Author Archives: Mackenzie Grant

Women in Law raises money, awareness for STSM

Second-year students Tyra McBride and Marcurius Byrd hold signs to encourage runners and provide fast facts about the services STSM provides.

The University of South Carolina School of Law Women in Law (WIL) student organization has a long history of helping out the community at large. In February 2017, they donated $2,000 to the Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands (STSM).

The money was raised last semester during the 20th annual 5K race, “WIL to Run.” In previous years, the 5K was held in the spring, close to Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, but with other community events happening around that time, organizers thought moving their event to the fall would bring year-round attention to the mission of STSM. The fall event brought in 58 runners and over 50 volunteers.

Kristen Sweaney

WIL aims to promote the interests of women within the legal profession and to further the exchange of ideas among women, as well as support the community through pro bono projects.

“We feel very privileged to have the opportunity to further our education and join the legal profession, and we feel it is our duty to take these blessings and use them for the greater good,” says WIL treasurer and second-year law student Kristen Sweaney.

Second-year student William Ivey came in first place at the WIL to Run 5K.

In addition to raising $2,000 to benefit STSM, WIL hopes the race will increase awareness about the services STSM provides: crisis intervention, advocacy, and support services to survivors of sexual assault and abuse in Richland, Lexington and Newberry counties. 

“Sexual violence, assault, and abuse happen in our community, and these things cannot be ignored,” says Sweaney. “This race is our very small way of showing the victims that we believe them, we support them, and we have been there, too.”

 WIL is already planning this fall’s race, and hopes to get even more participation and donations for the Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands.

A local family helps fight for sexual assault victims by running together in the race.

Oyster roast draws alumni to Lowcountry

University of South Carolina School of Law alumni from Columbia to Capitol Hill came to Charleston to enjoy oysters with their former classmates.

The annual Alumni Oyster Roast event welcomed more than 150 law graduates on Feb. 23. Fresh South Carolina oysters were the main event as attorneys mingled with faculty and staff, and fellow alums.

Alumni will have another opportunity to meet up this summer at the Alumni BBQ on June 14. It will be the first event in the new law school building.

A piece of UofSC history gets new life at the alumni oyster roast

Mike Owens, a 1973 University of South Carolina School of Law graduate loves to do woodwork. After more than 20 years in the Navy as a Judge Advocate General’s Corps Officer, and years as a private practice attorney, Owens says his hobby is just something to keep him out of trouble.
The Charleston native is best known for his handcrafted wooden pens, traveling to craft shows around the state selling the masterpieces. But one masterpiece in particular–an oyster knife–Owens has donated to the place that he says helped him get his start and “buttered his bread.”
The idea to make an oyster knife came after Owens received his invitation to the School of Law’s Annual Alumni Oyster Roast in Charleston. He enlisted the help of another skilled craftsman and friend Jerry Hucks, a knife maker. The two used their skills to manufacture a knife any oyster-shucker would be pleased to use.
What makes the knife even more special is that the wood used to create the handle is from a tree that used to stand on the Historic Horseshoe. In 2011 lightning struck one of the Horseshoe’s oldest trees. The university tried to save the tree, but it was split down the middle, causing a safety hazard. Owens received word from a relative that the tree was going to be taken down. After the university arborist agreed to give him some of the wood, Owens says he returned home to Charleston with a “pickup truck’s worth” of UofSC history.
“I’ve made thousands of gamecock pens out of that wood. People really love it.”
After Hucks and Owens finished making two knives it was time to decide who would get to keep them. Owens says he gave one to his sister, and called the law school about the second.
At this year’s Alumni Oyster Roast—held on Thursday, Feb. 23 (RSVP here)—one lucky attendee will get to take the unique knife home. Guests are asked to bring their business cards and place them in a basket at the registration table. A random drawing will determine the winner.  
For Owens, he says donating the knife is no big deal. He’s just glad that he can give a little history back to the place that made him a success.

USDOT Announces New Federal Committee on Automation


The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) announced today that it is establishing a new advisory committee focused on automation across a number of modes. The committee, which includes leading professionals and experts in their field, will hold its first meeting on January 16th, 2017 to immediately begin work on some of the most pressing and relevant matters facing transportation today, including the development and deployment of automated vehicles, and determining the needs of the Department as it continues with its relevant research, policy, and regulations.

