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WVU College of Law team advances to international competition

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A team of West Virginia University College of Law students is advancing to the international rounds of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition following a successful second-place finish at the Mid-Atlantic Regionals held Feb. 20-23 in Washington, D.C.

They will return to Washington, D.C., April 6-12 to compete in the White & Case International Rounds of the 2014 Jessup competition.

The Jessup Moot Court Competition, which is in its 55th year, simulates disputes before the International Court of Justice and draws participants from more than 550 law schools spanning over 80 countries. This year, the competition is focusing on issues of maritime law.

The WVU Law team of Carrie Waybright, Katie Wilson, Eduardo Villacorta, Hilary Bright and Nicole Annan won all of its preliminary rounds. In the final round, WVU was narrowly edged out by the University of Virginia in a split 2-1 decision. The WVU team is coached by law professor Jim Friedberg and associate deans Gregory Bowman and Amber Brugnoli.

On their way to the final round, the WVU Law team took first place for best brief, and Wilson was named the competition’s third best oralist.

WV Supreme Court to hear cases and judge competition at WVU College of Law

THE WV SUPREME COURT HEARINGS AT WVU LAW HAVE BEEN CANCELED DUE TO THE WEATHER & TRAVEL CONDITIONS.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —Justices from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia will convene at the West Virginia University College of Law on Tuesday, March 4 to hear four cases and later judge the final round of the college’s George C. Baker Moot Court Competition.

The hearings will begin at 10 a.m. in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom. Admission is free and open to the public. Seating begins at 9 a.m.

Members of the West Virginia Supreme Court are Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis, Justice Margaret Workman, Justice Menis Ketchum II, Justice Brent D. Benjamin, and Justice Allen H. Loughry II. Davis, Workman, and Ketchum are WVU Law graduates.

Starnes embarks on internship at U.N. court in The Hague

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Third-year West Virginia University College of Law student Meghan Starnes has embarked on her latest adventure for personal, academic and professional growth. This spring, she is working at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands.

The ICTY is a United Nations court of law dealing with war crimes that took place during the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Established in 1993, the ICTY has changed the landscape of international humanitarian law and established precedent for conflict resolution and post-conflict justice.

Starnes will be working for the ICTY Appeals Division of the Office of the Prosecutor, gaining valuable experience in international law.

“I’ll be handling the technicalities and legalities of some of the cases that have already gone through and are now in the appeals process,” said Starnes, who is pursuing her J.D./Executive Master of Business Administration through WVU Law’s joint degree program.

The prestigious internship aligns with Starnes’ personal interests and career goals.

“International human rights law is kind of my thing,” she said. “It’s what I really enjoy learning about, it’s what I really enjoy writing about, and it’s what I enjoy studying.”

WVU Law will explore Buffalo Creek Disaster on Feb. 25 & 26

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—On the 42nd anniversary of one of the worst tragedies in coal mining history, the West Virginia University College of Law is bringing together original attorneys and other experts to explore the legal and environmental legacy of the infamous Buffalo Creek Disaster.

On February 26, 1972, there was no warning when the Pittston Company dam burst at Buffalo Creek in Logan County, W.Va. It sent a 130-million-gallon, 30-foot wall of water, coal sludge and waste materials through the Buffalo Valley, killing 125 people and injuring more than 1,000. Nearly 1,500 houses and mobile homes were destroyed or damaged, leaving 4,000 people homeless.

The Buffalo Creek Symposium at the WVU College of Law starts on Tuesday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom with a screening of two documentaries on the disaster by filmmaker and community media activist Mimi Pickering.

The symposium continues on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 9 a.m. in Lugar Courtroom with opening remarks by Joyce E. McConnell, dean of the WVU College of Law, and a video message by Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

WVU Law National Energy Conference to focus on EPA power plant regulations

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—The third annual national energy conference at West Virginia University will focus on new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Featuring experts from government, the private sector and environmental organizations, the conference will explore how these new laws will be navigated and affect the power industry, states and communities.

The conference, sponsored by the law firm Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, takes place on Monday, Feb. 24 at the Erickson Alumni Center. It is being hosted by the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at the WVU College of Law.

U.S. Senator Joseph Manchin III (D-W.Va.) will deliver the opening keynote address. A member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Manchin recently sponsored legislation that addresses the EPA’s regulation of power plant emissions.

