A Message from the Dean

COMMITTED TO EXCELLENCE

Dean Rob WilcoxLeading the way: Three words that describe our law school, exemplified through our alumni who have taken the reins of major national professional organizations, students and alumni who have persevered to achieve goals others might have considered to be out of reach, and of course, our faculty, whose scholarship and teaching are recognized nationally for their excellence. 

In fact, much of this issue is devoted to the great work of our professors whose ideas and research tackle some of the leading problems we face today.

There is little doubt that law enforcement is under more scrutiny now than perhaps at any other time in recent history. Our cover story shows how Professor Seth Stoughton, a former policeman, uses police ride-alongs to help his criminal procedure students experience the pressures that officers face every day and how those pressures can affect their actions in the line of duty.

You’ll learn about Professor Wadie Said’s new book, Crimes of Terror, which was published in May and offers a fascinating look into how the U.S. government handles terrorism cases — and the implications for future federal criminal prosecutions.

Professor Aparna Polavarapu and one of her students spent a portion of the summer 
in Uganda. We share some findings from her latest research trip as she continues her exploration of women’s rights in Africa, the rule of law, and the justice gap between men
and women.

Sarah Leverette, an icon known to many of our alumni, faced many doors closed to women lawyers early in her career. We catch up with her, and we also learn about a 2015 grad and a current student who have both faced their own adversities to achieve their dreams.

These members of our School of Law family have led by example, as do our students who generously commit their time to provide pro bono assistance to the profession through our Carolina Clerks program. We are proud to tell you about all of them.

Before I close, I would be remiss if I didn’t also give you a progress report on our new building. Construction is moving swiftly, and in July we marked the completion of the structural phase with a topping-off ceremony. As of now, floors have been poured and offices and classrooms are being framed. The strings of temporary lights at night already lend a celebratory atmosphere to the project as we move toward our scheduled opening in 2017. I invite you to go to uofsclawbuilding.tumblr.com to follow our progress.

RobSignature-1

 

 

 

Robert M. Wilcox
Dean

Equal Justice

Professor Tracks Progress in African Laws Affecting Women

Hailed as a huge victory for women’s rights, the Supreme Court of Uganda made international headlines in August when it ruled the custom of refunding “bride price” unconstitutional. 

Prevalent in many African countries, bride price is a tradition in which the groom’s family gives the bride’s family money or livestock in exchange for her hand. Prior to this decision, a divorce would only be granted if the bride price was returned. Critics contend that, over time, this tradition had transformed from a custom into a business, often leading to child marriages,
reducing women to property, and locking them into unhappy and even abusive relationships.

Now, women will no longer be forced to refund bride price, allowing them more freedom to get a divorce. In theory, anyway.

Aparna Polavarapu, a law professor and scholar with the University of South Carolina’s Rule of Law Collaborative, says changing that practice will be difficult. In a recent interview with the International Business Times, Polavarapu said, “[Bride price] is still a tradition that carries a lot of weight. I think [actual] enforcement of this decision] will depend place-to-place because there’s a real symbolic value to bride price and some people will hold onto it.”

Just weeks before the ruling was announced, Polavarapu had returned from Uganda, where she continued her research

into women’s rights. On previous trips to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, she

concentrated on laws and practices related to marriage, inheritance and land rights. Because these issues are so tied to community and cultural norms, she often finds herself delving into the intricacies of customary law and how it interacts with statutory law.

In her most recent visit, Polavarapu added another layer onto her scholarship, turning her attention to the courts.

“Researchers and policymakers focus heavily on problems of access to courts and improving substantive law. But that reflects an implicit assumption that once people get to court, they will get justice,” Polavarapu said. “This trip was designed to question whether that assumption holds, or whether there are obstacles to receiving justice, particularly for women, once they are actually in court.”

Her research has so far revealed several obstacles, including the prevalence of corruption and difficulty executing favorable court judgments. One area where this difficulty is apparent is land-based judgments.

“The law requires that women be permitted to inherit land. Still, many women face resistance when they try to assert their rights, and few manage to make their way to the formal courts.” Even then, she said, the likelihood of a court enforcing a positive judgment remains tenuous at best. “Sometimes a magistrate will visit the disputed area to make sure the parties allocate the land properly, but not all magistrates are willing or able to do this.”

