UW Students Gain Experience From Law Professionals at Summer Trial Institute

August 24, 2012
Students at mock trial
University of Wyoming College of Law student Jeremy Gross from Gillette questions a witness during a mock hearing at the recent Summer Trial Institute at UW. Serving as prosecuting and defense attorneys, seated left to right, were UW students Marci Crank of Casper; Diego Cuenca from Valrico, Fla.; Shannon Rogers of Milwaukee, Wis.; and Abigail Lewis Fournier from Cheyenne. (UW Photo)

Coming into law school, some University of Wyoming students never considered becoming trial attorneys, but a rare chance to work closely with actual courtroom lawyers and judges has many of them thinking about trial work as a future legal profession.

Nearly 70 volunteer attorneys and judges, mostly from Wyoming, offered valuable instruction to 24 third-year UW College of Law students during the recent two-week Summer Trial Institute at UW. Actual courtroom reporters also attended the second annual event.

The volunteer group served as faculty members for one or two days each, and some gave a week of their time, says Steve Easton, UW College of Law dean. He adds that the institute is an intensive “boot camp” experience for the UW students, who learn what it takes to become successful trial attorneys.

The institute culminated with a mock trial, complete with a defendant and attorneys on both sides of a case. The trials were heard before a judge and volunteer jury panel.

“Our students worked, in some fashion, on the Summer Trial Institute from dawn until past midnight, pretty much every night. This is very similar to what they will later experience as actual trial lawyers,” Easton says.

He says the institute is a “fantastic way to teach trial advocacy.”

“Few law students across the nation gain the experience our UW Summer Trial Institute students receive -- learning from the best of the bench and bar, through direct interaction,” Easton says. “This is a great example of the university -- in this case, the College of Law -- interacting with the entire state of Wyoming. Though the Institute occurs in Laramie, it is very much a statewide program, with faculty and students from across the state.”

During the institute’s first week, UW law students attended sessions focusing on beneficial information about assorted parts of trial practice, such as direct and cross-examination of witnesses, opening statements and closing arguments. The lectures were followed by demonstrations in which faculty members showed students how they would approach these matters in trial, Easton says.

The student performances, and the outlines they prepared in advance, were critiqued by the volunteer faculty members.

During the institute’s final week, students prepared for two separate court cases. Each student was a member of a two-attorney team that tried a “bench trial” -- a trial with a judge, but no jury. On the final day of the institute, the students were part of different two-attorney teams that tried cases in front of mock juries. Six different jury trials -- some at the UW College of Law and others at the Albany County Courthouse -- were tried. A sitting or retired judge presided over each trial.

Easton emphasized the value added by the volunteer faculty members, noting that “this program would not be possible without the contributions of experts.”

“Each of them took time out of very busy schedules to travel to UW and share their expertise with our students. We are extremely grateful for their support of UW and our students,” he adds.

The Wyoming chapters of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL) co-sponsored the program.

“These are extremely prestigious organizations that one must be invited to join, and invitations go only to the best trial attorneys,” Easton says. “We work with the Wyoming ABOTA and ACTL leadership to identify the’ best of the best’ and invite them to serve as volunteer faculty members for our institute.”

Listed are the UW College of Law students, who participated in the trial institute, and hometowns:

Blanding, Utah -- Kendall Laws.

Bluffdon, S.C. -- Matthias Greene.

Casper -- Marci Crank.

Cheyenne -- Emily Harris; Kristina Kleist; and Abigail Lewis Fournier.

Chugiak, Alaska -- Melissa Bartley.

Douglas -- Shaina Case.

Elko, Nev. -- Matthew Pennell.

Fairbanks, Alaska -- Gregory Merdes.

Fort Collins, Colo. -- Ethan Doak.

Gillette -- Jeremy Gross.

Hulett -- Madison Brown.

Kearney, Neb. -- Sheila Gray.

Lander -- Jared Larsen.

Laramie -- Nathan Nicholas.

Loveland, Colo. -- Adria Schiel.

Lyman -- Kelby Scott.

Milwaukee, Wis. -- Shannon Rogers.

Rawlins -- Natasha Dirck.

Rock Springs -- Ashley Wing.

Sylacauga, Ala. -- Alan Dees.

Valrico, Fla. -- Diego Cuenca.

Wheatland -- Sean Larson.

Listed are volunteer attorneys, otherwise noted judges and court reporters, and their hometowns:

Anchorage, Alaska -- Lynda Limon and Herman Walker.

Casper -- Frank Chapman; Dick Day; Mark Gifford; Dallas Laird; Scott Ortiz; Weston Reeves; Judge Tom Sullins; Joe Vlastos; and Cameron Walker.

Cheyenne -- Jim Barrett; Judge William Beaman; Brad Cave; court reporter Jan Davis; Judge Michael Davis; Jim Fitzgerald; court reporter Tammy Fleming; Judge Nancy Freudenthal; Paul Hickey; Scott Homar; Ray Hunkins; Steve Kline; Diane Lozano; Terry Mackey; Judge Advocate General Sondra Nensala; Tom Nicholas; George Powers; court reporter Merissa Racine; Kelly Rankin; Bob Rose; Kent Rutledge; Robert Tiedeken; Nick Vassallo; and Richard Wolf.

Cody -- Brad Bonner.

Denver, Colo. -- Shawna Geiger; David Hersh; Qusair Mohamedbhai; Mike O’Donnell; Siddhartha Rathod; and Bill Trine.

Evanston -- Jim Phillips; Sharon Rose; and Tony Vehar.

Fairbanks, Alaska -- Ward Merdes.

Fort Collins, Colo. -- Larry Abrahamson.

Gillette -- court reporter Dwande LeMay.

Jackson -- Judge Nancy Guthrie; Becket Hinckley; Brad Mead; Kate Mead; court reporter Lance Oviatt; Jessica Rutzick; and Bryan Ulmer.

Laramie -- court reporter Gina Chavez; Tom Fleener; UW law Professor Joel Selig; Jason Tangeman.

Pinedale -- Judge Marvin Tyler.

Rapid City, S.D. -- Charles Abourezk.

Rawlins -- Fred Harrison; Tom Thompson; and Judge Wade Waldrip.

Rock Springs -- Dick Honaker.

Torrington -- Judge Keith Kautz.

For more information about the UW Summer Trial Institute, contact Easton at (307) 766-6416 or email seaston3@uwyo.edu.


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