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C-K Law Group Newsletter, Spring 2023
Remembering Professor Vivien Gross
Most of you know we recently lost our beloved colleague, mentor, and esteemed professor, Vivien Gross. Vivien joined the Chicago-Kent faculty in January of 1979, and immediately established herself as an irreplaceable member of our family. She managed and grew the Legal and Judicial Externships program into one of the most successful and well-known of its kind, with both judges and employers now offering our students an extraordinary range of opportunities that not only earn them law school credit but also practical legal experience. Vivien was a highly respected expert on legal ethics, and taught Professional Responsibility to hundreds and hundreds of students over the years.
But Vivien was best known for her unyielding dedication to students. She spent the large part of every day meeting with them to discuss their externship experiences, professional aspirations, and even personal issues. She regularly advocated their interests to the administration at large, and was always a voice of both reason and justice.
Vivien’s unending patience, wise advice, and focused devotion to training future lawyers in ethical advocacy impacted countless students and immeasurably assisted them with their journeys into our profession. We will miss her passion, enthusiasm and laughter, forever.
Clinical Professors in the News
Professor Bill Reynolds, Employee Benefits Clinic
In a 110-page decision filed on March 16, 2023, Judge Elaine Bucklo of the Northern District of Illinois ruled in favor of a client of the Employee Benefits Clinic, supervised by Professor William Reynolds. The decision ordered payment of over $500,000 of past-due payments under his ERISA insurance plan and reinstated his claim for monthly disability benefits. The plaintiff, a litigation attorney who previously worked for Mayer Brown, became unable to work due to a degenerative spinal impairment. The Court found that the insurer’s claim termination was unsupported by the medical and vocational evidence and relied on an improper interpretation of the ERISA plan language. The decision was reported on by both Bloomberg Law and Law360.
Professor Jamie Franklin, Civil Litigation Clinic
C.H. Robinson Account Managers Set to Receive $4.3 Million in Wage Class Action Settlement
Jamie Franklin, who supervises the Civil Litigation Clinic, represents plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. A federal judge has preliminarily approved a class action settlement for $4.3 million.
The deal ending the wage-and-hour dispute will give the 96 members of the certified class more than $29,000 apiece on average. The class members worked in the freight logistics company’s carrier sales division in Chicago. Judge Ronald A. Guzmán certified the class in 2020 and denied CHRW’s summary judgment bid in 2021, teeing up a trial. The court reassigned the case to newly-appointed Judge Nancy L. Maldonado in October 2022.
The deal provides class members with a “very meaningful benefit,” especially considering “the risk of continued litigation, an upcoming trial, and almost certainly, a motion for decertification and appeals,” the motion said.
You can view the full article but you need a subscription to Bloomberg to view it.
Professor Kling and Students Night Out!
Professor Richard Kling, who supervises the Criminal Defense Clinic, took his students out for a night on the town to see blues singer, and client, Louisiana Al. A great time was had by all!
Nicholas Gargano, 3L. One of my favorite experiences at CK this far has been taking the Immigration Clinic with Prof. Carmona. This Spring 2023 was my third semester in the clinic, and without a doubt my most memorable. This January, we were set for an individual hearing in front of the Executive Office for Immigration review in which we were going to present our client’s application for asylum status in the United States. Our client is from Mexico, and typically an astonishingly low number of asylum applications from Mexican nationals are approved. Prof. Carmona explained to our client that the odds the judge would approve the application were extremely low and that we could move to close the case, but our client was full of determination and decided to go ahead and present the application in court. Sure enough, on February 1, the judge granted our Mexican asylum application! I prepared and presented the direct examination questions to our client in court, and it is an experience I will never forget. Our client can look forward to a happy life with legal status in our country now.
Monica Whitten, 3L. Monica is currently enrolled in the intensive clinic and intensive clinic seminar (Tax Practice) – a combined 12 credit-hour commitment. Here is a little bit of information about this excellent student, in her own words below, along with her thoughts on why the clinic experience at Chicago-Kent is uniquely beneficial:
As a third-year nontraditional student at Chicago-Kent College of Law, my professional background includes business, finance, and project management roles primarily in the commercial real estate industry.
In Fall 2021, I enrolled in the Tax Clinic to fulfill the experiential requirements for the Business Law Certificate, without prior experience or any particular interest in tax law. To my surprise, I found tax law to be endlessly fascinating; four semesters later I am still working with Professor Jon Decatorsmith in the Tax Clinic. Tax law is a complex, essential, and unique area of law that impacts virtually everyone. Working with our Tax Clinic team to develop comprehensive solutions to complex problems has been immensely rewarding and the highlight of my law school experience.
