Constitutionality of Indian Child Welfare Act is Topic of February 7 UB Law in Focus Webinar

The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a 1978 law that regulates removal and placement of Native American children, is being challenged as unconstitutional in a case currently before the Supreme Court, Haaland v. Brackeen. Plaintiffs include non-Native couples who are seeking to foster or adopt children with Native American ancestry (even though Native relatives are willing to adopt them), a biological parent who hopes to have their child be adopted by non-Native people, and three states: Texas, Louisiana and Indiana.

Congress enacted the ICWA in response to a long and tragic history of separating Native American children from their families. Even with ICWA in place, Native children continue to be overrepresented in foster care. Opponents of the law say it exceeds Congress’ power, violates states’ rights, and imposes unconstitutional race-based classifications.

Clockwise, from top left: April Olson, April Youpee-Roll, Kimberly Wehle, Neoshia Roemer.

Discussing what’s at stake in this legal challenge are UBalt Law Prof. Kimberly Wehle, who teaches Administrative Law and Federal Courts; April Youpee-Roll, a lawyer with the Los Angeles firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, and a member of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes; Prof. Neoshia Roemer, who teaches Native American Law and Family Law at the University of Idaho College of Law; and April Olson, a lawyer with Rothstein Donatelli in Tempe, AZ, who specializes in Indian law.

Prof. Shanta Trivedi, faculty director of the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts at UBalt Law, will moderate the discussion. The webinar will be recorded for those who cannot participate in the live event. Register for the webinar.

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SCOTUS’ View of Affirmative Action in Higher Education is Focus of Nov. 9 Panel Discussion at UBalt Law

On Nov. 9 at noon, The University of Baltimore School of Law will host a panel discussion of affirmative action in higher education, “SCOTUS Weighs Affirmative Action: Should race Be a Factor in Higher Ed Admissions?” The event will focus on the two cases argued Oct. 31 before the Supreme Court: Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard College, and Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. University of North Carolina.

Prof. Sheldon Bernard Lyke
Prof. Sheldon Bernard Lyke

Students for Fair Admissions maintains that Harvard violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act because Asian Americans are less likely to be admitted than similarly qualified white, Black or Hispanic applicants. The organization argues that the University of North Carolina violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause by considering race in its admissions when it does not need to do so to achieve a diverse student body.

Discussing these cases will be Prof. Greg Dolin, Prof. Mike Higginbotham, Prof. Sheldon Bernard Lyke, and special guest Prof. David Bernstein, from the George Mason University Scalia School of Law. Bernstein is the author of a recently published book, Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America, in which he argues that traditional categories of race are out of date, and that the time has come to consider abolishing official racial classification.

Moderating the panel will be alumna Jill Green, J.D. ’94, associate dean for education and student experience at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, where she also serves as its executive sponsor for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

The discussion will take place in the 12th Floor Reading Room. Please register in advance.

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University of Baltimore Law Professor John Bessler to Discuss Latest Book on the Death Penalty at Nov. 3 Event

On Nov. 3, the University of Baltimore School of Law will celebrate Prof. John Bessler’s newest book, The Death Penalty’s Denial of Fundamental Human Rights, with an in-person book talk and panel discussion. The book, due for release in December by Cambridge University Press, continues Bessler’s scholarly exploration of capital punishment as an act of torture and a violation of basic human rights. A previous book on the subject, The Death Penalty as Torture: From the Dark Ages to Abolition (Carolina Academic Press, 2017), was a Bronze Medalist in that year’s Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Professor John Bessler
Prof. John Bessler

Data from a 2020 report ranks the United States among the top 10 countries in the world for most confirmed executions. As of 2022, 27 states continue to enforce the death penalty — with over 20 executions carried out between 2020 and 2021 alone. Several states, including Maryland, Colorado and Virginia, only abolished the practice in the past decade.

