U of M Law School


Winter 2011

University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law recently placed #8 in the 2011 Princeton Review's Best Quality of Life Rankings. Rankings are based on student assessments of whether there is a strong sense of community at the school, how aesthetically pleasing the law school is, the location of the law school and the quality of the law school's social life, classroom facilities, and the library staff.

The law school recently placed #9 in preLaw Magazine's 60 best value law schools. The detailed criteria can be found here.

Our new building at 1 North Front Street recently tied for the “best renovation/restoration” in the South Central Construction Magazine's Best of 2010 awards program.

Our building was also voted as Readers' Choice Award for Masonry Construction's Project of the Year. The law school will be featured in the November/December Issue of Masonry Construction. Thanks to all that voted!

The Tennessee Supreme Court convened for its annual West Tennessee session at the historic courtroom of the law school on November 4. This marked the first time the law school had accommodated the Court.

The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the Sixth Circuit heard oral arguments in the historic courtroom of the law school on November 9 and 10.


From the Dean

Happy New Year from the law school! We hope your holiday season was enjoyable and relaxing. It's hard to believe that this January marks our one year anniversary in the new building. We begin the new year with a redesigned newsletter, and we continue to work on a new website that will be launched this spring.

Our recent graduates continue to make us proud. I had the privilege to present diplomas to six of our twelve December graduates at Commencement. The bar pass rate for the July 2010 exam was 90.3 percent, the highest percentage of any public law school in Tennessee. Many of these 2010 graduates have found wonderful positions and continue their success outside these walls. Congratulations and best wishes to you all!

I invite you to read the developments and achievements of our faculty, students, programs, alumni, and staff. Please continue to send us your updates and stay connected. Your support and participation will help us to become an even stronger institution. As you plan for 2011, please consider making a gift to the law school. If you would like to give to a specific program, Development Director Shawna Engel can assist you.


Kevin H. Smith
Dean and Thomas B. Preston Professor of Law


The 2011 Law Review Symposium will be held on February 11, 2011. This year's theme is "Memphis in the Law." Click here to register and for more information.

The Public Action Law Society will host an Alternative Spring Break during the week of March 7-11, 2011. If you are willing to dedicate a few days or afternoons to participate as a Partner Attorney, please contact C. Grace Whiting by March 1, 2011.



Nick Christiansen was the winner of the Jon E. Hastings Memorial Award Writing Competition. This is the second consecutive year that a University of Memphis law student has won the award. The competition is judged by a panel of environmental law practitioners, members of the Judiciary, and/or professors selected by the Environmental Law Section of the Tennessee Bar Association.

The Public Action Law Society (PALS) was recognized by Memphis Area Legal Services at a reception in October for its commitment and dedication to the providing of pro bono legal assistance to those less fortunate and its dedication to the rules of professional responsibility. The Student Bar Association (SBA) also received an award for the raising the most money in any category in the Campaign for Equal Justice.  Well done PALS and SBA! Pictured: Accepting the award on behalf of PALS are Atina Rizk, Anna Benson, Prof. Zawisza with MALS' Linda Warren Seely.

The Irvin Bogatin Social Justice Award was presented to third-year law student C. Grace Whiting in recognition of her demonstrated understanding of an attorney's duty to service to the community by advancing the cause of social justice.  In addition, the Irvin Bogatin Scholarship was presented to first-year law student Christopher Santirojprapai in recognition of his community service work. The awards were created by the family of Irvin Bogatin, through a fund established with the Memphis Bar Foundation in recognition of Mr. Bogatin's long and devoted service to the bar and the community, especially in the area of social justice. Pictured: Left to right, are Whiting, Mrs. Nancy Bogatin, and Santirojprapai. (UofM photo by Shawna Engel)

Moot Court Team updates are found in the Advocacy section of the newsletter.

Faculty and Staff

For more updates visit the Faculty & Staff News section of the website.

Several of our faculty and staff members celebrated milestone anniversaries at the University of Memphis. Professor Ralph Brashier (20 years), Professor Steven Mulroy (10 years), Dorothy Colburn (20 years), Penny Kelly (20 years) and Sue Ann McClellan (15 years). Congratulations and thank you for your service!

Professor Ralph Brashier is the 2010 recipient of the Law Alumni Chapter's Excellence in Legal Education Award.