After passing the July 2023 Illinois Bar Exam, I hope to remain in Chicago while pursuing my interests in business law, international tax strategy and compliance, tax-exempt organization formation and compliance, and tax policy.
I believe that participating in a legal clinic at Chicago-Kent is an exceptional opportunity for law students to develop practical legal skills, gain real-world experience, and build valuable professional connections.
Clinic students acquire practical legal skills that are essential for their future success. Apart from mastering deadline-sensitive time management and professional communication, students also gain hands-on experience in practice area-specific legal research, analysis, and drafting. The clinic program allows students to develop and refine critical skills such as interviewing and counseling, negotiating, and, for those interested in litigation, trial advocacy.
The clinical experience allows students to apply theoretical concepts and legal principles learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios. This bridge between theory and practice provides students with a better understanding of how the law works in practice.
Through collaboration with clinical professors, practicing attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals, students in the clinic can expand their professional network, which is invaluable while pursuing internships and future job opportunities. Furthermore, in a clinic setting students work closely with fellow classmates, fostering enduring peer relationships that will prove advantageous throughout their careers.
Spotlight on legal externships: Catherine Rovegno
Catherine externed at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office over multiple semesters. She worked alongside the Assistant State’s Attorneys in the felony courtrooms, giving her eye-opening insight into how the criminal justice system operates in a large city, and helping her confirm that she wants to pursue a career in criminal prosecution:
Externing for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office gave me many opportunities to experience the work that Assistant State’s Attorneys do every day in court and out of court. I was able to aid the Assistant State’s Attorneys with their day-to-day work and with preparing for hearings and trials. In court, I third chaired a felony jury trial, performed a direct examination of a witness during a preliminary hearing, conducted a direct examination of a witness in a felony bench trial, participated in bond hearings, and arraigned defendants. One of the most meaningful experiences I gained from my externship was the opportunity to advocate for victims of sexual assault. During my externship, I was given the opportunity to read stipulations (which are agreements between the prosecutors and the defense attorneys) into the record during a felony bench trial in which the defendant was charged with predatory criminal sexual assault and other crimes against children. The defendant was ultimately found guilty of the charges by the judge. By reading the stipulations into the record, I was a part of the team of prosecutors who helped the victims of sexual assault get justice! It was incredible to be able to advocate for these victims.
C-K Law Group Newsletter, Fall 2022
Clinical Professors in the News
Professor Jamie Franklin, who supervises the Civil Litigation Clinic, is representing a contractor who was attacked verbally with racial slurs by a Berwyn city worker while attempting to carry out a job in Berwyn. The plaintiff is suing the city worker and the City of Berwyn and its mayor for their attempted cover-up of the incident.
Professor Victoria Carmona, who runs the Immigration Clinic, was interviewed by LX News NBC about how undocumented immigrants impact America. You can view the interview here: https://www.lx.com/money/how-undocumented-immigrants-impact-america/58966/
The Employee Benefit Claims Clinic, headed by Professor William Reynolds, focuses on benefit claims made under employer-sponsored health, disability, life, and accidental death policies. The clinic will provide an introduction to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and applicable state law. Students will have the opportunity to work on benefit claims disputes in both the internal appeals process and in litigation.
The Estate Planning, Probate and Transactional Law Clinic headed by Professor Deadra Woods Stokes provides legal services to clients in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate, Business and Real Estate Transactions. Students enrolled in the clinic will have the opportunity to draft estate planning documents including wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other directive documentation. The Clinic’s probate case matters will allow students to participate in client intake and drafting of petitions, as well as court preparation and appearance. Students interested in transactional law will be provided the opportunity to assist consumers and small business owners with business and real estate related contracts and related issues.
Trial Experience for Clinic Students
The Unstoppable Chicago-Kent Clinic Team
By Ed Messmer, 3L
The start of the fall semester saw the Criminal Defense Clinic team, under the supervision of Professor Richard Kling, score a huge victory in the federal trial of Darryl C. Darryl C. was charged with illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and was facing a minimum of 15 years under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). He had been observed via street monitor with a gun underneath his clothing. Police were sent over to investigate which instigated a three-minute foot chase. A gunshot went off during the pursuit; however, Darryl C. had no weapon on his person when he was arrested. Police later recovered a gun from the backyard near where Darryl C. had fled but found no fingerprints, DNA, or gunshot residue.