Bessler will be joined on the panel by UBalt Law Prof. Tim Sellers, co-director of the University of Baltimore’s Center for International and Comparative Law; and Prof. Diann Rust-Tierney, an adjunct professor in human rights law at Georgetown Law and executive director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP). Associate Dean Colin Starger will moderate the discussion.

The public is in invited to attend the book talk, which takes place from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the 12th Floor Reading Room. A reception will follow. Please register in advance.

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UBalt Law National Trial Team Places Second in Buffalo Niagara Competition; Amanda Sirleaf Wins Best Overall Advocate

The UBalt Law National Trial Team placed second Oct. 16 in the Buffalo Niagara Trial Competition, earning them an invitation to the National Trial Competition, which takes place in Spring 2023. The UBalt Law team of four — Audreina Blanding, Leah Dotter, Brice Litus and Amanda Sirleaf —dominated the competition field, which started with 28 teams (including highly ranked Fordham, Pace and Hofstra), and out-performed competitors by earning perfect, and near-perfect, scores on their opening and closing statements, as well as their direct and cross-examinations.

Special recognition went to Sirleaf, who was named Best Overall Advocate. The team was coached by alumni Ashley Bond, J.D. ’16, and Annemarie Duerr, J.D. ’22, and supported by our Board of Advocates executive board. 

Buffalo competitors, from left, Audreina Blanding, Brice Litus, Amanda Sirleaf and Leah Dotter.
Buffalo trial team competitors, from left, Audreina Blanding, Brice Litus, Amanda Sirleaf and Leah Dotter.

“Here’s a recap from coach Bond: “It was an exciting weekend for UB’s trial team. Leading up to this competition, our team practiced well beyond our 1.5-hour Wednesday practices. I would estimate that in class, we practiced an estimate of six hours per week. Outside of class, our students spent every moment they could spare, outside of their other classes and work schedules, preparing for this competition. Our goal was to prove that our win last year was not a fluke, but rather UB is a force to be reckoned with. We proved just that.”

Moot Court and Trial Team competitions provide students with the opportunity to get hands-on experience with oral arguments, appellate brief writing, cross-examination, witness examination, opening and closing arguments, and more. With the support of practicing attorneys, professors and former participants, Moot Court and Trial Team members commit approximately 200 hours to preparing and presenting their cases at regional and national competitions.

On November 5, Grace Andrews-Becker, Madeline Grigoryev and Hannah Krehely of the National Moot Court Team will begin their oral arguments for the 73rd annual National Moot Court Competition.

Although these competitions are academic in nature, their intensity and commitment mirror that of athletic competitions. Alexandria Hodge, UBalt Law Board of Advocates president, points out that due to the time, energy and effort that go into these competitions, “Many of our advocates feel like they’ve won a major championship game by the end of their competition!” All UBalt Law students are encouraged to compete in competitions during their law school career, starting with annual Byron Warnken Moot Court Competition. That is the internal moot court competition that takes place over the summer. Exceptional competitors are invited to join one of the prestigious competition teams, and a devoted few will continue their commitment by becoming a member of the student-led Board of Advocates.

Alumni and faculty are always welcome to support competition teams as coaches and mentors. For more information on ways to support Moot Court and Trial Teams, or to follow their progress, follow the Board of Advocates page on Facebook.

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University of Baltimore School of Law Moot Court and Trial Teams Prepare For Battle on the National Stage

The 2022-23 Moot Court and Trial Team competition seasons have begun, and UBalt Law students are preparing to compete against their peers from all over the country in some exciting skill-building competitions. Moot Court and Trial Team competitions provide students with the opportunity to get hands on experience with oral arguments, appellate brief writing, cross examination, witness examination, opening and closing arguments, and more. With the support of practicing attorneys, professors and former participants, Moot Court and Trial Team members commit approximately 200 hours to preparing and presenting their cases at regional and national competitions.

On October 14, students Audreina Blanding, Leah Dotter, Brice Litus and Amanda Sirleaf of the UBalt Law National Trial Team will travel to Buffalo, NY, to compete in the Buffalo Niagara Trial Competition. And on November 5, Grace Andrews-Becker, Madeline Grigoryev and Hannah Krehely of the National Moot Court Team will begin their oral arguments for the 73rd annual National Moot Court Competition.

