Director for Legal Technologies at Harvard’s Access to Justice Lab.

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UB Law Prof. Gilman Publishes Guide to Automated Decision-Making Systems for Lawyers Assisting Low-Income Clients

UB Law Venable Prof. Michele Gilman today published a report, Poverty Lawgorithms: A Poverty Lawyers Guide to Fighting Automated Decision-Making Harms on Low-Income Communities. The 63-page document is a guide for poverty lawyers that explains automated decision-making systems so they can better identify the source of their clients’ problems and advocate on their behalf.

Automated decision-making systems make decisions about our lives, and those with low-socioeconomic status often bear the brunt of the harms these systems cause, according to the report summary. Poverty Lawgorithms is intended to familiarize fellow poverty and civil legal services lawyers with the ins and outs of data-centric and automated-decision making systems, so that they can clearly understand the sources of the problems their clients are facing and effectively advocate on their behalf.

Venable Professor of Law Michele Gilman
Venable Professor of Law Michele Gilman

The report, a result of Gilman’s 2019-20 sabbatical year as a faculty fellow at Data & Society research institute, is organized into six major practice areas: consumer law, family law, housing, public benefits, schools and education, and workers’ rights, with a final section on immigrant surveillance.

Lawyers will find useful explanations for technologies relevant to each domain and tips for how lawyers can take action. For example, Gilman explains how facial recognition technology is used in public housing and encourages lawyers to get involved in the legal discussion around the technology, since it’s such a fast-moving legal space.

Gilman will discuss her findings in an Oct. 16 conversation with NYU Prof. Meredith Broussard on enhancing the digital literacy of poverty lawyers to better advocate for the low-income communities they serve. Learn more here.

Gilman’s guide provides definitions of foundational concepts, shares guiding principles—such as “computers are not magic”—and incorporates reading lists for those interested in taking a deeper dive. Her top four takeaways for poverty lawyers and policymakers:

** Low-income people and their lawyers need to be a part of the conversation when a government is looking to adopt an automated-decision making system and remain engaged during the integration process.

** Low-income people and their lawyers should work with policymakers who are focused on data privacy and protection to ensure that laws serve everyone, not just elites and industry. These individuals have vast amounts of knowledge and experience to share.

** Legal services lawyers need funding for training and education around automated-decision making systems to better advocate for their clients in court.

** None of the tactics outlined in this report are easy, given an already overloaded plate. It’s important to collaborate with pro bono lawyers and law offices who work in litigation.

Lawyers don’t need technical expertise in software engineering or computer systems, Gilman says. “Rather, understanding where and how data-centric technologies operate puts lawyers in a powerful position to advocate alongside their clients,” she says.

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Prof. Kim Wehle Joins Sept. 15 Panel to Consider ‘If Everyone Voted’ as Part of 92nd Street Y Series

Prof. Kim Wehle will join a panel of experts on voting for an online discussion as part of the 92nd Street Y series.

The Sept. 15 event, “If Everyone Voted,” will consider what would happen if 80, 90, or even 100 percent of eligible voters showed up on Election Day. Panelists will discuss why democracy works better when more people participate and what changes when more people vote.

Professor Kim Wehle
Prof. Kim Wehle

Wehle, author of How to Read the Constitution–and Why and What You Need to Know About Voting–and Why, joins a panel that includes Trevor Potter, founder and president of Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan legal advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. that is working to advance democracy through law; Janai Nelson, associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and María Teresa Kumar, founding president of Voto Latino and an MSNBC contributor.

The discussion will be moderated by E.J. Dionne Jr., a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, university professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture at Georgetown University, and visiting professor at Harvard University.

Learn more and register here for the free event.

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UB Law Alumna Amy Askew Shares the Benefits of Her Law Review Experience with Current Students

The UB Law Review kicked off the new academic year with a virtual happy hour featuring alumna Amy Askew, J.D. ’01, as the guest speaker.

Amy Askew, J.D. ’01

Askew, a principal at Kramon & Graham, is a Maryland trial lawyer with experience representing the rail and health care industries. She was ranked by Chambers USA for her work in commercial litigation and medical malpractice defense, and she has been described as a strategic thinker who is passionate about her clients’ cases – two key traits she attributes to her experience on Law Review as a student.

The Law Review is the school’s flagship academic journal, providing in-depth analyses of current topics to the legal community nationwide. Published three times per year, the journal is a valuable research tool for legal practitioners and serves as a training ground for students to hone their writing, research, editing and time-management skills.

“One of the benefits of being on Law Review is that you are demonstrating to future employers that you can multitask. As a lawyer, you will never find yourself working on one thing at a time,” Askew told the students. “Similarly, as a staff editor on this journal, you will be juggling many things. Sometimes you will drop them, but it’s how you pick them up that matters. And, that’s what Law Review helps you learn to do.”

