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Pilot program at WVU College of Law puts student into the courts

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — An innovative program at the West Virginia University College of Law exposes students to real-world experiences in the court system while earning course credit.

Elizabeth Walker, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, is one of several female judges across the state who helped develop the summer externship program.

WV Supreme Court Justice Beth Walker

“We came up with this idea to expose students directly to the important work in state courts and to pair our state’s female judges with law students,” she said. “We were thrilled with the opportunity to work with the College of Law on this initiative and look forward to offering similar programs in the future.”  

Professor  Jessica Haught is the director of WVU Law’s Fitzsimmons Center for Litigation and Advocacy, which facilitated the externship program.

WVU Law professor Jessica Haught

“A goal of the Fitzsimmons Center is to enhance and increase opportunities for litigation and advocacy in the form of real world, practical experiential opportunities,” she said. “This new partnership and pilot program is exciting because there's really no better place to see litigation and advocacy in action than in court with sitting judges. The program and course also provide another opportunity for WVU Law students to support busy offices within the West Virginia court system.”

In summer 2021, six WVU Law students conducted externships with West Virginia circuit court judges.  

  • Cameron Kiner worked with Judge Tera Salango, 13th Judicial Circuit (Kanawha County).
  • Chad Webb worked with Judge Anita Harold Ashley, Fifth Judicial Circuit (Calhoun, Jackson, Mason, and Roane Counties).
  • Keri Shetler and Brandon Wasson split time in the 23rd Judicial Circuit with Judge Bridget Cohee (Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan Counties) and Judge Debra McLaughlin (Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson Counties),
  • Jack Swiney worked with Judge Phillip M. Stowers, 29th Judicial Circuit (Putnam County).
  • Jacob Stonecyphter worked with Steven L. Shaffer, 18th Judicial Circuit (Preston County).


Two other students, Meghan Claar and Aaron Scarr, were externs in the Administrative Office of the Courts in Charleston, West Virginia, where they helped with the development of the state’s new Intermediate Court of Appeals.

WVU Law students Meghan Claar and Aaron Scarr
Watch Meghan Claar and Aaron Scarr talk about their externship.

During her externship, Keri Shetler observed plea deals, learned to write court orders and was able to assist in a jury trial. 

WVU Law student Keri Shetler

“I feel grateful to have been able to extern with two female judges and observe how they handle their court proceedings,” Shelter said. “I chose to extern for Judges Cohee and McLaughlin because they both handle criminal cases as well as juvenile abuse cases. I tend to gravitate towards these types of cases because there's always a mental process behind a crime, and I like being able to explore and understand the thought process behind why a crime was committed.” 

-WVU-

 

 

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