“During my time at the Department, we have fostered some of the most significant technological changes to ever take place in transportation, and we did so while keeping our focus on the safety of the American people,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. ”This new automation committee will work to advance life-saving innovations while boosting our economy and making our transportation network more fair, reliable, and efficient.”

<Learn More>

Symposium on veteran access to justice hits home at law school

School of Law Dean Robert Wilcox meets with American Bar Association President Linda Klein, at the Veteran Access to Justice Symposium, held on Dec. 8, 2016.

When veterans return home from putting their lives on the line for this country, they’re often met with hardships out of their control. But a group of advocates want to make sure those veterans are given a fair chance. On Dec. 8, the hosted a symposium that brought experts from around the country into one room, in hopes of advancing an agenda created to fight for those who fight for our freedom.

“There are many dedicated people trying to improve veteran access to justice,” says Professor of Law and Director of the NMRS Center on Professionalism Elizabeth Chambliss.

Chambliss organized the symposium at the School of Law, hoping to bring those dedicated people into one conversation.

“The symposium provided opportunities for exchange between veteran’s legal service providers and federal government researchers. Improving services for veterans is an issue that crosses party lines and demands political cooperation,” says Chambliss.

She says experts came from all over with that cooperation in mind, hoping to evoke change.

Keynote Speaker Leigh Bradley serves as General Counsel of the Department of Veteran Affairs.

Leigh Bradley, General Counsel of the Department of Veteran Affairs gave the keynote address, expressing her goals from not just a political perspective, but also a personal one. Bradley is the daughter and wife of veterans, as well as a mother to an active duty soldier, and a veteran herself. She served in the same position under the Clinton administration, and was appointed again under former President Barack Obama.

“My epiphany about advocacy for veterans came in my first day after I was confirmed by the Senate,” says Bradley. “One person has the power to make a difference for veterans.”

President of the American Bar Association Linda Klein was another expert gathered at the symposium.

“When we study veterans, we find that five or their top 10 needs are legal needs,” says Klein, who gave open remarks at the symposium.

Klein’s areas of focus include the Commission on Veterans Legal Services, an initiative she created to ensure that veterans have access to justice and receive the legal support they, their families, and their caregivers deserve. Since becoming president, Klein has pushed veteran-mined agendas, in hopes of setting the ABA up to lead this holistic and sustainable effort.

But for veterans who struggle with homelessness, hunger and unemployment, finding a lawyer is often not a reasonable priority, but a significant need. To supplement this need, Bradley and her team created an opportunity for veterans to get legal help, and to get it for free. Among all of the legal tape that comes with federally funded programs, Bradley said she knew she had to find a way to create free legal aid facilities inside VA hospitals. And four years later, Bradley says the number of VA legal clinics has increased by 300 percent.

And that number continues to grow.  Inspired to act after learning how great the need is, Dean Rob Wilcox came away from the symposium with the idea of establishing a veteran’s legal services center at the School of Law. Staffed by law students working under the supervision of South Carolina lawyers who are also veterans, the proposed clinic would offer a wide range of legal services to any indigent veteran unable to afford the services of a private lawyer.

“Our school is located in a military minded state,” says Dean Wilcox. “With Fort Jackson just around the corner, it only makes sense that we as an institution, do our part to try and make a difference for veterans right here at home.”

“It’s really our duty, our sacred obligation to make sure we’ve done all we can for them,” says Bradley.

Student organization donates blankets to homeless

Students Lydia Davis, Quinten Gaddy, Wilson Jackson and Travis Bain, along with Professor Bockman met with Columbia Police Chief Holbrook and Lt. Ron Felder to donate the blankets to the department.

On Jan. 27, the University of South Carolina School of Law Moot Court Bar student organization donated about 75 blankets to the Columbia Police Department.

The organization has been collecting blankets for their Blanket the City campaign since the semester began. This was the third year the group collected blankets as their service project, an idea that stemmed from their faculty adviser Professor Robert Bockman‘s personal tradition. For over 20 years, Bockman and his family have been collecting blankets and donating them to homeless shelters in Columbia.

This year, students teamed up with the Columbia Police Department. The blankets donated by students will be kept in officer’s patrol cars, in hopes of reaching those who need blankets, but may not be at shelters.

The Moot Court Bar wants to thank everyone who donated and helped make this campaign such a success.

Around 70 blankets were donated to the department.

U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals hearing held at School of Law

Lt. Col. Paulette Vance Burton, a 1993 alumna, speaks with a law student Anthony McCollum about her time at UofSCLaw.