Due to this case being tried in federal court, the government was required to show that the gun in question was both the specific gun possessed by Darryl C. and had crossed state lines. The defense team argued that despite the firearm and gunshot being caught on camera, no direct evidence existed linking Darryl C. to the specific gun that was recovered during the subsequent police search. The not-guilty verdict returned by the jury represented the culmination of nine months of hard work. As a clinic student working on this case since January, I was fortunate enough to occupy second chair of the defense team during the trial. It was an unbelievable learning experience and I thought I would recap by briefly summarizing three lessons which I learned.
1) Always be courteous. The weeks leading up to the court date, along with the trial itself, saw countless instances where issues would have to be dealt with and resolved by communication between the two opposing parties. Everything from establishing pretrial stipulations, participating in the jury’s voir dire questioning, agreeing upon jury instructions, and dealing with objections during the trial were made easier by having cordial relations with the prosecution team. Prof. Kling set the example by treating everyone with professionalism and courtesy. The old adage that “you get more flies with honey than with vinegar” proved true repeatedly and we were able to secure more optimal outcomes than we could have otherwise expected (or deserved). This would greatly aid our overall defense in a tight trial where we needed every extra advantage we could gain.
2) Prep your witnesses. The prosecution was highly skilled, professional, and seemed very confident in their case. They certainly had reason to be, with the police chase and gunshot caught on seven different police body-cams along with Darryl C. talking about possessing a gun recorded on three different jailhouse phone calls. However, Prof. Kling would upend the government’s case with our cross-examination questions that seemed to catch many of their witnesses off guard. Indeed, it was the testimony of certain government witnesses which really helped us to seal the victory.
3) Roll with the punches. Even after nine months of preparation and review, there were still several unexpected moments and situations requiring improvisation. This could be seen by the trial lasting more than a week despite the government initially predicting that it would only last three days. Along the way there were audio and visual technical issues, COVID-19 outbreak scares, a medical emergency suffered by the defendant, and other unanticipated moments. The best example was a seemingly last-ditch effort by the Government to create courtroom reenactment of Darryl C.’s flight. This demonstration was clearly unplanned with no prior notice given. We could have objected on the grounds of both its late admission and that it would not be an accurate representation of the events in question. We had a quick discussion amongst our defense team and decided not to object. We reasoned that the demonstration would seem desperate to the jury and would ultimately backfire on them. It did. He was found Not Guilty by the jury.
There were many more lessons that I could have chosen from the trial, as participating up close and personal was the definite highlight of my Chicago-Kent education. Many thanks to Professor Richard Kling and the Criminal Defense Clinic, along with all my student colleagues and their valuable assistance, help, support, and courtside-seat cheering.
Student Highlight – Sally Salman
I am currently a third-year Chicago-Kent student, and my goal is to become an international tax attorney. I have worked in the tax clinic under Professor Jon Decatorsmith for three semesters. I find the work truly valuable for gaining real-world experience in the tax field. The clinic is hands-on and allows us students to get a glimpse of actual work we would be doing after graduation. I enjoy researching tax procedures and regulations, organizing spreadsheets, and corresponding with clients. Outside of the tax clinic, I had the opportunity to intern at the IRS this summer. I wanted to see the other side of tax law than what we did in the clinic, representing individual taxpayers. It was amazing getting a full picture from both sides of a tax-related controversy. Outside of the clinic, I am the secretary of the Tax Law Society, an ambassador of BARBRI, and a member of the First-Generation Law Society. Along with tax, I have interests in American foreign policy, Middle Eastern history, and geography, which I hope to use as background for international tax.
C-K Law Group Newsletter, Spring 2022
Clinical Professors in the News
Professor Victoria Carmona, who supervises the Immigration Clinic, is featured in an article about Indian migrants who cross the U.S. Border from Canada and the lengthy immigration proceedings and other challenges they face.
Professor Jamie Franklin, who supervises the Civil Litigation Clinic, represents a putative class of United Airlines employees who were promised by the president of the company that if they retired early, and a better early retirement program was offered within three years, they would be paid the better offer. After the pandemic began, United sought to offload employees but then failed to honor its promise, refusing to pay the difference. The case is pending in the federal district court for the Northern District of Illinois.
ADR Program News
The National Jurist’s preLaw Magazine has designated that Chicago-Kent’s ADR program will be listed for the third year in a row in their Top Schools Honor Roll for Alternative Dispute Resolution Law in the Spring 2022 issue.