While her research shows that many hurdles remain to ensuring that Ugandan women are treated fairly, both in formal and informal justice systems, Polavarapu returned from this trip with reasons to be optimistic.

“I met with many advocates, activists, and government officials who are committed to improving  Uganda’s justice system,” she said. “The recent bride price ruling shows that positive changes are being made through the efforts of people like them, and I look forward to continuing to track the country’s progress.”

True Grit

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. It’s a pithy piece of advice, but, let’s face it, curling up in a fetal position might seem the more natural response when life goes awry. Two USC law students, one a third-year and the other a May 2015 graduate, share their stories of resilience and grit in the face of extraordinary challenges. In their lives, we catch a glimpse of what it takes to overcome.

Stephanie Smith.
STEPHANIE SMITH
Class of 2016

Stephanie was a high school dropout, divorced with a young child when she suddenly decided things had to change.

There’s not a day that I walk in this law school building when I’m not like, “I’m here!” I want to do juvenile justice. These kids might wonder, “What does this privileged woman know about my life?” And then I can say, “Well, let me tell you what I know about your life.”

I’m 31 and I’ve moved over 30 times in my life. My parents have 13 marriages and divorces between them. I stayed with my dad until he got married again — she didn’t like me — so I went to live with my mom. There was domestic violence; he beat her, hit us kids. We lived in a one-bedroom, Section 8 housing. There was no hope of my life going anywhere. My mom didn’t graduate high school; I didn’t graduate high school.

I’m 10 years older than my three younger siblings so I stayed home to help take care of them. I just quit going to school. Then I met a boy, got pregnant at 17. It was kinda the thing in our family. So we got married, moved to Hawaii. What do you know at that age?

I remember looking back at my daughter one day, it was so hot. Her face was red, her hair was sticking to her cheek. I think I had run out of gas. She was crying, and I thought, “Did anybody ever look back at me and say, ‘We’ve got to do better for her’?” So right then, I signed up to get my GED. I got a letter saying I had scored in the top 1 percent of South Carolina. I don’t say that to brag. I needed that to realize, “I’m not dumb.”

It bothered me not having a high school diploma. I remember being so insecure about everything. None of that matters. I tell the story loud so that people know: It does not matter.

I got a job at an attorney’s office as a secretary. I’m answering phones, I’m bored. So I start reading through files. I go back to the attorney and point something out, and she was like, “Oh, my God, I never thought of that. Go type that up.” And eventually she says, “You are more than what I thought you were going to be. I want to help you go to law school.” And I was like, “Me? Law school?” So I signed up for the LSAT. I didn’t get one rejection.

The character and fitness part of the bar attracts me. I don’t take that lightly. I feel so proud to be entering a profession where you are judged on your character. I mean, that’s awesome.

So many kids are told they’re never gonna make it, they’re gonna drop out. I wonder what would happen if they were told, “You’re gonna do better than that.”


Nick Luft.
NICK LUFT
Class of 2015

Nick learned he had a brain tumor halfway through law school and decided to concentrate on finishing his studies before beginning treatment.

 

 

Sunshine and scholarships, those are the two things that brought me here.

On Dec. 23, 2013, I was with my girlfriend at a Dairy Queen in Pittsburgh. I experienced what you would call an aura, a kind of downgrade in my consciousness. I thought I was having a stroke. I asked a patron in the restaurant to call an ambulance and my girlfriend to call my family. And about that time my left arm started to fl ail.

The two answers that came back were multiple sclerosis or a glioma. I had no idea what a glioma was. But I could tell that it didn’t sound good.

My dad said that not in a million years would he think that it was possible that we’d be at an ER and they’d be coming out and saying, “You’ve got brain cancer.”

They wanted me to start treatment right away. I had gotten so far through law school, I came back and told my neuro-oncologist, “I’m finishing up, you guys can do what you want.” If I decide I want to do something, I’m going to do it. That’s how it was with getting through law school, but I wasn’t able to get it done without the help that’s been given to me.

