Author Archives: Robyn Culbertson

UofSC Law student to compete in world championship boxing tournament


Stephanie Wharen (center) and her teammate Jaylon Pridgeon (second from left) will compete in the 2015 Ringside World Championship Boxing Tournament Aug. 5 – 8.

Stephanie Wharen, 26, isn’t your typical third-year law student. After spinal surgery from a power lifting injury, Wharen did rehab with Logan Holler, a UofSC graduate and equestrian team alumna who is now a professional boxer. Holler included boxing drills as part of Wharen’s therapy and later connected her with boxing trainer Dominic Neal at Main Event Fitness Center, where she’s been training for more than two years.

In the last four months, Wharen has kicked up her training and will compete in the 2015 Ringside World Championship Boxing Tournament Aug. 5 – 8 in Independence, Missouri.

Training isn’t easy for Wharen. She’s a full-time law clerk, which means training is early morning before work and every evening. She hits the gym from 5 – 7 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and does long distance running on Tuesday and Thursday.  Her evening routines Monday through Friday focus on technique and sparring with her coach, and Saturday mornings bring more sparring.

Over the weekend of July 18 – 19, Wharen competed with her teammate Jaylon Pridegon, 17, in a Georgia boxing tournament. Pridegon earned silver and Wharen took gold, although admittedly there were few women who competed. Coach Neal entered both Pridegon and Wharen in the 2015 Ringside World Boxing Championships, believing that they could dominate the field of amateur boxers from around the world.

The pair will compete in the novice division. The weeklong tournament will feature more than 1,500 fighters and more than 1,000 fights.

“This tournament will finally give me the chance to compete for a world title,” Wharen says. “It will give Jaylon those same competition opportunities as well as give him the last few fights he needs to qualify for the Olympic trials in September. We have been working every day to be ready for this tournament.”

To help with expenses, Wharen and Pridgeon have created a GoFundMe page. Tournament costs could exceed $2,000 between registration fees and travel expenses. Any unused funds will go toward Olympic trials.

“Being students, we can’t afford the trip on our own and desperately need fundraising to get us there since the tournament is in 11 days,” she says. “We have been working so hard and are hungry to compete for a world title to bring back to South Carolina.”

2014 grad argues before state’s highest court



Many law students dream of someday arguing a case before the state’s highest court. None expect it to happen during their first year of practice. But this past February, that’s exactly what Perry MacLennan did: argue a case before the South Carolina Supreme Court – just after being sworn into the Bar.

MacLennan graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in May 2014, took the bar exam in July and was sworn in that fall. In November, he was named an associate in Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd’s Greenville office, where he focuses his practice on business, commercial and construction litigation, helping individuals and business with breach of contract and payment disputes. Almost immediately, he began working on a case that would be presented before the state Supreme Court involving enforceability of an arbitration clause in a contract. “The lawyers I work with thought it would be a great opportunity for me,” MacLennan said. “When they were in my shoes, the more senior partners at the firm went out of their way to give them real experiences quickly.”

MacLennan assisted on the case as a law clerk, so he was already familiar with it, but he had a considerable amount of catching up to do. “The case had already been through the trial court and the court of appeals by the time I started working on it,” he said. Leading up to the February court date, MacLennan practiced his argument many times with his colleagues. “I owe a debt of gratitude to them, as well as my mentors at the firm, for giving me the confidence and encouragement that I needed to be effective,” he said.

At the Supreme Court, MacLennan was given just 15 minutes to make his case before the justices, and most of his time was spent in a back-and-forth Q&A, requiring a lot of thinking on his feet. “The justices don’t give you the time to make a pre-rehearsed speech,” he said. “Of course I was nervous, but I felt a measure of comfort thanks in large part to Judge Dennis Shedd’s Fourth Circuit Practice class at USC Law.”

MacLennan took Shedd’s class as a 3L, where he argued in front of a judge from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on a weekly basis. “I thought about my experiences in that class often during the week leading up to my argument,” he said.

Just weeks after hearing the case, the S.C. Supreme Court dismissed it as improvidently granted, meaning the appeal was denied, which was the result that MacLennan was seeking. “I was happy for our client because it was a long road to get to that point,” he said.

MacLennan’s experience at the Supreme Court taught him to see cases from a different perspective – the view from the bench. “Appellate court decisions have a profound impact on the laws of this state,” he said. “I found it helpful to think about the future ramifications of my argument and how a decision in my favor could impact future litigants. I certainly hope that I find my way back to the Supreme Court and take these lessons with me.”


Topping-off ceremony marks another milestone

20150709_Topping Off Ceremony_0056On Thursday, July 9, a little more than nine months after first breaking ground, the University of South Carolina School of Law celebrated a major milestone in the construction of its new home: the topping-off ceremony. Faculty, staff, university trustees and distinguished alumni gathered to watch as the final piece of steel forming the structural framework of the building was lifted into place by construction crews.

20150709_Topping Off Ceremony_0005School of Law Dean Robert Wilcox said seeing the completion of this phase of construction is a reminder of how the school promises to further transform law education at the university.

“Already the building is transforming the Gervais Street corridor. When finished, it will just as surely open new opportunities for our students to study law in the best possible environment,” he said. “We are incredibly excited to see the project reach this milestone toward completion.”