For the second time in as many weeks, students at the University of South Carolina School of Law had an opportunity to go to a federal hearing. Or rather, the hearings came to them. On Jan. 18, the auditorium of the law school was transformed into U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, with the Honorable Joseph F. Anderson, Jr. presiding. On Jan. 25, it became the site of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

“It’s a great opportunity for students to observe a court hearing and ask questions about the differences between military and civilian court procedures, while observing attorneys present their cases,” said Jaclyn Cherry, associate dean for academic affairs. “A good deal of discussion is carried out before and after in the classrooms and contributes to both theoretical and practical learning.”

First-year law student Daquan Blyther agreed. “Today’s hearing was a great chance to be able to see what JAG is really like, outside of what I’ve seen on T.V.”
For Lt. Col. Paulette Vance Burton, it was yet another time South Carolina Law and the Army came together in her life. Burton graduated from the law school in 1993 and says walking through the doors for the hearing was “like coming back to where it all started.”

She recalls the experience she had as a student and how it shaped her for the better.
“When I came to USC, I already had a four-year commitment to the Army. I was going to just do my four years and get out. I met Pam Robinson in the Pro Bono Program and she really got me excited to be involved. I realized the work I was doing in the Pro Bono Program that really sparked my interest in public service is exactly what I was doing in the Army,” says Burton.
It’s that same dedication from faculty and staff that Blyther says makes him feel so confident in his decision to attend South Carolina Law.
“I feel like the faculty here really care about job security and the comfort of their students transitioning from school to the real world. This is just another insightful career event that the law school has offered,” says Blyther.
The Chief Commissioner, Maj. Laura Roman, says settings like this give a realistic look at the military justice system, something she’s proud to offer.
“It’s great to show that it’s a real court system. The quality of our attorneys and our captains and counsel shows the capabilities of a JAG attorney,” says Roman.
“I’m hoping students will see there is a future for them in the Army. The JAG Corps is a unique career opportunity, it is not your traditional legal track, but it’s an alternative track,” says Burton. “It’s an opportunity for them if they want this adventure.”

The School of Law is working towards hosting one more federal hearing in the auditorium during the spring semester. It will be the final hearing in the school’s current location before moving into its new home, where hearings will be held in the stately Karen J. Williams Ceremonial Courtroom, a centerpiece of–and one of several working courtrooms in–the new building.

Law students speak with members of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, during a reception following the hearing held at the law school. JAG Corps members say the Army offers an alternative path for lawyers.

Holiday tradition sparks community outreach

Professor Robert Bockman is the faculty adviser for the Moot Court Bar.

What started as a Christmas tradition for Prof. Bob Bockman’s family has inspired an annual event at the University of South Carolina School of Law. “Blanket the City” was born after Bockman shared with his students a tradition his wife and oldest daughter had started 20 years before.

“They went out and bought some blankets and took them to the homeless shelter. They had several blankets with them and they never even made it to the door, just giving them to the people who were waiting outside,” says Bockman. “Our family has kept up that tradition ever since.”

When the Moot Court Bar student organization was looking for a service project to do as a group, Bockman, the faculty advisor, suggested a similar tradition.

“Professor Bockman simply showed us what it means to be a generous person, and he allowed us to run with the idea,” says Wilson Jackson, a third-year law student and member of the Moot Court Bar.

This year, the organization teamed up with the Columbia Police Department, hoping to spread their reach into the community. The donations collected at the school will be given to the department. Officers will be able to carry the blankets in their patrol cars to give to anyone they find that needs one.

“We thought the Columbia Police would be able to help us reach people who may not be at the homeless shelter and who might be in need of a little warmth while they’re on the street,” says Bockman. “And we thought it would help the relationship with the police department and our community.”

Bockman says it’s also a chance to teach students about what being a lawyer outside their work really means.

“It’s important for law students to get in the habit of reaching out to our community. It reinforces the commitment that we have as lawyers to serve,” says Bockman.

“None of us would be where we are today if we did not have the support of other people, and it is important for us to pass that support on when we have the opportunity,” says Jackson.

To help the cause, you can donate blankets in the collection bin in the School of Law lobby, or give a monetary donation on their GoFundMe page or Amazon page. That money will be used to purchase blankets. Donations will be collected through Friday, Jan. 27.