Professor Lee Harris has co-founded a speaker's bureau and think tank called New Voices for Social Progress. Also, his latest article is now in print: Shareholder Campaign Funds: A Campaign Subsidy Scheme for Corporate Elections, 58 UCLA Law Review 167 (2010). Finally, Professor Harris has inked a contract with Lexis-Nexis to author his third book, Cases and Exercises on Mergers & Acquisitions. The book will be in print in 2013.

Professor Donna Harkness' article, The Credit Card Act of 2009: Welcome Relief or Too Little,Too Late for Vulnerable Seniors, appeared in the September 2010 issue of the  Banking and Financial Services Policy Report. Along with attorney King Self, Professor Harkness co-presented  the Memphis Bar Association CLE on Elder Law Issues in October. Finally, Professor Harkness was recertified as a Certified Elder Law Attorney this fall by the National Elder Law Foundation, effective through September, 2015. 

Alum and adjunct professor, the Hon. David S. Kennedy (JD '70) is celebrating 30 years on the bench this year. He was featured in a Commercial Appeal article.

Professor Daniel Kiel has been selected to represent the law school in the 2011 Scholar-Exchange Program.  Each year the law school partners with another law school to “exchange” rising scholars for reciprocal presentations.  The partner institution for 2011 will be the University of Tulsa Law School.  Kiel will travel there in the spring to present his new paper on educational reform in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Professor and Herff Chair of Excellence in Law, Andrew J. McClurg, has co-authored (with Robert W. Bailey and Philip M. Gerson) a chapter titled "Minimizing Medical Malpractice Exposure" for the Quality, Outcomes and Safety Manual, Society of Gastrointestinal & Endoscopic Surgeons which will be published later this year.

Professor and County Commissioner Steve Mulroy's recently published article in the Tennessee Law Review became a Top Ten download for a topic-specific e-journal on the Social Science Research Network. For your reading enjoyment click here.

Emeritus Professor, Dan S. Murrell, passed away on December 5, 2010. He will be greatly missed by many law school faculty, staff and alumni.

Professor Janet Richards (JD '76) is chairing a workgroup appointed by the Tennessee Supreme Court to review Rule 40A dealing with guardian ad litem appointments in divorce cases. In October, she also participated in a CLE panel at the Tennessee Judicial Conference and discussed, "The Import of the Tennessee Community Property Trust Act of 2010."

Professor Chris Zawisza presented a series of training sessions around the state this summer on behalf of the Administrative Office of the Courts." The sessions were titled "Expert Witnesses in Juvenile Court" and "Cross Cultural Competence." On October 1, she presented a CLE in Memphis, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary celebration of Juvenile Court of Memphis and Shelby County.  The topic was "A Basic Ethics Refresher for Juvenile Court Practice."  She presented the same CLE in Nashville on December 17.  On December 16, she served as a trainer at the Administrative Office of the Court's "Train the Trainer" program.

Staff Updates

Dan Brown resigned from the law school as Business Officer earlier this fall to run for Bartlett Municipal Judge. We are proud to say Dan was elected to the bench!

Chelsea Dubey has joined the law school as Director of Special Events and Communication. Chelsea comes from the UM Alumni Association where she worked with the law alumni chapter. She's the one to call regarding events, tours, publicity, and alumni news.

Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Yolanda Ingram recently attended the National Black Pre-Law Conference and Law School Recruitment Fair at the University of Houston. Dean Ingram participated on a panel addressing LSAT achievement gaps and on a panel dealing with the law school preparation programs.

Career Services Secretary Penny Kelly retired in October. Ms. Kelly plans to spend time with her family and looked forward to her first Monday that she didn't have to go to work!

Estelle Gaerig Winsett (JD '93) has joined the law school family as Assistant Dean for Career Services. Dean Winsett was heavily involved in Moot Court as a student and has a vast background of legal experience, making her a great fit for the office.


Email us your career updates.

Johnny Miller's (JD '73) article, "Fourteen Important, Practical, and Useful Investorship Issues," by the National Contract Management Association in their Contract Management Magazine in the October 2010 issue.

U.S. District Judge Bernice B. Donald (JD '79) of Memphis has been renominated by President Barack Obama to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. Read the official press release from the White House and a Commercial Appeal article.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Diane K. Vescovo (JD '80) was honored with the 2010 Chancellor Charles A. Rond Memorial Award for Outstanding Judge of the Year at a recent meeting of the Memphis Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.

Several law school alumni were appointed as new Assistant District Attorneys for Shelby County Court this past fall. They include Greg Carman (JD '95), Melanie Curry, Mark Erskine (JD '10) and Omar Malik (JD '10).