The median survival for someone like me is probably something like 14 years. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but it’s my life and it’s time that I value a great deal. I know that there are some incredible things that are coming down the pipeline.

When you and I look a month out from now, I’m looking at it the same way that you are. When we look out 10 years, I’m starting to wonder where I’m going to be. I don’t know if I’m going to be fully functional. I don’t know if I’m going to have a motor disability.

My girlfriend has been so supportive through three years of law school and the whole ordeal. I full out said, “If you don’t want to go through with me on this, I would completely understand.” And she came back so adamantly that she wanted to be by my side. There have been so many tears through all of the ups and downs, but at the same time we’re pretty strong. Don’t get me wrong, the whole backdrop of what can happen to me in the future is something we don’t like to think about. You’re forever changed, but I think some of the ways we’ve been changed are pretty good.

I’m more worried about radiological damage rather than what the tumor is doing. They think that in my specific case memory is not going to be so much of an issue, but they worry that my ability to serially process information quickly is going to be hampered. It’s weird to face that possibility of degradation in your mental faculties.

If I do something dumb, the people who really, really know me can poke fun and blame it on the tumor — and I’m good with that. You see things and laugh at things that you otherwise wouldn’t find humor in except for the place you find yourself in.

I’ve heard stories of people who had family members or friends taken from brain cancer. And I see that they’re still going strong, and I like to think that the person they lost still lives within them. That gives me hope for my family, for my friends, for my girlfriend — that whatever happens to me, they’re going to be OK.


Stephanie Smith completed a summer 2015 clerkship with the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in Beaufort, S.C., and is currently interning with 2nd Circuit Judge Arnold Early. Nick Luft is recovering from treatment at Duke Medical Center. He completed the Pennsylvania bar exam earlier this summer.

Along for the Ride

Law students ride with police officers to get an up-close look at the law in action.

When a white policeman shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in the small city of Ferguson, Missouri, the incident made international headlines. In the months since, officer-involved shootings and the deaths of several officers in the line of duty have continued to make
front page news, keeping police departments across America under intense public scrutiny.

Professor Seth Stoughton understands that scrutiny better than most: He spent five years on uniformed patrol as an officer in Tallahassee, Florida. And although he speaks and writes about ways to improve modern policing, he also understands the many pressures that law enforcement officers face.

It has never been more important, he believes, to have future lawyers experience a “day-in-the-life” of officers; to better understand their mindset as they interact with suspects, and to consider the legal implications of those interactions. That is why he requires his criminal procedure students to take a police ride-along.

“When I was an officer, I frequently had civilians accompany me for ride-alongs,” Stoughton said. “It gave me a chance to educate people about my job and, more personally, to make sure that they thought of me not just as an officer but as a person. I have my students go on ride-alongs because I also want to remind them that the legal rules and policies we learn about aren’t just abstract academic principles. Th ey aff ect real people in meaningful ways every
single day.

“It’s really important that students witness first-hand key concepts discussed in class, such as fourth, fifth and sixth amendment constitutional issues relating to arrest, search and seizure, and interrogation. Seeing officers make a few judgment calls about whether they can stop or arrest someone and then being able to immediately talk to them about their decisions can be eye-opening.”

Dillon McDougald, a third-year student, joined Sgt. Marion Boyce of the West Columbia Police Department on an afternoon shift. Although the experience was relatively quiet (a routine traffic stop and loitering incident), it gave McDougald a chance to talk with Boyce in depth about how patrols work, how police use the RAIDS database, body cameras, active shooter situations and the militarization of police.

“It’s one thing to develop an understanding of the law from reading cases,” McDougald said. “It’s an entirely different thing seeing it from the practical side, and this was a great opportunity to experience that.”

Chelsea Stewart and West Columbia police officer Shawn Ludgwig reflect on their ride-along.

Chelsea Stewart and West Columbia police officer Shawn Ludgwig reflect on their ride-along.

Chelsea Stewart, a third-year student, admits her heart started racing when a car stopped for a missing headlight was identified as stolen during her late-evening ride-along with Officer Shawn
Ludwig of the West Columbia Police Department.

