Reunited

Despite the threat of Hurricane Matthew, spirits were high during reunion weekend this past October, as old friends and classmates gathered together to reconnect and remember thier law school days. The reunion honored the classes of 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2006, and 2011. If your class year ends in a two or seven, be on the lookout for your reunion information in the coming months!

Here are a few select photos from the reunion parties.

Class of 1966

Class of 1971

Class of 1976

Class of 1981

Class of 1986

Class of 1991

Class of 1996

Class of 2006

Committed to Excellence

Dean Rob WilcoxIt’s hard to believe that two years have passed since the groundbreaking ceremony for our new building. It’s even harder to fathom that this June we’ll make our move and be in our new home when the fall semester begins. And while the anticipation continues to grow, it’s important to remember that the best part of our new building will be the education it will help us provide to future law students so that they will become great lawyers. We have a tradition of outstanding alumni. For almost 150 years, our graduates have used their degrees to change this world for the better. And our incredible faculty, with their passion for the law, continues to shape the lives and careers of future alumni.

In this issue, we wanted to share just a few stories of ways our alumni and new faculty members are making an impact. Stories like that of Lonnie Doles and Jack Cohoon, who worked to correct an oversight in the coding of criminal records that too often prevented otherwise-capable individuals from obtaining jobs and providing for their families. Stories like that of Sheila Bias, whose participation in the mentoring program coordinated by the Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Center on Professionalism has provided valuable insight and encouragement to many first-year students. And then there’s Lee Floyd, whose 2006 student paper helped change state Supreme Court precedent almost a decade later.

Prof. Bob Felix was the one who brought Lee’s story to our attention, and it serves as a great example of how the bonds between student and teacher last long after graduation. Likewise, Bill McAninch continues to positively affect the lives of our alumni through the Loan Forgiveness Fund he established, which turns 15 this year and has helped numerous public interest lawyers reduce their student debt.

Also in this issue, you’ll meet our six newest faculty members — key hires in helping us increase our clinical offerings, grow our environmental law program and strengthen our legal research and writing curriculum. And you’ll also learn about Prof. Derek Black’s new book, “Ending Zero Tolerance,” which chronicles the rise of such policies and the unintended consequences they have had on our youth.

It’s stories like these that show the impact our school continues to have on our state and our nation. That positive impact is truly something for all of us to be proud of.

And don’t worry — you’ll also find a few photos showing the exciting progress of the building!

Read & Repeat

USC Mock Trial TeamFor the third year in a row, the USC Mock Trial Team took top honors at the Carolinas Invitational Mock Trial Competition in October. Kristie Commins was named Best Overall Advocate for the competition, which included participants from law schools at William and Mary, the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland, among others. Pictured above are Zach Sprouse, Madelyn Dukes, Kristie Commins and Mike Trask, showing off their hardware from the competition.

Click here to read more about the USC Mock Trial Team’s successes.

 

Top 35 percent

Among all law schools for best employment outcomes for the class of 2015, according to ABA Employment Data.
 
 
 
 

8th

For the eighth straight year, the School of Law has made National Jurist/preLaw magazine’s list of Best Value Law Schools.” The 2016 rankings were released in their fall issue.

 

Top 100 Law Blawgs

Once again Prof. Colin Miller’s EvidenceProf blog was listed on the ABA Journal’s Top 100 BLAWGs for 2016. 

 

16th

in the country for the percentage of graduates obtaining state clerkships, according to the winter 2016 issue of preLaw magazine 

 

Homestretch!

With only about six months until we move in, the new law school is heading into the homestretch. As light fixtures, tiling, carpeting and landscaping are installed, the building’s appearance is changing on an almost daily basis, and looking more like a home worthy of this great school.

The recessed lighting and inset ceiling panels reveal the grand elegance of the Karen J. Williams Ceremonial Courtroom and provide a glimpse of the attention to detail seen throughout the building.

Stately two-story columns set the tone of professionalism to all visitors pulling into the new parking lot at the main entrance.

While the building’s overall architecture looks to the future, several design elements pay homage to the past, including the bench and other furnishings from the original Richland County Courthouse that are being installed in the law school’s second dedicated courtroom.