Kirk Caraway (JD '97), partner at Allen, Summers, Simpson, Lillie & Gresham, PLLC has been selected as a “Mid-South Rising Star” in the field of Labor & Employment by Law & Politics for the third year in a row.  He was also recently elected as secretary of the Memphis Bar Association.

Lee Webb (JD '98) currently works for Cobra Legal Solutions in Chennai, India. Cobra is a legal outsourcing company. Webb is the only United States attorney in the office and is primarily responsible for managing the litigation operations and support services of Cobra in India.

The Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity District XV Leadership Conference recently was held in Knoxville. The McKellar Chapter Memphis Law was represented by four alumni. Pictured: from left to right, Deadrick Thaxton, James A. Rose, Ella Hernandez, and Shannon Holland.

James Krenis (JD '01) recently was voted a Mid-South Rising Star Lawyer for the second year in a row by Super Lawyers.

Emily Taube (JD '98) and Andre Mathis (JD '07) were named by the Memphis Business Journal in the “Top 40 Under 40” for 2011.

Robert S. Stevens (JD '09) was recently elected to the Rutherford County Commission for a four-year term.

Chase D. Fisher II (JD '10) has been hired as an attorney at Wiseman Bray PLLC.

Merhnaz Jalali (JD '10) joins Baker Donelson as an associate in the Securities practice group. Shannon L. Wiley (JD'10) also joins the Firm as an associate in the advocacy practice group with a focus on general commercial litigation.

Monica R. Rejaei (JD '10) and Jason J. Yasinsky (JD '10) have joined the law firm of Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz, PLC.

The Law Alumni Chapter will host the next Annual Dinner on August 13, 2011. The dinner will honor Pillars of Excellence in the Memphis legal community. Contact Coordinator, Wendy Sumner-Winter for nomination and dinner information.


We hosted Nationals

The law school was the host for the Region VII of the National Moot Court Competition. We hosted teams from eight other schools and had the opportunity to show off our beautiful new building. The Competition went off without a hitch thanks to the tireless efforts of the Competition Coordinator, Legal Methods Director Jodi Wilson, and help from Moot Court Chief Justice Jamie Kidd, Associate Justice Joseph McKinney, and committee members Daniel Cossey and Brad Spicer.

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Janice Holder, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Ronald Gilman, and Federal Express attorney Joseph Schiffhouer judged the championship round. Judges J. Steven Stafford and Holly M. Kirby of the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Judge Alan E. Glenn of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Judge John Phipps McCalla of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, and Attorneys Leo Bearman, Jr. and Jennifer Kiesewetter judged the semi-final rounds. Numerous Memphis alums served as argument judges and brief graders. Thank you all!

The University of Tennessee won the Region and Faulkner University was the runner-up. We were thrilled that our Memphis team - Rebecca Hinds, Elisabeth Toecker, and Anna Rudman Santos - won the best brief award. (This is the first UM regional best brief award since David Bell, Kerryann Cook and Vanessa Lantin won it in 2001). Director of Advocacy Barbara Kritchevsky was the coach of the Memphis team. Dean Smith and former National Moot Court team members Michael Goodin and Cort Winsett judged the UM dress rehearsal. Pictured: Moot Court Team left to right: Rebecca Hinds, Elisabeth Toecker, Coach K, Anna Rudman Santos, and Dean Smith.

The school greatly appreciated the support of the local lawyers and law firms who made financial contributions that helped make the Regional Competition a huge success: Bass, Berry & Sims, PLC; David Pool, Esq.; Glankler Brown, PLLC; Rice, Amundsen & Caperton, PLLC; and Spicer Rudstrom, PLLC.

The school, with the generous support of the Law Alumni Association, hosted a Friends of Moot Court reception following the final round. This gave the judges a chance to relax after the competition and gave many moot court alums a chance to tour our new home.

ABA Arbitration Competition

The law school entered a team in the ABA Arbitration Competition for the first time. Team members Nicole Burton, Danielle McCollum, Geoffrey Lewis, and Kara Youngblood competed in the Philadelphia Region in early November. U of M alum Chris Lazarini and Ryan Baker, both of Bass Berry & Sims, were the coaches. The team finished fourth on points in the regional preliminaries but did not advance.