For students who aspire to become litigators or mediators, Chicago-Kent’s Certificate Program in Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (LADR) combines trial skills training, negotiation and mediation within a rigorous clinical curriculum. The clinical education piece of this innovative program is based in the C-K Law Group of Chicago-Kent, the school’s acclaimed in-house, fee-generating law firm, which works directly with actual clients on criminal defense, civil rights, employment discrimination, family, health, and tax cases. Approximately thirty students are admitted to the program each year.
In the mediation phase of the program, students attend a 40 hour training with the Center for Conflict Resolution and become certified mediators. They then mediate live cases at area courthouses in matters involving contracts, torts, small claims and landlord-tenant disputes under the supervision of Professor Pamela Kentra.
Afreen Mohiuddin is a second-year Chicago-Kent student with aspirations to become an international tax attorney. Afreen has worked in the tax clinic for three semesters, and says, "It has been an incredible experience. My favorite part of the tax clinic is how much hands-on training you get researching, drafting documents, and meeting clients. Tax is a much more diverse field than it gets credit for, and Professor Decatorsmith introduces you to a very wide scope of cases so you can tailor your work to your interests." Asked about the cases she has worked on, Afreen says, "They can get pretty crazy--I've met clients with incredible stories, and sometimes just keeping track of the facts is half the battle. It's a lot of fun!" Outside of the clinic, Afreen is a member of the Law Review, Moot Court Honor Society, Honors Scholars, Tax Law Society, and Muslim Law Student Association. Along with tax, she has interests in immigration and international human rights law, which she hopes to incorporate into her career in the future.
Devin Ross, a 2L, is excited to work in civil litigation after she graduates from Chicago-Kent. One of her main goals is to use her law degree to support her community. She has done volunteer work throughout law school and focused her internships on public interest work. She hopes to either work in public interest or have a strong pro bono practice at a firm one day.
She chose the civil litigation clinic to gain practical experience that would carry over into many different areas of law.
“The work I’ve been doing with the civil litigation clinic has been a great experience and widely applicable. I’ve interviewed potential clients, done legal research, written pleadings and am currently writing a response to a motion to dismiss. This is all experience I’ll be able to take with me and apply to whatever area of law I end up choosing when I graduate.”
Her favorite part of working in the civil litigation clinic is doing intake and speaking to potential new clients.
“I’ve learned so much from listening to people’s stories and evaluating their legal claims with the clinic. The discussions we have in the clinic sessions about the how real-life experiences translate into claims, and what meets certain legal criteria is one of the most practical skills I’ve been able to grow in law school. All litigators need to know how to pick which cases to take on, and Professor Franklin has really helped us nail down the strengths and weaknesses of each case that comes our way.”
Nick is a three-time participant in the Judicial Externship Program and is currently doing a SLFAP externship at Dickinson Wright. Nick externed with the following Judges: Honorable Eve M. Reilly, Circuit Court of Cook County, Chancery Division; Honorable Ronald F. Bartkowicz, Circuit Court of Cook County, Law Division; and the Honorable Heather K. McShain, Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
Externships are meant to help students grow their legal skills and discover what they may (or may not) want to do after law school. In what way did these externships affect you / your career?
From the beginning of law school, I knew I wanted to gain experience that would allow me to see first-hand how a courtroom works and how judicial decisions are made. The various judicial externships I completed throughout law school have provided a solid foundation into the intricacies of litigation that are learned outside of the classroom. Working as an extern in both state and federal court strengthened my interest in commercial litigation and the diversity of my Judges’ dockets allowed opportunities to work on a variety of cases.
What recommendations or advice would you give to students contemplating similar externships?
I would definitely recommend every law student to apply to some form of externship during their law school career. Both judicial and legal externships provided me with exceptional training in legal research and writing through consistent drafting assignments and feedback. Working as a judicial extern also allows for the opportunity to work alongside other law students, judicial clerks, and extremely brilliant judges. On the flip side, working as a legal extern provided a glimpse of what working at a big law firm is like. As a legal extern at Dickinson Wright, I was able to apply the skills I had learned researching for judges to the various projects I was assigned in the firm’s commercial litigation group. It has also been great to get to see what work attorneys do every day and to develop my work products through various assignments.
Whether you intend to go into litigation or transactional work after law school, or even if you are undecided, I would highly recommend applying to Chicago-Kent’s Judicial Externship or Legal Externship programs.
Do you have any (non-confidential) memorable experiences you’d like to share from your externships?