Additionally, Askew shared that students will improve their attention to detail, work ethic and research skills through their Law Review experience. “These three things are essential and serve as the building blocks for the rest of your career,” Askew said.

Askew stressed the importance of intellectual curiosity in the legal field as well. She told students that is what keeps her passionate about her work. “If you don’t find yourself interested in a case, you can’t serve your client to the best of your ability. A curious lawyer will never leave a stone overturned,” Askew said. “Law Review reinforces the curiosity you will need to be passionate about your work.”

As students prepared for an online learning experience this fall, Askew shared her tips for succeeding in a virtual environment, which included creating a home office space and investing in a comfortable chair. But, the most important tip she stressed: Find ways to connect with peers.

“It was easier in the office to walk up to a colleague and say, ‘I have a question, can we chat?’ We don’t have the ability to form and deepen those relationships in that traditional way anymore,” Askew told the group. “Challenge yourselves to figure out how to forge those connections with each other throughout the year.”

Askew joined Kramon & Graham as an associate in 2008. In addition to the firm’s collaborative and collegial culture, she was attracted to its commitment to providing excellent legal services. 

Kramon & Graham is known for its commercial litigation practice. The firm has deep experience in white-collar defense, class-action suits, government contracts, professional liability, personal injury and wrongful death claims, state and federal appeals, and asset recovery, as well as real estate, transactional and insurance coverage. The firm’s attorneys represent Fortune 500 companies, public and privately held corporations, nonprofits and individual clients across the nation.

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Scholarship Created in Memory of Katrina Dennis Approaches its $100,000 Goal; Matching Opportunity Available Until Sept. 4

One year after the death of Katrina J. Dennis, a 2004 graduate of the UB School of Law and a member of the University of Maryland Board of Regents, a scholarship named for her approaches its $100,000 goal.

Katrina Dennis
Katrina Dennis

Dennis died of breast cancer on Aug. 30, 2019. A scholarship to benefit UB Law students was established in Dennis’ name through the University of Baltimore Foundation. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a second- or third-year law student who demonstrates an interest in a career focused on litigation. Preference is given to African American female students. Donations are being accepted here.

Sean Malone, J.D. ’97, and his wife, Lisa Harris Jones, have agreed to match donations up to $25,000 that are made to the scholarship fund by Sept. 4, 2020.

A partner in the Baltimore office of the law firm Saul Ewing LLP at the time of her death, Dennis served on a number of boards and commissions. Gov. Larry Hogan appointed her to the Appellate Courts Judicial Nominating Commission in 2015 and to the Board of Regents in 2017. She also was appointed by former Gov. Martin O’Malley to the board of directors of the Maryland Transportation Authority.

Dennis spoke at each of the UB Law’s 2018 and 2019 commencement ceremonies on behalf of the Board of Regents.

According to her USM biography, Dennis was named a 2017 Distinguished Woman by the Girls Scouts of Central Maryland, a “Rising Star” in Maryland by Super Lawyers Magazine in 2013 to present, and was selected as a 2016 Fellow to the Legal Council on Legal Diversity.

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UB Law’s September Webinars Look at Misinformation and ‘Fake News,’ and How Civil Disobedience Interacts with Structural Racism

The UB Law in Focus Discussion Series continues in September with two webinars that examine topics of current interest through a legal lens.

On Sept. 16 at 5 p.m., the topic will be “Misinformation, Disinformation and ‘Fake News.'” This webinar will serve as UB’s annual commemoration of Constitution Day, which is Sept. 17.

Misinformation and disinformation have always been part of our media landscape, going back to the scurrilous political campaigns of the 18th century, the great newspaper hoaxes of the 19th century, and Nazi and Soviet propaganda of the 20th century.

DeWayne Wickham, Morgan State University
DeWayne Wickham, Morgan State University

What has made these phenomena so troubling in the 21st century is the amplification effect of the internet, especially social media. This discussion will address the issue of misinformation, disinformation and “fake news,” including their definition, sources and the harms they create, as well as what, if anything, can be done about them consistent with the First Amendment.

Panelists are Eric Easton, media law expert and professor emeritus at UB Law; Jasmine McNealy, assistant professor of telecommunication at the University of Florida; and UB Law alumna Sandy Banisky, J.D. ’93, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland College Park and former editor at The Baltimore Sun.

Moderating the discussion is DeWayne Wickham, distinguished professor and founding dean of the College of Global Journalism at Morgan State University. Register for the webinar here.

On Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 5, the webinar topic will be “Civil Disobedience, Democracy and Structural Racism: What’s Federalism Got to Do with It?” This webinar continues our series-within-a-series, Examining Structural Racism.