In the open and spacious courtyard, sitting areas have been fashioned from granite blocks that were once part of the former Central Correctional Institution, the state penitentiary from 1866 to 1994.

 

The law school’s latest

New faculty appointments complement environmental law, medical law and the law library

At a time when many law schools are shrinking their faculty, South Carolina Law has been steadily growing, with more than 20 new hires during the past four years.

The six members who joined us this fall have been essential to strengthening our academic curriculum in key areas — including environmental law and legal research analysis and writing — as well as expanding our experiential learning courses through the creation of two new clinics. Here are our newest faculty members:

With the addition of assistant professors Shelley Welton and Ann Eisenberg, the School of Law has cemented its reputation as a leader in environmental law.

Shelley WeltonWelton was previously the deputy director and Earth Institute Climate Law Fellow at Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. Growing up in Charlotte, N.C., Welton’s love of farming and backpacking in the N.C. woods helped inspire her scholarly interests, which focus on how climate change is transforming energy and environmental law and governance.

 

Ann EisenbergA former Clinical LL.M. Fellow in Land Use and Sustainable Development at the West VirginiaUniversity College of Law, Eisenberg’s research examines the nexus of land use and environmental law with social issues such as gender, race and religion. This spring, she is creating a new clinic focused on sustainable development. 

 

 

Emily SuskiThe second new clinic will focus on medical-legal partnerships. Taught by assistant professor Emily Suski, it will begin next fall. A former assistant clinical professor at Georgia State University College of Law and an adjunct professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine, Suski is designing the clinic to address social and legal issues that affect health, especially for vulnerable populations. 

 

Aaron GlennMany alumni will be familiar with two of our new law library faculty members, who are alumni themselves. Aaron Glenn and Eve Ross graduated from the School of Law in 2013 and 2007, respectively, before receiving their M.L.I.S. degrees at Carolina.

 

 

Eve RossIn addition to their duties as reference librarians, they are also the 12th and 13th faculty members devoted to the law school’s intensive Legal Research, Analysis and Writing Program. Both share a passion for technology and for helping students, lawyers and the public find the legal resources they need, whether online or in print.

 

 

Cornelius "Neil" PereiraCornelius “Neil” Pereira is the new head of technical services at the law library and oversees the growing technical needs of a modern library, a role that is becoming increasingly important as more and more of the law school’s holdings are digitized. He joins us from Southern Illinois University School of Law.

 

Lean on me

Mentoring program helps students navigate the shoals of law school and beyond

Mentor Sheila Bias (left) talks with mentee Lexi Harris on Main Street, downtown Columbia.

There’s no question that having a good mentor can help shape an individual’s career — especially in the field of law. That’s why the University of South Carolina School of Law has devoted substantial resources to take its mentoring program to a new level.

The program ensures that every student has a chance to be paired with an experienced attorney who can help them navigate their way through law school and into the professional world. And since its inception in 2010, it has changed the lives of both mentors and mentees.

Lexi Harris, a first-year student at the School of Law, is pretty sure she would have thrown in the towel midway through her first semester had it not been for her mentor.

“I knew the first year of law school would be hard, but I was blindsided by how tough it actually was,” Harris said. “I had been a top-ranked student throughout my academic career, but so had the rest of my classmates. Suddenly, one of us had to end up at the bottom, and that was not a concept I was prepared for.”

Harris considers herself fortunate to have been assigned 2011 alumna Sheila Bias as her mentor during Introduction to the Legal Profession, a required class for all 1Ls.

“During those times that I wanted to quit, she made sure that I understood that every other student was under the same pressure and that we all had the same doubts,” she said. “That convinced me to stick with it, and eventually I realized that even though it felt like I had no idea what I was doing, I actually did.”

Bias began volunteering with the School of Law’s mentoring program because of her personal experience with mentors, both as a student and as a lawyer.

“I didn’t have any lawyers in my family or circle of friends when I began law school, so I relied on unofficial mentors to help navigate professors, exams, job searches, networking and professionalism,” she said.

Now an attorney with Fisher and Phillips LLP, Bias continues to seek out her mentors’ advice, as she did when she transitioned to employment law after working as a staff attorney for the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

“Among other things, one of my mentors offered suggestions on researching firms and negotiating incentives, and she encouraged me to consider options that I never would have otherwise,” Bias said. “I credit her for much of where I am in my career and for the person and attorney I have become.