Op-Ed: The Removability of Bieber-Fever

The following Op-Ed by WVU Law students Katherine O. Wilson & Dustin S. Blankenship appeared in The Dominion Post (Morgantown) on Feb. 9, 2014. Dustin and Katherine are student attorneys with the West Virginia University Immigration Law Clinic

Importantly, under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) a non-citizen may be removable (commonly referred to as deportable) from the U.S. for committing certain criminal offenses. These crimes range the gamut, from aggravated felonies like rape, sexual abuse of a minor, and theft, to misdemeanor offenses under state law, or any regulation relating to possession of a controlled substance. In FY 2011, the United States deported 188,382 people on criminal grounds alone. While Mr. Bieber has not been convicted (he posted bond), the elephant in the room still stands: if we strip away the celebrity, forget the fame, should Justin Bieber [or a similarly situated individual] be deported?

The answer is not so obvious- it depends on how the crime of DUI is classified. The Supreme Court of the United States has determined that a non-citizen convicted of DUI under a state statute that does not define the offense to include a mens rea element- a “guilty mind”-and only allows for negligent conduct, may not be deported. Leocal v. Ashcoft, 543 U.S. 1 (2004). Leocal is especially effective here because the underlying statute was the very same Florida law that Mr. Bieber is charged with violating. Lucky for him, the Florida statute does not contain such a mens rea element, per Leocal; thus Bieber, as well as similarly situated individuals, would likely not be removed for violating this statute.

However, he is not out of hot water yet. Under the INA, a crime of moral turpitude may also result in removal. Recall, Bieber is currently facing DUI, resisting arrest, and driving on a suspended license charges. However, he also is under investigation for misuse of a police escort, egging a house and causing $20,000 in property damage, as well as previous (now abandoned) charges for speeding and spitting on a police officer in L.A. Under some jurisdictions,[i] resisting arrest constitutes a crime of moral turpitude under laws similar to those of Florida. Additionally, if a second crime of moral turpitude were to be introduced (and a conviction found for both), Bieber would certainly be removable.

Obama Nominates WVU Law Grad to US District Court Bench

WASHINGTON, DC – On Feb. 5, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Judge Carlos Eduardo Mendoza to serve on the United States District Courts. Mendoza is a 1997 graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law. 

Mendoza has served as a Circuit Judge in the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Florida since 2011. Prior to his appointment to the bench, Judge Mendoza served as an Assistant City Attorney for St. Augustine, Florida from 2008 to 2011. From 2005 to 2008, he was an Assistant State Attorney in the Seventh Judicial Circuit of Florida. He began his legal career by serving as a Judge Advocate in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the United States Navy from 1997 to 2005. He earned his J.D. in 1997 from West Virginia University College of Law, his B.A. magna cum laude in 1993 from West Virginia University, and his A.A. in 1991 from Central Florida Community College. Judge Mendoza enlisted in the United States Marine Corps upon graduating from high school and participated in combat operations during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

The full news release detailing Mendoza’s nomination can be found here.

News release: The White House Office of the Press Secretary (edited)

West Virginia Law Review Symposium to focus on prescription drug abuse

MORGANTOWN, W.Va—Prescription drug abuse will be the focus of the 2014 West Virginia Law Review Symposium on Thursday, Feb. 13 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Marlyn E. Lugar Courtroom at the West Virginia University College of Law. Admissions is free and open to the public. 

The symposium will feature a select group of experts examining a range of topics including policy, liability, and sentencing guidelines related to prescription drug abuse in West Virginia and beyond. Senator Joseph Manchin (D-W.Va.) is scheduled to deliver the keynote address. 

“What we’re trying to do is take a look at what the law is doing well and what it’s not doing well so we can start a discussion about who we need to work with and what we need to do to handle it better,” said Imad Matini, editor-in-chief of the West Virginia Law Review.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) classifies prescription drug abuse as a national epidemic. According to the CDC, 1 in 20 people age 12 or older in the United States have used prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons.

West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources says deaths from prescription drug overdoses in the state rose 218% between 2002 and 2010, from 291 to 927.

Manchin helped introduce the Safe Prescribing Act of 2013, a piece of federal legislation that aims to reclassify drugs containing hydrocodone in an attempt to restrict access to certain drugs and ultimately combat and prevent prescription drug abuse. The bill is currently in committee, but the Federal Drug Administration heeded Manchin and the bill’s other sponsors when it recommended the reclassification of hydrocodone to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in October 2013.

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