April 24, 2009
Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers: Judge Bernard Friedman to convene federal court at Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus on May 13
Judge Bernard A. Friedman
United States District Judge Bernard A. Friedman will convene federal court at Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus, 2630 Featherstone Rd., on May 13, 2009 at 2 p.m., giving students a front-row seat to a motion call of civil and criminal cases pending on the court’s docket.
The event is being co-sponsored by the Federal Bar Association for the Eastern District of Michigan, and it will mark the grand opening of Cooley’s trial litigation complex in the school’s new 65,000-square-foot addition at Auburn Hills.
Judge Friedman has been helping law students see the law in action for nearly two decades, since 1990 when he first began holding court at Michigan’s law schools. He estimates that he has done this on nearly 50 occasions during that time, touching the education of hundreds of students.
“Preparation for practice is very important as part of a
student’s law school experience,” he said. “The students who sit in and observe these sessions actually see something about which they are studying, a summary judgment or a constitutional issue, for example, and they have an opportunity to see lawyers in action, actually practicing law.”
Judge Friedman goes beyond just giving students the opportunity to observe. He tries to make these sessions interactive, stopping after the lawyers in each case have finished their arguments and giving the students an opportunity to ask questions before he rules. In addition, after the session concludes, the students have the opportunity to discuss the cases with the court, the court staff, and the lawyers.
Cooley - Auburn Hills Professor Alan Gershel invited Judge Friedman to hold court at the school. The two have known each other for many years, during which Judge Friedman served as Chief Judge of the Eastern District and Professor Gershel served as the Chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District.
“Judge Friedman is a wonderful example and role model for our students, particularly in terms of his integrity, fairness, and civility, which is especially important to us at Cooley,” said Professor Gershel. In 2006, Cooley’s professionalism program was selected by the American Bar Association for its E. Smythe Gambrell Award, which nationally recognizes outstanding professionalism programs across the county.
Cooley - Auburn Hills Professor Lauren Rousseau, who is the chair of the school’s Civil Procedure Department, thinks that Judge Friedman’s motion call will be a tremendous learning opportunity for her students. “It can be difficult to grasp the importance of procedural rules, particularly their strategic aspects, when they are learned in an abstract classroom environment, and seeing the rules in action will breathe life and color into our study of the rules,” she said.
Cooley - Auburn Hills Student Bar Association President Anthony Vitucci, Jr. echoes this sentiment; “We’re honored to host Judge Friedman. As law students, we need to integrate knowledge, skills and ethics, and this is a great opportunity for us to see the law in action.”
Judge Friedman will be the first judge to hold court in Cooley’s new trial litigation complex, which includes a fully functioning trial courtroom that seats 60 students, plus four breakout practice rooms directly next door where students can practice their courtroom skills. One practice room was constructed so that it can serve as a secure jury deliberation room, and the school hopes to host short jury trials in the future that are presided over by local judges.
The school has invested approximately $270,000 in the most up-to-date courtroom technology, following its practice in Lansing and Grand Rapids. This includes real-time court reporting, a high-tech podium with multiple presentation features, and Crestron UPX-2 touch screens with built-in interactive applications that enable the lawyer, judge, or witness to annotate the presentation, which is then displayed to juror viewing screens and a 100-inch diagonal, high-definition projection screen.
Another unique feature is the high-definition cameras mounted in the courtroom, which are controlled from a fully equipped video production room. This allows DVD recording of the proceedings for later review and critique, and also allows proceedings to be broadcast in real time to similarly equipped facilities at Cooley’s Lansing and Grand Rapids campuses.
The school offers a wide array of trial skills and advanced trial skills courses, including Advanced Trial Practice – Technology, which familiarizes students with litigation support software, videoconferencing, electronic filing and brief submission, video depositions, and real-time court reporting. This course is taught by Cooley Adjunct Professor and Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Patrick Muscat and also covers the ethical pitfalls of electronic presentations.
All these courses are part of Cooley’s litigation concentration, which third-year students may elect. Because few legal disputes these days are actually tried to conclusion, this concentration includes a heavy emphasis on alternative dispute resolution, including mediation training and certification through an exclusive program with one of the state’s largest mediation provider, the Oakland Mediation Center.
Cooley - Auburn Hills Professor Lewis Langham directs the trial skills classes at the Auburn Hills campus, and he continues to litigate felony criminal cases on a pro bono basis for the Washtenaw County Public Defender Office, where Cooley has a long-standing public defender clinic. “Our new trial courtroom is so much like the real world that everyone can suspend reality during class, so that our mock trials become like real trials and our students leave us better prepared for the real world.”
Cooley also has a clinical litigation program with the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office, in which third-year students handle district court criminal cases under the supervision of assistant prosecuting attorneys. And Cooley - Auburn Hills Professor Lisa Halushka supervises a thriving mock trial competition program at the school.
John Nussbaumer, Professor and Associate Dean of Cooley’s Auburn Hills campus, is looking forward to the hands-on learning opportunities that will be available to students in the new litigation complex. “This is a perfect tie to Cooley’s mission of offering a practical, legal education,” he said.
Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the nation. Founded in 1972, it operates J.D. programs across Michigan in downtown Lansing, Auburn Hills and downtown Grand Rapids. Today, Cooley Law School has more than 13,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and also offers joint degree and master of laws programs. Cooley offers enrollment three times a year; in January, May and September. Additional information about Cooley can be found at cooley.edu.