UBalt Law's National Trial Team.
UBalt Law’s National Trial Team. Back row, from left: Niels Drury, Audreina Blanding, Ethan Greenberg, Brice Litus, Devante Jones. Front row, from left: Kaitlin O’Dowd, Leah Dotter, Yasmeen Ali, Juan Mercedes. Photo by JP Soto

Although these competitions are academic in nature, their intensity and commitment mirrors that of athletic competitions. Alexandria Hodge, UBalt Law Board of Advocates president, points out that due to the time, energy and effort that go into these competitions, “Many of our advocates feel like they’ve won a major championship game by the end of their competition!”

All UBalt Law students are encouraged to compete in competitions during their law school career, starting with annual Byron Warnken Moot Court Competition. That is the internal moot court competition that takes place over the summer. Exceptional competitors are invited to join one of the prestigious competition teams, and a devoted few will continue their commitment by becoming a member of the student-led Board of Advocates.

Alumni and faculty are always welcome to support competition teams as coaches and mentors. For more information on ways to support Moot Court and Trial Teams, or to follow their progress, follow the Board of Advocates page on Facebook.

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University of Baltimore Law Inducts 57 Students to Royal Graham Shannonhouse III Honor Society

On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the School of Law welcomed 57 bright minds into the Royal Graham Shannonhouse III Honor Society. The honor society recognizes students who have exhibited academic excellence by achieving a GPA of 3.15 or higher after the completion of their first 32 credits at UBalt Law.

Scholars and their families attended a ceremony and reception dedicated to celebrating their academic achievement. They heard from an alumni speaker who was a student of the legendary Professor Shannonhouse. This year, alumnus Neil Bixler, J.D. ’92, shared his experience as a student not only of Shannonhouse, but also of the late Professor Byron L. Warnken.

Bixler spoke of the academic rigor, excellence and student leadership that he experienced as a student at UBalt Law. He concluded his speech with these words of wisdom: “UB teaches us to think on our own in the application of the law. UB does not teach you what to think, it teaches you how to think!”

The 57 inductees are listed below.

Yasmeen Ali

Iyana Arrington

Nicholas Balzano

Morgan Beauchamp

Anna Bennett

Collin Brown

Trevor Brown

Kayla Casper *

Cherie Correlli *

Anastasia Couch

Janae Daw

Louis Di Filippo *

Blake Donohue

James Duffy *

Jacob Edmondson

Francesca Fabiani

Joshua Faulkner

Adam Fetian

Victoria Garner *

Renee Gast

Yakira Green *

Madeline Grigoryev

Benjamin Gruen

Emily Houston

John Huebler

Nathan Jahnigen

Devante Jones

Emily Kamp

Sharon Kimemia

Devyn King *

Hannah Krehely *

Dean LaPonzina

Kaitlyn Lyons

Brian Malone

Kristine Martinez

Alexandra Mitchell

Melissa Murphy

Natalie Murphy

Lucy Parrott

Gabrielle Peitsch

Jacob Pesetsky

Heather Posey

Joshua Ray

Ryan Ricketts

Timothy Rogers

Charles Russell

Maria Schuler

Shiloh Shassian

Keira Sherper *

Amelia Tam

Logan Thigpen

Anastacia Topaltzas

Donald Waldron

Haley Wittstadt

Kenneth Wyatt

Saba Younis

Patricia Ziff

*denotes Distinguished Scholars with a GPA of 3.7 and above

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Family Separation is Theme of Sept. 29 CFCC Symposium at UBalt School of Law; Dorothy Roberts to Speak

Every day in the United States, our government separates children from their parents. These separations may be based on parents’ incarceration, or due to interventions by the child welfare system. The majority of the families separated by government intervention are racial minorities and economically underprivileged. Regardless of why children are separated from their parents, the impact is severe, and the effects are felt throughout their lives.  