“I was anxious at first when the guns were drawn and officers were yelling for the suspects to get on the ground, especially with all of the news stories at the time about incidents involving
offi cers. I had an adrenaline rush the entire time and even after I left that night,” she said.

Th e ride-along provided deeper insight into police procedure and showed her why the concepts she had spent all semester learning actually mattered. “Prof. Stoughton thinks it’s important that we observe the fourth amendment in action, beginning with the arrest,” Stewart said. “I want to be a prosecutor, so this was really eye-opening and helped put the things we learned throughout the semester into perspective.”

Marlene Johnson-Moore, who graduated in May, said the highlight of her ride-along with Officer R.M. Henry of the Columbia Police Department was a call from a child who asked for help and then hung up. “Th e dispatcher called the number back and a parent answered the phone and said that everything was OK, but she could hear a child screaming in the background,” Johnson-Moore said. “Officer Henry told me that when a dispatcher receives a hang-up call and the address can be traced, an officer would still respond. It serves to protect people in domestic violence situations.”

Nothing suspicious was found in a search of the home. And although she said it is comforting to know that safeguards are in place to assist someone who might not be able speak freely to the
dispatcher, Johnson-Moore ultimately questioned in her report whether the search was actually valid. However, since consent to search the home was freely given, she knew no violations
had occurred.

“Having this class and this experience gave me a broader and deeper appreciation for the balance that must be struck between the competing interests of the government, society
and the individual,” she said. “It also gave me a greater and renewed appreciation for the work that police officers do in our communities.”

“Ride-alongs are important because I want to give my students a realistic perspective on police actions,” said Stoughton. “Regardless of whether students have a prosecution-oriented mindset or a defense-oriented mindset, I want them to think critically about the role they play. Ride-alongs force them to confront some of their assumptions in ways that contribute to their growth both as lawyers and as people.”

Carolina Clerks: Pro Bono Clerks for Pro Bono Lawyers

“Vulnerable individuals need help in the legal system, but they often cannot afford attorneys,” said 2004 grad Jennifer Mook, who practices family law in Aiken and Greenville, S.C. “I believe pro bono work is an important part of being an attorney, and I make it a point to take on cases when I can, especially if there’s a chance to right a wrong that has been done.”

This past summer, when Mook found herself in need of help on a pro bono case, a colleague suggested she contact Pamela Robinson, director of the School of Law’s Pro Bono Program. As
part of the program, Robinson coordinates Carolina Clerks, which matches volunteer law students with South Carolina lawyers who have agreed to accept a pro bono case. Students assist by performing traditional law clerking duties such as research and drafting.

“Carolina Clerks is a great resource that many attorneys either don’t think about or don’t know about,” said Mook, who worked with third-year student Kayla Porter on a case involving a father’s parental rights. “Kayla has been amazing, very professional and easy to work with, and her help enabled me to more effectively litigate my case.”

“We created the Carolina Clerks program to encourage lawyers to take on pro bono cases because they can get the help they need at no cost, allowing them to offer their services for free to a population in need,” Robinson said. “For students, the program offers the chance to gain practical experience with a bit more flexibility than a traditional clerkship, and it also can help shape their career paths.”

Working on the case led Porter to develop a passion for fathers’ rights. “Seeing firsthand a client who may be faced with the reality of losing his child has an impact on you that no textbook or class ever could,” she says. “Being a clerk helped humanize a legal issue that I had previously only considered from a theoretical perspective.”

Porter plans to apply for an ABA grant to help disseminate and increase awareness of South Carolina’s Responsible Fathers Registry.

Michael Scott, ’10, an employment and labor law attorney with Nexsen Pruet LLC, first heard about the Carolina Clerks program during a CLE presentation Robinson gave. He had been
working with the S.C. Appellate Practice Project, which helps young lawyers gain experience in appellate work by handling a pro bono case. To help balance the work load, Scott asked
Jennifer Jokerst to assist him through the Carolina Clerks program.

“She took time out of her busy third year and did incredible work,” he said. “She was diligent, thorough, demonstrated excellent writing skills and, most importantly, was very excited
to be part of the team. I plan to use Carolina Clerks again, but whoever assists will have very big shoes to fill.”

