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Law Students' Argument Is Successful in State Appeals Court

For release: December 1, 2010
For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843

The Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section, on Nov. 23rd issued a memorandum opinion consistent with the oral arguments presented to the Court by students of the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis. The case involved a custody dispute between a parent and maternal grandparents regarding custody of young twins. The legal issues involved proper service of legal process, superior parental rights, and parental unfitness. The decision upheld a decision of the Circuit Court, resulting in the children’s being permanently placed in the custody of their maternal grandmother.

The Juvenile Court had appointed the University of Memphis Child and Family Litigation Clinic to serve as guardians ad litem (guardians for the legal proceeding) to represent the best interests of the children. The Appeals Court’s opinion sided with the guardians’ ad litem recommendations on behalf of the children. Under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 40, student attorneys in the Clinic routinely represent children as guardians ad litem in Juvenile Court proceedings. During the 2010 fall semester alone, students in the Clinic represented approximately 30 children in that capacity. Law professor Christina Zawisza serves as the students’ supervising attorney.

Student attorneys Leslie Fouche, left, and C. Grace Whiting, center, with law professor and Clinic adviser Christina Zawisza, following the student attorneys’ successful argument before the Tennessee Court of Appeals.
Student attorneys Leslie Fouche, left, and C. Grace Whiting, center, with law professor and Clinic adviser Christina Zawisza, following the student attorneys’ successful argument before the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Clinic student attorney C. Grace Whiting argued the case before the Court of Appeals on October 14, marking the first time a U of M Clinic student had argued in the appellate court. Student attorney Leslie Fouche assisted Whiting as co-counsel, preparing multiple motions and responses in the case. The appellate decision culminated three years of litigation in Juvenile Court, Circuit Court, and the Appeals Court. Other student attorneys who had represented the children during that time include John Stevenson, Sherene Gharanfoli, Kate Moore, and Sarah Turner, who represented them in Juvenile Court, and Kate Moore, Sarah Turner and Jennifer Baum, who represented them in Circuit Court. Cara Howe assisted Zawisza in writing the appellate brief last summer. Whiting and Fouche then assumed primary representation responsibility in August.

Others who helped in the preparation of Whiting’s oral argument included Law School Dean Kevin Smith and law professors Eugene Shapiro, Janet Richards, Jodi Wilson and Daniel Kiel, as well as student attorneys Jordan Hoffman and Doug Brock.

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