96-year-old alumna recalls being “one of first women graduates”

Lisa Wilcox and Sarah Leverette (photo courtesy of StoryCorps)

Just four years short of 100-years old, Sarah Leverette sat down with Lisa Wilcox, wife of University of South Carolina School of Law Dean Rob Wilcox, to share her experiences as a woman trying to start her legal career in the 1940s. But this was no ordinary get-together over a cup of coffee. In fact, it was being recorded in the StoryCorps mobile recording studio during the organization’s stop in Columbia in late 2016. Their conversation, which will be archived in the Library of Congress, was also broadcast in January 2017 on South Carolina Public Radio, as part of the network’s series, “Narrative.”

Leverette recalls that in the early 1940s, women didn’t go to law school. And if they did, they didn’t finish. When Leverette began classes at the University of South Carolina School of Law, she was one of three women. However, she was the only one to complete her studies. Leverette received her J.D. in 1943, 25 years after Claudia James Sullivan became the School of Law’s first female graduate.

When it came to getting a job, her gender was always a point of contention.

“I knew the door was closed, but I did not know it was locked. And the key was in the pocket of some man,” says Leverette.

Leverette recalls being expected to perform secretarial duties, and while work was difficult to find, she refused to settle, even resigning from her first job at a law firm when she was asked to clean the office. She took a job with the state, working at the South Carolina Department of Labor. She used her legal skills, yet as a woman, was paid as a statistician, a salary much lower than her fellow male lawyers. The law school dean at the time, Samuel Prince, encouraged Leverette to go back to school. She received a master’s degree in legal research and law library administration from Columbia University. In 1947, she returned to USC, becoming the first female faculty member at the School of Law, where she taught legal writing and became the law librarian.

After 25 years at the law school, Leverette was tapped by Gov. John West to serve a six-year term on the Workers’ Compensation Commission. She recalls being paid the same amount as her male counterparts, saying “the ice was thawing on women lawyers.” She acted as the chair for the commission for two years, and when she left, two members were appointed to fill her vacant seat.

“It took two men to replace me,” says Leverette.

She remained a consultant for the commission until 1985. Upon her retirement, Leverette stayed involved in community organizations, including the League of Women Voters.

“Retirement from our work—our trade, our professions—does not give us the right to retire from the human race,” says Leverette. “It only gives us a more flexible lifestyle in which to continue our work for the common good.”

Within those organizations, Leverette developed her closest friendship, citing them as the source for her accomplishments. When she looks back on her life, Leverette says she’s learned that cultural attitudes take time to change. All she wants to do is pass on the history she’s lived, in hopes that younger people will change the future.

Leverette’s story was one of several recorded by South Carolina law alums during StoryCorps’ visit. Pamela Robinson, director of the Pro Bono Program at the School of Law, reached out to StoryCorps to help set-up the series of interviews, which include stories from current students, as well as alums.

“As natural storytellers, lawyers are a perfect match!  It is a win, win,” says Robinson. “I viewed our collection of stories as a way to show the range of our impact and involvement from a present day student to past students and even to a 96-year-old lawyer who still has much to teach all of us.”

In the StoryCorps conversation between Wilcox and Leverette, the 1943 graduate says she’s still learning and still teaching. While her long life has been well-lived, and with few regrets, she hopes for an easier future for those who follow her. And among all of her accomplishments, Leverette says she wants to be remembered by the way she saw others.

“We were all given a mind and we were all given a heart,” says Leverette. “The mind was given to us so we could survive, so we could make a living. But the heart was given to us so we could survive together.”

You can hear the complete interview with Leverette here, as well listen to all the stories recorded by friends, alumni and students of the School of Law.

Law students provide free tax help

For the 25th year, volunteer students from the University of South Carolina School of Law, will provide free tax help to low income and elderly individuals.

From Feb. 18 to Mar. 29, the lobby of the School of Law will become a first-come, first-served Volunteer Income Tax Assistance center (VITA). Tax help will be offered on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers will prepare and file simple state and federal tax returns, however, business or self-employed returns are not eligible.

The program provides law students with the opportunity to work with clients and develop skills they will use in their careers, while providing an essential service to the community.

To get assistance filing your taxes, you don’t need an appointment. However, only a limited number of returns will be filed at each session, so arrive early. Be sure to bring a valid photo ID and a social security card for the filer and any dependents.

For information on other VITA locations and dates contact the United Way at 2-1-1.