Jokerst, who graduated this past spring, said working with the Carolina Clerks program was among the most meaningful work she did in law school. “It is one thing to write a brief in
the abstract for class, but to do so on real cases, with real people depending on you, made this an invaluable learning experience,” she said.

“One of the greatest things about this country is that we all have certain rights, which include the right to a fair trial and the right to have someone adequately represent you,” she said. “Being able to work on this pro bono case through the Carolina Clerks program showed me firsthand how important the work of attorneys representing criminal defendants is to ensuring the justice system works as it should.”


To learn how a Carolina Clerks law student can help with your pro bono case, visit law.sc.edu/pro_bono/carolina_clerks or email robinspd@law.sc.edu.

The Magna Carta & The Federalist Reconsidered

Guest lecturers revisit centuries-old documents

Professor Sanford V. Levinson speaks on The Federalist.

Professor Sanford V. Levinson speaks on The Federalist.

Few documents have had a bigger impact on the U.S. Constitution than the Magna Carta and The Federalist, but what lessons do they hold for us in the 21st century? In the spring of 2015, the University of South Carolina School of Law invited two distinguished lecturers to share their insights and reveal the influence these documents still have on the U.S. justice system.

A. E. Dick Howard, the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia School of Law, delivered the 2015 Benjamin Hagood Lecture, “Magna Carta: A Legacy 800 Years in the Making.” The Magna Carta, written in 1215, celebrated its 800th anniversary on June 15 of this year. It outlines specific rights inherent to all free men, including swift justice, no unreasonable taxes, personal liberty, and the idea that no man—not even the king—is above the law.

So it was of little surprise that the colonists who settled America brought with them these rights in their charters, and they clung to them more dearly than the English ever had. According
to Howard, while the English allowed Parliament to pass any law it pleased, the colonists believed there were limits to Parliament’s authority to govern them. He added that although this belief was first used to justify the move toward independence, it also transcended to the framers of the Constitution, who ensured that U.S. judges had the power to uphold or strike down laws passed by legislative bodies.

“The Magna Carta stands for the articulation of fundamental rights,” said Howard, and its legacy on the United States can be seen throughout the Constitution and Bill of Rights, including the concepts of the rule of law, constitutional supremacy, and due process.

But, he argued, perhaps one of its biggest influences is the idea of an organic, evolving constitution that can be adapted to the needs and challenges of our own time. Reinforcing this point, Howard cited Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion from Lawrence v. Texas: “Those who drew and modified the due process clause … knew times can blind us to certain truths, and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress. As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.”

Sanford V. Levinson, the W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood Jr. Centennial Chair at the University of Texas School of Law, delivered the 2015 Charles Knowlton Law & Liberal Arts Lecture, “Learning from the Federalist.” The Federalist, or Federalist Papers, is a collection of 85 essays written in 1787 and 1788 to persuade the states to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Although they often are used to help us understand the intentions of the Constitution’s framers, Levinson urged his audience to read them again with a critical eye towards how they might be reinterpreted today.

He began his lecture with Federalist Number One, which impressed upon its readers the great opportunity given them to decide on a framework of government by reflection and choice,  rather than by accident or force. So how should those of us alive today, charged with not only perpetuating the Constitution but improving it, view this first essay? Should we simply accept the decisions the framers made for us, or should we be inspired by their example and engage in reflection and choice of our own? A strong advocate for the latter, Levinson went so far as admitting he was in favor of the formation of a new constitutional convention (while acknowledging the process for doing so is prohibitively complicated).

And what of today’s developing nations who are forming their own constitutions and look to The Federalist as a source of wisdom from which to draw? How are they to interpret and
apply these centuries-old writings? Certainly many, like Number One, can be helpful, but others are decidedly more ominous, according to Levinson.

He pointed specifically to Numbers Six, 23 and 41, which say that all men are ambitious and vindictive, that dangers to a nation’s safety are infinite, and that no barriers to a nation’s self-preservation should be imposed. In 1788 these ideas would have been understood as supporting both the unification of the states and the development of a strong national defense for a fledgling country vulnerable to attack by the day’s world powers. Today, he argued, they could be taken as supporting, among other things, the use of torture during war.