“I want my mentees to feel like they have found a similar support system, sound advice and, hopefully, a friend. I’m excited that I will be able to call them peers one day.”

From the start, Harris said Bias treated her as if they were already peers. And that’s not an accident.

“Here at Carolina Law, we believe strongly that the first day of class is the first day of a student’s legal career,” said Sharon Williams, who administers the mentoring program through the School of Law’s Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough Center on Professionalism.  “Our goal is to provide strong connections to lawyers, judges and other legal professionals from day one.”

To that end, the School of Law curriculum requires the Introduction to the Legal Profession course, as well as optional yearlong one-on-one mentoring for 3Ls in partnership with the Young Lawyers Division of the South Carolina Bar. In her search for quality mentors, Williams seeks both new and experienced lawyers who are able to act as coaches, motivators, teachers, counselors or confidants — whatever an individual student needs.

“It’s important for students and new lawyers to be able to lean on someone who has been in a similar situation,” Bias said, “and I enjoy providing guidance and advice to students on issues with which I have previous experience.”

And Harris is a happy recipient. “She met me one-on-one for lunch, and our group met at places outside of school where we could just engage in small talk. There was much more laughter and chatting than I would have thought possible,” she said.

“She was so open and friendly that I felt comfortable from the beginning, and I know we’ll stay in touch in the future.”


Approximately 110 lawyers and judges are needed each year to volunteer as mentors to School of Law students. Interested in becoming one? Contact Sharon Williams at 803-777-7785 or scwillia@mailbox.sc.edu to see how you can become involved.

Overruled!

A paper written by then-law student Lee Floyd convinces state supreme court to reject oft-cited case as precedent

Lee Floyd, ’07.

Lee Floyd, ’07, never could have imagined that a paper he wrote nearly 10 years ago as a student at the University of South Carolina School of Law would sway the opinions of the justices of the Supreme Court of South Carolina, ultimately affecting legal precedent.

But that’s exactly what happened when the justices heard the case of Stokes-Craven Holding Corp. v. Robinson LLC, which concerned a car dealership whose legal malpractice claim had been ruled by the circuit court to be past the statute of limitations. Lawyers on behalf of Stokes-Craven appealed that judgment to the state Supreme Court and filed a motion that they be allowed to argue that the precedent-setting case, Epstein v. Brown, should no longer be applied.

In Epstein, a doctor who lost a wrongful death claim and subsequent appeal brought a suit against his trial attorney for malpractice. The Supreme Court in that case confirmed lower court rulings that the three-year statute of limitations on filing a legal malpractice claim had run out, saying that it began at the conclusion of the original trial, not at the conclusion of the appeal. This established a legal precedent, and Epstein would be cited in several cases that followed.

Floyd came across the Epstein decision while working as a second-year research assistant for Prof. Robert Felix.

“We were researching the ‘South Carolina Law of Torts,’ which is basically the bible of South Carolina tort law,” Floyd said. “The Epstein case was included, having just come out the previous year, and I found it interesting for several reasons. I decided to write on it for my research paper, and I submitted a shorter version that was accepted for publication in the Law Review.”

In his article, “South Carolina Tort Law: For Whom the Statute of Limitations Tolls — The Epstein Court’s Rejection of the Continuous Representation Rule (57 S.C. Law Review 643, 2006 ),” Floyd outlined what he thought were flaws in the court’s original ruling in Epstein.

Epstein rejected the continuous representation rule, which allows the statute of limitations period to toll as long as the same lawyer represents the client during the appeals process,” Floyd said. “Many other courts in the country have now adopted the continuous representation rule at least in part because it protects the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship. A client should be able to rely on their attorney’s advice, especially when the attorney suggests filing an appeal of a lawsuit.”

Floyd also maintained that the Epstein decision was flawed because it relied on the statute of repose.

“While the state legislature specifically created a statute of repose for medical malpractice, it set forth a less strict statute of limitations for legal malpractice,” Floyd said. “This indicated that it was unwilling to set the same absolute time limit for legal malpractice actions that it set for medical malpractice actions.”