Advanced Moot Court

The Moot Court Board wrapped up a highly-successful Advanced Moot Court competition in early November. The problem raised the questions of whether a federal court has jurisdiction to hear a discrimination complaint against a religious institution and whether an undocumented immigrant can recover back pay under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Associate Chief Justice Andrew Pate wrote the problem and was the Competition Administrator. Former Moot Court Board Chief Justice Jon Lakey judged the final round along with NLRB Regional Director Ron Hooks and Sarah Norton, attorney for International Paper.

Congratulations to the winning team, Megan Fuller & Joanna Waddell. The runner-up team, and winners of the Best Brief award, was Madeline Bertasi & Rachel Hayes. The winners of runner-up Best Brief were Patrick Noell and John-Michael Ryall. Brian Riddle received the Best Advocate award; Isaac Kimes was the runner-up.

The Moot Court Board is gearing up for the Mock Trial Competition in February and then Freshman Moot Court in March. We always need judges. Please contact the Moot Court Board at mootcourt@memphis.edu.

Spring Teams

The spring Moot Court and Mock Trial Teams are set and getting to work. Picking the teams was very hard. We had a record number of students trying out; more than twice as many as spots available.

Our two ABA National Appellate Advocacy Teams are heading to the Seattle Regional in March. Last year's regional champions Tracy Bradshaw and Grace Whiting are returning as one team; Jacob Hubbell is working with them on the brief. The 2L ABA team is Megan Fuller, Joanna Waddell, and John-Michael Ryall. Director of Advocacy Barbara Kritchevsky is the coach.

We're thrilled to have moot court alumni coaching the other moot court teams. Tim Perkins is coaching the Wagner Labor & Employment Law team. Team members are returning competitor Emily Blaiss, with Rachel Hayes and Emily Long. Mark Wright is coaching two teams for the Duberstein Bankruptcy Competition. Team members are returning competitor Lauren Siegel, along with Bill O'Connor, Patrick Noell, and Jennifer Sutch.

On the Mock Trial front, we're fielding teams in the National Mock Trial and Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competitions. Professors Kate and Danny Schaffzin are coaching the National Mock Trial Teams. Team members are Jamie Kidd and Sean Day (returning from last year) along with Zach Glaser, Chandra Madison, Anita Rizk, and Jordan Russell. Melanie Murry from the UM Legal Counsel Office is coaching the Thurgood Marshall Team. Team members are LaChina Algers and Joseph McKinney from last year's national finalist Frederick Douglass moot court team, and returning mock trial competitors Angela Harris and Chandra Madison.

Stay up to date on all the Board, Competition and Travel Team news by following us on Twitter and Facebook. Follow www.twitter.com/MemphisCoachK and www.twitter.com/MemphisMootCt and follow University of Memphis Moot Court on Facebook.

Child and Family Litigation Clinic

The Child and Family Litigation Clinic (CFLC) is dedicated and busy helping those in need.  Student Attorneys are gaining valuable experience and major accomplishments as they work for CFLC clients. 

This semester the CFLC has also been seen to venture into the appellate courts.  One Student Attorney, Grace Whiting, argued an appeal in the Western Section Court of Appeals on behalf of five year old twin boys, who were placed in the custody of their maternal grandparents by the Circuit Court after lengthy litigation. Leslie Fouche co-counseled the case. The issues involve the application of the superior parental rights doctrine and service of process claims. The decision upheld a decision of the Circuit Court, resulting in the children's being permanently placed in the custody of their maternal grandmother. To read a detailed press release click here.

A newly minted attorney and former clinic student, Frankie Spero, and current Student Attorney, Doug Brock argued a TennCare Petition for Judicial Review under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act in Davidson County Chancery Court on December 2.  Our client is a nine year-old severely disabled boy, who has no legs, seizure disorder, and many other disabilities.  He needs 24/7 personal care and assistance under TennCare.  The hearing officer cut his hours from 24 to 18, and the Commissioner of Finance and Administration further reduced his hours to 12.  The issues involve the mandatory requirements of the federal Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Act (EPSDT)and the arbitrariness and capriciousness of the decision.

In addition to case work, on September 27, a Student Attorney, Doug Brock, assisted Professor Zawisza to deliver a seminar on Hot Topics in Education Law to 100 student teachers in the University's Department of Education.  Topics included: mandatory child abuse reporting; bullying and harassment; school discipline; and special education.