For better or worse, Levinson said, the words of The Federalist are being considered not just by Americans, but by people across the world, and we should wonder what they are taking away from it. “What are the implications if you are a foreigner who is reading Th e Federalist because the ABA has sent you a copy with a cover letter saying it would be very useful and contains wisdom about governance and constitutional design?” he asked. “Well it ought to be obvious that one of the things that you would pick up is that it is a cold and cruel world out there … and among the forces to be feared is the United States itself.”

The Terror Exception

If the American government charged you with being a terrorist, would you rather face criminal charges in a federal court or be tried before a military commission?

The answer seems obvious — until you read Wadie Said’s new book, Crimes of Terror.

The USC School of Law professor begins his book with this question, and then reveals how,
since the  terrorist attacks, the U.S. government has imposed policies that increasingly encroach
on the constitutional rights associated with criminal proceedings. Going a step further, he argues that the proliferation of these practices within a terror context has the potential to bleed into, and negatively affect, normal criminal proceedings.

Much of Crimes of Terror reveals the magnitude of these practices, all stemming from the government’s sole ability to classify a case as “terrorist,” and thereby sidestep normal protections in the name of national security. Moving chronologically through each
phase, Said thoroughly examines the rise of informant and entrapment techniques during investigations, the drastic expansion of the definition of “material support” during prosecution, and even special sentencing “enhancements” for those found guilty.

He hopes readers will consider the implications of these actions and begin to raise questions such as “Why is the government sending people in to goad individuals to carry out acts of terror?” and “Do we really want government actors pushing people into doing these crimes?”

While many of Said’s previous articles have focused on various aspects of terrorist prosecutions, Crimes of Terror shows how these phenomena are all related. “I think the book is a sort of natural culmination and development of my scholarship since I’ve started working in South Carolina,” he said.

“Ultimately, I hope people will begin to understand the terror exception’s effects on our ordinary lives and view it with greater skepticism,” he said. “We should be concerned as a society with how the government chooses to use national security as a way to gain more power and more authority and whether we are comfortable with this.”

Crimes of Terror was published by Oxford University Press, and is widely available in both hardcover and ebook formats.


15213_The Fine Print_Law.indd
Said’s introduction to federal terrorism cases came in 1999, while he was a law student. It was then that he was introduced to — and eventually worked with — David Bruck, the court-appointed lawyer for one of the defendants in United States v. Bin Laden. Bruck, a 1975 graduate of the School of Law, is a nationally renowned criminal defense lawyer who has represented many high profile defendants.
A gift of remembrance

A Gift of Remembrance

1943 law school grad makes two memorial gifts

Today, women comprise about half of each incoming class of the School of Law, but Sarah Leverette hails from an era when female law students were a rarity.

She earned a degree in English from Carolina in 1940 and graduated magna cum laude from the law school in 1943 — the only woman in the class. But Leverette found limited opportunities in the private sector legal job market.

“I always said I knew the door was closed for women, but I didn’t know it was locked,” says Leverette, 95, a native of Iva, S.C.

Fortunately, career paths in education and government quickly opened. Not long after graduating, she became the School of Law’s first female faculty member, serving as librarian and legal writing and research instructor for 25 years. She went on to be commissioner and chair of the S.C. Industrial Commission (now Workers’ Compensation Commission) and continues to contribute time to the League of Women Voters and S.C. Women Lawyers
Association.

During her tenure at the law school, one of Leverette’s colleagues was Beverly Lovejoy Boyer, an assistant law librarian dedicated to children’s issues and how the law could help them.

“Beverly spoke for those who could not speak for themselves — the children,” Leverette says. “She was a most compassionate person and a vital assistant to me.”

Boyer has passed away, but, thanks to a memorial gift from Leverette, her name will adorn a conference room in the new Children’s Law Center on the corner of Gervais and Pickens, across the street from the new School of Law building under construction.

Leverette has also established the Capt. Stephen E. Leverette and Allie M. Leverette Endowed Scholarship at the School of Law in memory of her parents.

“They were forward thinking and very supportive of my going to law school,” she says. “They believed in education as a prerequisite for a full life and gave each of us a college education. I hope that this scholarship will help give USC law students the same opportunity.”