20150709_Topping Off Ceremony_0026University President Harris Pastides praised the dedication of Gilbane Construction’s crew in reaching the milestone. “It’s been fascinating for all of us to watch USC’s new School of Law’s structural rise,” he said. “Hard hats off to these tenacious workers who, even during one of the hottest summers on record, have provided the expertise needed to get each steel beam in place.” 

Over the next 18 months, the building will begin to come to life as its offices, classrooms, courtrooms, bookstore, library, café, commons area and courtyard take shape. Completion is expected by the School of Law’s 150th anniversary in the fall of 2017.

In keeping with a centuries-old Scandinavian tradition, when the highest beam of a building is hoisted into place, a tree is raised along with it to symbolize the bringing of life to the new structure. The Leyland cypress raised at the School of Law’s ceremony will be removed from the beam and planted on the grounds of the new building. Because the cypress is a symbol of durability and longevity, it will serve as a living reminder of the School of Law’s long tradition of contributions to the state, the nation and the world.

Watch time-lapse videos showing the progress so far:




Amnesty International Report on Police Use of Force


Amnesty International last week harshly criticized the US for not providing standards strictly limiting the use of lethal force by police to those occasions when no other options are available and such force is essential to save lives.

The organization observed that the UN has promulgated standards for the use of deadly force by officers that, on their face, seem not only reasonable, but superior to the laws of many states.

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Rising 3L receives coveted ABA clerkship

JOSEPH, CAMEO-DIAMOND 619__154-1007Cameo Joseph, a rising third-year student at the University of South Carolina School of Law, was selected to participate in the American Bar Association Business Law Section Diversity Clerkship Program. The elite program accepts fewer than 10 students each year from applicants across the country, and Joseph is the second consecutive student from the School of Law to receive one of its clerkships.

A Greenville native, Joseph graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Language and International Health (Spanish). She began her Diversity Clerkship on June 22 with the Hon. Clifton Newman, a circuit court judge with the South Carolina Judicial Department in Columbia. She has a strong interest in business law and believes this clerkship will help her decide in which area she will focus her practice after graduation. “I learn so much from Judge Newman each day. He’s brilliant and has proved to be a great mentor,” Joseph said. “I’m honored to have this chance to experience business law from a judge’s perspective and to be able take what I have learned in the classroom and apply it to practical situations.”

Tommy Preston, an associate at Nexsen Pruet and a 2011 alum of the School of Law, encouraged Joseph to apply for the clerkship. “Tommy became one of my mentors during my first year of law school,” she said. “He is heavily involved with the ABA, including the Young Lawyers Division and the Business Law Section, and his encouragement meant a lot to me.”

“This program is very prestigious, and I thought Cameo had what it takes to compete with applicants from around the country,” Preston said. “She has a great opportunity to get more exposure to business law while building a network that hopefully will result in her getting a great job upon graduation.”

“Having two USC students receive clerkships in consecutive years shows the national quality of our law school and its students,” he said.

The ABA Business Law Section sponsors the clerkship program to encourage participation in business law by students who are minorities, female or LGBT, or who have overcome social, economic or physical disadvantages to attend law school. Students are placed in clerkships with business court judges in various locations, and they participate in researching cases, drafting memoranda and opinions, observing trials and networking with attorneys and judges.

Amanda Reasoner, a 2015 graduate of the School of Law, was a 2014 Diversity Clerk. She worked with the Hon. Donald F. Parsons, Jr., in Wilmington, Del.

How Cleveland Police May Have Botched a 911 Call Just Before Killing Tamir Rice


At 3:22 p.m. last November 22, just minutes before 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally wounded by a Cleveland police officer at a neighborhood park, a man called 911 to report “a guy in here with a pistol…pointing it at everybody.” During the two-minute conversation, the caller described a person in a gray coat, “probably a juvenile,” who was sitting on a swing and holding a gun that was “probably fake.” Before hanging up, the caller reiterated his uncertainty about the gun: “I don’t know if it’s real or not.”


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The Hurdles Facing Autonomous Vehicles


Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk saunters onstage in front of 3,000 admiring Silicon Valley techies at a conference devoted to graphics processing units. Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of Nvidia, the conference’s sponsor, has just unveiled a new GPU designed for automotive applications and invited Musk—“the engineer of engineers,” as he calls him—to riff on the future of autonomous cars.

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Will body cameras in SC slow the legal process?


Prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys are waiting to see how South Carolina’s new law requiring law enforcement officers to wear body cameras will affect the attorneys’ workload and the prosecution of cases.

A bill requiring officers to wear body cameras was signed into law earlier this month. It requires the Law Enforcement Training Council to draft guidelines for implementing and using cameras. Agencies must submit their policies for approval within nine months.

Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said body cameras offer a great form of video evidence, but he is concerned about having enough storage to retain the footage submitted to his office. His office is required by the S.C. Department of Archives and History to maintain the footage for 50 years.

Don’t let Charleston shooting divide us


During the summer of 1993 as a rising high school senior attending Governor’s School in Charleston, South Carolina, I attended Emanuel AME Church for Sunday worship. Although I was young, I recall sensing the significance of “Mother Emanuel” to the surrounding community and being enveloped by her welcoming love and spirit. Tragically, hatred and evil took advantage of that same spirit, resulting in the devastating loss of nine innocent lives.

Atrocities such as the horrific shooting in Charleston provoke heartrending anguish and grief in people everywhere. However, for members of the black community who have too often experienced senseless violence due to racial hatred, our sorrow is visceral and makes us question whether our country will ever be free of racial animus.


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