The cases below represent the daily grind at the CFLC:

  • Two sets of siblings are going home to permanency with families after stays in foster care.  One group of three children is returning for a 90-day trial home visit with their parents in an effort to attain permanency.  Another group of three children will be placed in the permanent guardianship of their cousins.
  • One child has been spared the trauma of testifying in juvenile delinquency court against the boy who raped her.
  • A young minor mother has achieved permanency for her baby through a joint custody order with grandmother.  
  • A sixteen year old boy has been relieved of any continuing contact with his mother's former boyfriend, who cut him with a box cutter when he tried to protect his mom from domestic violence.  
  • An autistic kindergartener, after an IEP Team Meeting, has a new Individual Education Program (IEP) with increased speech therapy, a behavior modification plan, and a school bus monitor.

Elder Law Clinic

Elder Law Clinic students for the Fall 2010 semester have been dealing with challenging cases.  As just one example, student attorneys Ben Harmon and Josh Hunter are jointly representing an elderly couple who believed their delinquent bills were being settled and paid by a California corporation that was debiting over $100 a month from the wife's checking account.  Despite the fact that the couple paid out approximately $1200, none of their bills has been paid.  Preliminary fact-finding by Harmon and Hunter indicate that the California corporation is already under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and is the defendant in several class action lawsuits that have already been filed in other areas of the country.  Their legal research suggests that the company's conduct constitutes a violation of Tennessee's new Uniform Debt-Management Services Act. 


Scenic Fourth Floor Reading Room Named After Alumnus

The beautiful fourth floor reading room has been named thanks to the generosity of Gordon Ball (JD '75). The Gordon Ball Scenic Reading Room, a million dollar naming opportunity, overlooks the mighty Mississippi and provides a beautiful space for studying and for receptions. Gordon is a Knoxville attorney specializing in consumer class action, criminal, and personal injury cases.

Nahon Saharovich & Trotz, PLC Law Firm Scholarship

Nahon Saharovich & Trotz, PLC recently established an endowed scholarship to support a rising third-year law school student. Endowment dollars provide an ongoing source of income and enhance our stability as a public law school. Formed in 1990, Nahon Saharovich & Trotz has offices in Memphis, Jackson and Knoxville, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi; and Jonesboro, Arkansas. A large number of the 20 plus attorneys are graduates of the University of Memphis Law.

Deadline for Campaign Donor Wall

The end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2011 will bring the successful campaign to relocate the law school and increase the law school endowment to completion. The campaign generated more than $12 million in gifts and pledges to relocate the post office ($6 million) and $6 million to support scholarships, professorships and programmatic initiatives. If you or your firm would like to be a part of this historic campaign and have your name(s) inscribed on the donor wall, please contact Shawna Engel.

Annual Donor Recognition in the Assisi Historic Lobby

The three bronze bulletin boards in the south end of the Assisi Historic Lobby will list our law donors, faculty/staff donors, faculty with professorships, scholarships, and artwork collections. Fiscal Year 2010 (July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010) will be hung in the next few weeks. In the future, the list will be up in time for the start of classes in August. Make sure your class - especially if you are celebrating a reunion (classes ending in a 1 or a 6) - is well represented.

"The only gift too small is the gift not made."

Special Funding Initiatives to Consider

The Honorable James E. Swearengen Scholarship
Judge James E. Swearengen was one of the first African- Americans to graduate from the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 1967; one of the first African-American members of the Tennessee Bar Association and a founding member of the Ben F. Jones chapter of the National Bar Association.  He served as a circuit court judge from 1982 until his retirement in 1999. Thanks to a very generous gift from a friend of the law school who is dedicated to improving diversity within the student body, the fund is within $17,000 of being fully endowed.   Once fully endowed, at $30,000, the Swearengen Scholarship will be awarded annually to the President of the Black Law Students Association. The financial assistance will help the President dedicate him or herself to promoting the organization and its many important programs and services. To make your gift to this initiative, please contact Shawna Engel.

Consider a gift of Life Insurance
Do you have a life insurance policy you no longer need? Possibly life insurance doesn't have the financial significance for your family that it once did. Perhaps your other assets have grown to provide the protection you and your family requires, and the insurance policy lies forgotten in a safety deposit box. Did you know that the policy could make a wonderful charitable gift to the School of Law?

If you would like more information on a gift of life insurance or any other planned gift, please contact Dan Murrell, Director of Planned Giving.

2009 Class Gives Back
Graduates of 2009 will send out an email initiative in January aimed to get classmates to pledge $20.09 in honor of their graduation year. Forgoing a week or two of Starbucks or a night out can make the gift a reality. All monies raised will go toward the Career Services.  What a great class!

1 Front Street
Memphis, TN 38103-2189
Phone: 901.678.2421