Protests, marches and demonstrations–signature acts of a democracy–have exploded around the country. Demonstrators call for a reassessment of law enforcement methods and redirecting of resources. What does federalism demand as the response to these acts of peaceful (and not peaceful) protests?

Veryl Pow, UB Law clinical teaching fellow
Veryl Pow, UB Law clinical teaching fellow

A panel of UB Law faculty–Prof. Matthew Lindsay, an expert in American legal history and constitutional law; Prof. Robert Knowles, an expert in national security law; and Prof. Odeana Neal, an expert in juvenile justice–will consider the distinct yet overlapping areas of local, state and federal governments’ relationship to historical and present-day structural racism.

The balancing of these distinct jurisdictions–local, state, and federal–is core to the principle of federalism. What are the principles that should guide the proper response to the demonstrations that respects democracy and freedom of expression?

Moderating the discussion will be Veryl Pow, a clinical teaching fellow at UB Law and an expert in criminal justice and social movement lawyering. Register for the webinar here.

To receive email updates about upcoming webinars, join the mailing list.

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UB Law Prof. Gilda Daniels Discusses COVID-19’s Impact on Voting Rights in Sept. 4 Law Forum Webinar

The UB Law Forum will present a webinar, “Coronavirus and its Impact on Voting Rights – Will 2020 Elections be Safe and Fair?,” on Friday, Sept. 4 from 7 to 8 p.m.

Professor Gilda Daniels
Prof. Gilda Daniels

UB Law Prof. Gilda R. Daniels will lead a discussion on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the November election. The discussion will focus on the impact the pandemic could have on voting rights as it pertains to the current administration’s policies, disenfranchisement of voters, possible barriers to voting, and various methods adopted by different states (absentee ballots, reduced accessible voting facilities, mail-in ballots, etc.) to secure the right to vote. 

Daniels is the author of the 2020 book, Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in America. An expert on voting rights, she served as a deputy chief in the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. She has more than a decade of voting rights experience, bringing cases that involved various provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act and other voting rights statutes. 

Pre-registration is not required. Here’s how to join the webinar:

Zoom meeting information: (Meeting ID: 993 0579 0643). Or dial in: (301) 715-8592.

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‘Black in Baltimore’ Teach-In Featured UB Law Professors Speaking on Structural Racism, Police Reform and Advocating for Social Justice

Several UB Law faculty participated in a recent “Black in Baltimore Sit-In and Teach-In” organized by the Law Students for Liberation Coalition (LS4LC). The coalition was formed by a group of law students earlier this year to seek the implementation of anti-racist policies and procedures at the law school and protest the presence of the Baltimore Police Academy on UB’s campus.

According to the event’s organizers, the Aug. 15 teach-in on UB’s Gordon Plaza was planned to highlight the experiences of Black people in urban communities. Topics like police brutality, police treatment of people with disabilities, and abusive prison conditions were discussed by family members of victims as well as by scholars.

Associate Dean Dionne Koller, left, presents at the teach-in.
Associate Dean Dionne Koller, left, presents at the teach-in.

“The LS4LC produced an incredible and inspiring teach-in,” says Prof. Colin Starger, director of the Legal Data & Design Clinic. “It was very well organized and kept participants engaged while also making sure everyone was safe. Not only were food, water, and sanitizer on hand, they also provided sign interpreters to ensure accessibility for the hearing-impaired. They walked the walk as well as talked the talk.

“Personally, I was honored to be invited to participate. I spoke on ‘Framing the Defund the Police’ debate. Using rhetorical concepts I explore in my Jurisprudence class, I looked at how the issue might be fruitfully discussed with three different audiences: the sympathetic but unconvinced, those in power, and the skeptics. One of my themes was: ‘It’s not about good apples or bad apples, it’s about the barrel.'”

Prof. Jaime Alison Lee, director of the Community Development Clinic (CDC), talked about water affordability, redlining and wealth stripping in Black communities. She argued that water access should be treated as a human right, not a privatized commodity. Veryl Pow, a clinical teaching fellow in the CDC, talked about the history of nonviolent protest and his conclusion that radicalization is a necessary component of social change.

Prof. Elizabeth Keyes, director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic, described the connection between over-policing of Black neighborhoods and immigration policies that disproportionately detain and deport Black immigrants.

Associate Dean Dionne Koller, director of the Center for Sport and the Law, talked about what she sees as exploitation of Black athletes at the college level. “I was honored to be asked to speak about the exploitation of Black athletes,” Koller says. “The students created an event that was terrific in every respect, and I appreciate that they engaged our community in that way.

“The event reminded me once again why I love UB students, and l look forward to supporting the students as they continue to create awareness and seek justice.”

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