In its majority opinion in Robinson, which was published in September 2015, the Supreme Court quoted Floyd’s article in its consideration of Epstein’s flaws. Ultimately the court concluded that the statute of limitations for a legal malpractice claim should begin after resolution of appeal of the underlying case, not after the original jury’s verdict, effectively overruling Epstein. This reversed the circuit court’s original verdict in Robinson, and the matter was remanded for further proceedings.

“It’s a pretty important decision if you do civil litigation because few issues come up as often as the statute of limitations on malpractice claims,” said Floyd, who is now an attorney with the Lucey Law Firm in Charleston, S.C. “While this won’t reverse any previous rulings, it will definitely make an impact going forward.

“I thought my paper was good, and I was proud that it won the student writing award that year. But having the state Supreme Court quote it extensively in a ruling really confirmed the quality of the work.”

For the public good

Debt relief fund aids alumni working in public interest law

Retired law professor Bill McAninch.

This year, the Public Interest Law Loan Fund celebrates 15 years of aiding University of South Carolina School of Law alumni who have chosen careers in public interest law and dedicated their practice to helping those who are often unable to help themselves.

The fund was created in 2002 by retired law professor Bill McAninch, who taught classes and clinics that often stressed the relevance of public interest jobs. He showed students how to represent inmates, how poverty affects the law and the importance of representing one’s clients well, regardless of circumstance. When he retired, McAninch and his wife decided that they would take one more step to promote such philanthropic endeavors.

“The burden of law school debt often precludes an attorney from practicing in these relatively low-paying positions,” McAninch said. “Consequently, my wife, Jerry, and I donated $50,000 to establish a fund to provide debt relief to these lawyers.”

The 2002 graduating class adopted the fund as its class project, pledging their first year’s alumni contributions to it. McAninch also gives credit for the project’s success to

Prof. Lewis Burke and Pam Robinson, director of the Pro Bono Program. Over the years, the fund has continued to grow, thanks to generous donations, and has paid off more than $102,000 of student loan debt for 40 South Carolina Law graduates.

“Receiving this student loan relief not only has helped me financially, but is a reminder that my law school community is proud of me and wants to recognize the work I do,” said Cheslyne Brighthop, a 2012 graduate and Richland County public defender. “This fund motivates me to give back because it is so evident that my school still cares about me.”

“We stress the need for public interest work during law school, especially through the efforts of our Pro Bono Program, and it just seems natural that we support those who make it their career,” said Robinson. “The lawyers who seek to help these clients are the real heroes of the justice system and deserve every bit of extra help we can provide them.”

To learn more about donating to or benefiting from this fund, visit law.sc.edu/pro_bono.

Resolving ‘a dire issue’

UofSCLaw alumni’s efforts bring about criminal record reform

Lonnie Doles, left, and Jack Cohoon.

It’s a chicken and egg problem: How can you pay child support if you can’t get a job, and how can you get a job if you have a criminal record for failure to pay child support? 

This problem has plagued thousands of divorced parents every year in South Carolina; parents who fall behind on their payments for any number of reasons and are then arrested and incarcerated for it. Local law enforcement agencies report these arrests to the S.C. Law Enforcement Division, which in turn codes them as a criminal offense. Now saddled with a criminal record, these parents find it even more difficult to obtain a job and make their payments, causing the cycle to repeat itself.

But the real problem is that arrests for failure to pay are not usually criminal. Rather, they are a civil matter and therefore, should not show up on an individual’s criminal history. 

“We’ve been treating people unfairly for a long time,” said 2014 alumnus Lonnie Doles, a former attorney with S.C. Legal Services who now works for McLeod Fraser & Cone LLC. “Obviously, if you have to pay child support and you’re incarcerated, it’s kind of hard to keep a job. Being given an erroneous criminal record on top of it makes it that much harder to even get one.” 

Doles first started delving into this issue shortly after graduation, when he was hired by SCLS through a fellowship from AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works. As an Employment Opportunity Fellow, he was charged with providing legal assistance to remove barriers to employment. 

“The people who come and talk to me want to support their family. No one wants to let their children go without,” he said. 