On Thursday, Sept. 29, the Sayra and Neil Meyerhoff Center for Families, Children and the Courts (CFCC) will bring together diverse speakers for a day of multidisciplinary conversations focusing on some of the causes and consequences of family separation on our most vulnerable children. The 2022 CFCC Symposium seeks to promote learning and spark dialogue among attendees and panelists, concentrating on the central theme of protecting family integrity. Each speaker brings an array of thoughts, opinions, research, and personal or professional experiences with the systems that separate thousands of families every year.

Dorothy Roberts
Dorothy Roberts

The day kicks off with a dynamic keynote conversation with author and professor Dorothy Roberts, the founding director of the Penn Program on Race, Science and Society, who also will be signing copies of her recently published book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can build a Safer World, and former criminal defense attorney Andrea James, founder of Families for Justice as Healing and author of Upper Bunkies Unite: And Other Thoughts on the Politics of Mass Incarceration

Learn more about the day’s speakers, program and other sessions, including: “Incarceration and Its Devastating Impact on Families,” and “Promoting Family Integrity While Ensuring Children’s Welfare.”

Registration is free and all are welcome to attend the symposium, which runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the law school’s Moot Courtroom, at 1401 N. Charles St. in midtown Baltimore.

Roberts will be signing her book Torn Apart, which will be available for purchase at the event from Ivy Bookshop. A pre-order option is available for pickup at the event. Please choose curbside pickup and leave a note indicating you’re picking up at the UBalt event on Sept. 29. Pre-orders must be placed by Sept. 22.

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Professor Emeritus Byron L. Warnken, Lovingly Known as ‘Mr. UB,’ Dies at 76 After a Long Illness

Professor Emeritus Byron L. Warnken, who for decades colorfully personified the University of Baltimore School of Law, passed away on Sept. 5, 2022, after a valiant struggle with a neurological disorder. He was 76 years old.

A native Baltimorean, Warnken was a scholarship student at McDonogh School, where he won a school-wide oratory competition in high school and played the lead in the school production of “Billy Budd.” He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1968.

Byron Warnken
Byron Warnken

After being discharged from the Army, he attended the University of Baltimore School of Law as an evening student, graduating cum laude in 1977. While in law school, Warnken worked full-time as a law clerk, first with a law firm and then with the Hon. Basil A. Thomas, on the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. He was president of the Student Bar Association.

Soon after graduation he began to teach at the law school, first as an adjunct professor and eventually as a tenured professor. He was a member of the law faculty for more than 40 years before retiring in 2018, at which time we named the moot courtroom in his honor. A tribute video was made at the time, and Baltimore Law magazine published this article about him.

“Byron Warnken was a legendary teacher of criminal law and procedure, and author of the three-volume treatise Maryland Criminal Procedure,” says Baltimore Law Dean Ronald Weich. “He developed and led the school’s nationally known moot court program and established the EXPLOR program, which guarantees students the opportunity to work in judicial chambers and law offices after their first year of law school. Above all, Warnken was a devoted mentor to generations of UB Law students. Because he embodied the spirit of our law school, Byron Warnken was widely known as ‘Mr. UB.’”  

Warnken won numerous awards throughout his career from organizations such as the Bar Association of Baltimore City, the Women’s Bar Association, the Maryland State Bar Association, the University of Baltimore and the University System of Maryland.

In addition to the countless law students he launched into the legal profession, Warnken’s legacy includes his wife Bonnie, a UB Law alumna; his son Byron B. Warnken, a UB Law alumnus; and his daughter Heather, who is executive director of the law school’s Center on Criminal Justice Reform. 

Information about services will be shared in the near future. 

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Students and Faculty Honored at 27th Annual University of Baltimore School of Law Awards Ceremony

The UB School of Law held its 27th Annual Awards Ceremony on Sunday, April 24, 2022, at the John and Frances Angelos Law Center. The Hon. John Morrissey, J.D. ’89, chief judge, District Court of Maryland, was the keynote speaker.