One of my favorite parts of working as a judicial extern was being able to watch judges in action, both inside the courtroom and in their chambers. I had the opportunity to watch oral argument, whether it be motions on Zoom or cross-examination objections during an in-person trial, and then hear the Judge speak openly and candidly about the various arguments. I was able to have an active part in the cases I was assigned to research and draft suggested orders for the Judge and was able to voice my opinion on how the court should rule. I would have to say that my favorite experience as a judicial extern was being able to sit in and watch Judge McShain’s first in-person jury trial since the beginning of the pandemic during the fall of 2021. With courts being online for the better part of two years, it was an incredible experience to be able to research various issues for a case for my Judge and then see the same issues argued by both sides in the courtroom.
Law Clerk joins the Immigration Clinic
Rocio Moledo joined the C-K Law Group as a law clerk with the Immigration Clinic this April 2022. Rocio hails from Argentina, where she is a licensed attorney. Rocio graduated from the University of La Matanza in Buenos Aires with her law degree, including a certificate in family, criminal, and labor law.
Rocio will be assisting students in the Clinic alongside Professor Victoria Carmona on cases involving humanitarian and family based immigration, including assisting Spanish-speaking refugees and asylum seekers. Rocio will also work with Professor Carmona on creating comparative law coursework with respect to immigration laws in Latin America and the United States. Welcome Rocio!
It’s Official: the Workplace Will Never Be the Same and Not a Moment Too Soon!
Professor Richard Gonzalez, Plaintiffs Employment Law Clinic
It’s a shame it took the pandemic to finally induce American companies and workers to re-think the workplace experience, but all indications are that we have finally arrived at a fundamental and long-lasting change.
The proof is in the well-documented numbers of American workers who have quit or changed jobs in recent months and the reality that American workers are willing to trade salary for flexibility and a saner lifestyle.
Here at Chicago-Kent’s in-house legal clinic- C-K Law Group- faculty and students have been practicing employment law – and speaking with employees about their workplace experiences- for some 45 years. We spend many hours each week listening to employees decry their workplace experiences. From extremes such as sexual harassment and tyrannical bosses to the more basic day-to-day experiences that render working in America such an unpleasant experience, American workers seem to have finally had enough. We at the clinic have seen the rising intolerance of employees to put up with poor working environments and the phenomenon is transforming—and making even more interesting- the work that we and the students perform.
Our in-house clinic boasts two popular sections devoted to employee-side employment law. In addition, Chicago-Kent’s Law & the Workplace Institute and our certificate programs- particularly the “Workplace LADR” and Labor & Employment programs- have been a steady source of employment for Chicago-Kent students and alums in this expanding field of law.
Americans have always had a unique and singularly onerous workplace experience. Few employees elsewhere work the types of hours that are routinely expected of Americans. But the signs are clear that that is coming to an end. As Zip Recruiter CEO Ian Siegel recently noted “Millions have taken a look at their lives”, while observing that “Daily interaction jobs were already becoming unpopular” even before the pandemic forced American employers to take a serious look at what they were expecting of their employees. In recent weeks, media regularly reports on this phenomenon. One of the most recent examples is the January 23 Sunday New York Times feature “We’re Out of Here!”
The desperation of American employers is reflected in the share of Zip Recruiter postings that require “no prior experience” has jumped from 22.9% from just 12.8 percent in 2020. Those requiring a bachelor’s degree have dropped from 8.3% from 11.4% a year ago. And American workers have seemed to be enjoying declaring their freedom from workplace oppression on social media sites in recent months.
Meanwhile, employers who have sought to return to the workplace norms and requirements of pre-pandemic America are struggling with the worker resistance they have faced. The fact is that there is little reason that most jobs need to be performed inside a physical workplace under the watchful eye of supervisors. And while companies like to refer to “corporate culture” and “team building” as reasons to perpetuate our traditional system, the cold reality is that American workers waste prodigious amounts of time each work day. Putting aside the wasted and aggravating hours each week spent commuting, many have discovered exactly how relatively unproductive they were within the workplace. Sure, it is fun and there is much to be said for chatting with coworkers about last night’s Bulls game or their child’s science project. Human relationships are forged and strengthened. But aren’t there other avenues available to allow such efforts other than in a venue where the goal is maximum productivity?
In the Chicago legal community, many sole practitioners and small firms have abandoned offices altogether, finding that it is quick and easy to rent conference rooms for in-person client meetings or depositions. And one big-firm senior partner has confided that maybe it is time to stop maintaining mega-office spaces in pricey Loop buildings that sit largely empty, instead experimenting with smaller offices that lawyers and staff can reserve and share on an as-needed basis.
Well, now that we have solved this problem we next must tackle the issue of what to do with downtown. Perhaps places to live, shop, and be close to entertainment? Just a thought.