Doles and Jack Cohoon, a 2006 alumnus and head of the SCLS Employment Unit, sought the opinion of the S.C. attorney general, who stated that failure to pay child support is a civil matter and should not appear as a criminal record. 

“We thought we had resolved the matter at that point on a systemic basis,” said Cohoon. But then a client approached SCLS for help, and after running a background check, a sole criminal record came back: failure to pay child support; clear evidence that the issue had not been resolved. 

So together with SCLS senior litigator Kirby Mitchell, Doles and Cohoon took the matter to the Supreme Court of South Carolina, filing a Petition for Original Jurisdiction. While the petition was ultimately denied, the filing did prompt SLED this past spring to change its policy and stop collecting and reporting civil child support nonpayment on its SLED CATCH criminal record histories. 

It also authorized the removal and modification of civil contempt CDR codes, the electronic codes used by arresting agencies to designate the reason for arresting an individual. This change ensures that any future attempt by an arresting agency to upload a civil nonsupport record will be flagged and removed from the SLED criminal record database. 

Additionally, the litigation prompted SLED to reform its training policy regarding the submission of criminal history information by arresting agencies. SLED is now generating and distributing new policy information to all of its S.C. criminal justice partners. 

“This was a dire issue that needed to be addressed,” said Cohoon. “It’s a big win for criminal record reform in South Carolina and will help thousands of South Carolinians who have experienced this kind of arrest to regain employment more easily and support their children.” 

“The main thing in family court, or anytime there is a child involved, is what is in the best interest of the child. It’s not in the best interest of any child to lock up their parent when they truly can’t pay for good reason,” Doles said. “We just want to see people be able to get back to work and help themselves.”

The end of zero tolerance

Derek Black’s book “Ending Zero Tolerance”

Maintaining classroom discipline is important, but so is maintaining student civil rights. 

According to Carolina law professor Derek Black, public education’s current hardline approach to the former is a threat to the latter— and then some. In fact, as Black argues in his new book “Ending Zero Tolerance,” the rush to suspend or expel students without considering offenses on a case-by-case basis derives from, and feeds into, “an irrational discipline system” affecting everything from student success to eventual incarceration. 

Combining legal analysis with narratives of zero tolerance run amok — think students being expelled for bringing nail clippers to school, or even just drawing pictures of weapons — “Ending Zero Tolerance” is intended to add to the scholarly conversation as well as provide a resource for lay audiences, particularly parents, teachers and administrators. 

“The more deeply I looked into the issue, the more I realized that the courts haven’t really taken the issue seriously,” Black says. “Courts take school funding seriously, they take segregation seriously, they take other civil rights issues seriously, but courts have not typically taken discipline seriously.” 

Right now, Black says, school districts and school administrators operate more or less free from oversight by the courts. And while the courts don’t dictate school policy, a wholesale abdication of legal authority on issues of classroom discipline leads, at best, to disciplinary inconsistency and, at worst, to abuse of power. 

“Courts will be very clear — it’s first and foremost the job of educators to come up with these policies. It’s not the court’s job to figure out if students should or shouldn’t be disciplined. There’s always going to be deference there,” says Black. “The problem is that in recognizing that educators have a better sense of these things, the courts have simply not bothered to look at what’s happening. Once no one’s looking over your shoulder, you’re free to do all sorts of stuff.” 

For Black, whose prior research has focused largely on issues relating to desegregation, school funding and equality of educational opportunity, the new book represents for him a foray into a new area of scholarship. What ties it all together, though, is a larger interest in issues of civil rights. 

“There’s been a groundswell of community disgruntlement with discipline for a good decade or more, particularly calling on the civil rights community, but the civil rights community has traditionally looked at bigger issues,” Black explains. “I’m sort of giving something to that community.” 

He also wants to give something to the students themselves, whose educational opportunities are affected by the culture of zero tolerance. Indeed, part of Black’s thesis hinges on the idea, supported by research, that removing students from the classroom for what are often minor infractions not only impedes that student’s education but also adversely effects the educational opportunities of other students in that class or that school. 

“The social science has come a long way since the last time these issues were addressed by the Supreme Court,” he says. “We shouldn’t be so cynical about the courts placing some limits on what the school can do. It’s worth revisiting.”