Leaders of the Jewish Law Students Association accept the SBA Award for Outstanding Service to UB by a Student Organization.
Leaders of the Jewish Law Students Association accept the SBA Award for Outstanding Service to UB by a Student Organization.

For the Class of 2022, Zachary Babo is the projected valedictorian, and Claudia Wozniak is the salutatorian. Paola Flores received the 2022 Pro Bono Challenge Award.

Julianna Felkoski and Aiden Galloway received the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) Outstanding Student-Attorney Team Award for their work with the Community Development Clinic. Lindsey Eshelman received the CLEA Outstanding Externship Award.

Clinical Excellence Awards went to Russhell Ford, for her work in the Community Development Clinic, and Sophia Yaple, for her contributions to the work of The Bob Parsons Veterans Advocacy Clinic.

The Student Bar Association recognized Prof. Neha Lall with the James May Faculty Award and Asst. Dean Alyssa Fieo with the Staff Mentoring Award. The SBA named Julianne Greene Student Leader of the Year and recognized Jewish Law Students Association for Outstanding Service to UB by a Student Organization.

View the full list of winners. Congratulations to all!

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University of Baltimore Law 1L Natalie Murphy Earns Second Prize in Legal Tech Fiction Writing Competition

Natalie Murphy, a first-year student at Baltimore Law, has won second prize in the second annual Legal Tech Fictional Writing Competition. The competition is sponsored by the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, in collaboration with the Access to Justice Tech Fellows and WordRake. The contest is designed to engage lawyers and law students in thinking about how technology will impact the field.

The stories were required to be a short, fun fictional read, no more than 1,500 words. This allowed students to switch gears from the typical properly cited legal memoranda and flex their creative muscles. Murphy’s story is called Gideon’s Legacy, and she earned $500 in prize money for her submission.

“I came up with this story after learning about alternative pleading in Professor Wehle’s Civil Procedure class,” Murphy says. “Rule 8’s allowance for contradictory arguments has so much potential for humor. From predictive policing methods that raise Fourth Amendment issues to biased recidivism-risk algorithms used in sentencing, many of the intersections between law and technology are grim.

Natalie Murphy in her college graduation garb.
Natalie Murphy in her college graduation garb.

“So I wanted to write something that drew attention to this,” she says, “and also had a comedic element. My story is about a public defender. Public defenders are my heroes, but it’s no secret that the state assigns poor defendants attorneys who are chronically underfunded and overworked. Technological solutions aren’t going to fix this, because it’s a product of our society’s commitment to economic and racial inequality. So instead, I wrote about how even bad technology can present opportunities for reflection.” 

Originally from coastal Maine, Murphy earned a bachelor’s in Environmental Studies and History at Reed College in Portland, Ore. “I’m at UB now because I fell in love with Baltimore while living with family here as a teenager,” she says.  

Murphy is enthusiastic about her legal studies. “My focus has always been on criminal law, but I’m a science enthusiast at heart,” she says. “I’m obsessed with the law’s struggle to evaluate scientific research. Trying to bridge the gap between law and science is fascinating in an intellectual sense, because both disciplines have vastly different standards of evidence, but it’s also a major justice concern.

“I went to a recent law school talk for Chris Fabricant’s book Junk Science, where he summarized how scientifically suspect research, like outdated psych evaluations or bite and hair matching analysis, has fueled mass incarceration for years,” Murphy says. “To zealously defend their clients in cases with scientific or technical evidence, criminal lawyers must be able distinguish between sound and junk science. I would love to work at this intersection between law and science.” 

The writing competition received 39 submissions from students at over 20 different law schools. All of the stories were well-written, organizers say, and explored interesting areas of how technology might impact the legal field in the future. A handpicked selection of 24 judges from the legal tech, non-profit, and traditional law firm communities narrowed down the 39 submissions to the three winners.

Visit the competition website to read all of the submitted stories.

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