Alumni gift creates new scholarship fund

A new scholarship fund at the KU School of Law will provide support to law students from diverse backgrounds.

Nathaniel Davis, L’76, has established the Nathaniel and Floydie Crawford-Davis Memorial Law Scholarship with a $50,000 gift to KU Endowment. Davis named the scholarship after his parents, who were public school teachers in Greene County, Alabama.

“I established the scholarship fund as a way to honor the memory of my parents by providing financial assistance to minority students seeking a legal education,” Davis said.

Davis graduated from KU Law in January 1976, attending two summer sessions to earn his J.D. early. He also completed academic requirements for the Master of Public Administration program. Davis started his career in private industry before joining the Parole and Community Services Division of the California Department of Corrections. He served in roles including state training director, chief of the Audit Division, and parole administrator before retiring in 2004.

Davis earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University in 1966. Before enrolling at KU Law, he served in the U.S. Army, and worked as a social worker and parole agent in California. When he decided to apply to law school, he reached out to campuses across the country.

“I made several inquiries to schools regarding possible minority recruitment programs. The University of Kansas offered the support that enabled me to attend law school,” Davis said.

“I give to KU Law because KU Law gave so much to me. I am grateful for the legal education that has been an asset both professionally and personally,” he said.

Make a gift

— By Margaret Hair

KJLPP Spotlight: Professor Jennifer Schmidt, L’94

Celebrating its 30th Year in Publication, the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy reflects on the public policy careers of alumni

With great pride, the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy (KJLPP) celebrates our 30th year in publication. Since our founding in 1990, our singular aim has been to promote analytical and provocative articles through contemporary discourse on judicial decisions; legislation; and other legal and social issues. Thirty years of publication is no small task and the consistency of our goals and personality is due to the tremendous efforts of the preceding 29 Journal volumes.

Given the type of staff members we attract as a public policy journal, we have seen Journal alumni go on to have amazing and interesting public policy careers. Throughout the academic year, we will take a look at several of the public policy careers Journal alumni have pursued after departing Green Hall.

Our first spotlight is on KU Law Professor Jennifer Schmidt. During her time as a KU Law student, Professor Schmidt was a staff editor and the managing editor for Volumes II & III, respectively. After graduating law school in 1994, Professor Schmidt went on to have a successful career in Washington, D.C. and Kansas. In our interview, Professor Schmidt reflects on her public policy career. Please enjoy.

Professor Jennifer Schmidt, L’94

KJLPP: What drew you to be on the Journal?

Schmidt: The people drew me to the Journal. When I was in law school, Journal and Law Review held separate write-on competitions. At the Journal write-on info session, the incoming editors were interesting, enthusiastic and smart. They made the Journal not just a prestigious place to be, but a welcoming place to be. I wanted and needed that. Journal was an easy first choice and a place I wanted to spend my time. I did not even try to write-on to Law Review.


KJLPP: How did public policy play a part in your career after law school?

Schmidt: My career has centered on public policy both before and after law school. My Editor-in-Chief, Don Lee, and I first became friends working in Senator Bob Dole’s Capitol Hill office before law school. Working for Sen. Dole in Washington, D.C., was both of our first jobs out of undergrad. We remained friends while at KU Law and ultimately shared an office as the senior management on the Journal our third year.

After law school, I went on to serve as counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Courts, as senior counsel to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and as chief of staff to the Speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives. I also hosted and produced “Ask Your Legislator,” a statewide current events television show on Kansas Public Television. Ultimately, I ended up teaching law and public policy at KU Law.

KJLPP: How has your public policy experiences influenced your work as a Professor?

Schmidt: Among other courses and duties, I teach the Public Policy Practicum, the Legislative Simulation and have the great joy of guiding students who are interested in working in policy, politics, government and nonprofits — many of whom are Journal students.

While on the KU Law faculty, I have had the opportunity to build and direct the Sixth Semester in Washington, D.C. Program — a law school program that places KU Law 3Ls in Washington, D.C. and allows them to live, work and learn during their final semester. The purpose of the program is to give students a running start on careers in Washington.

My great hope for the program is that it gives KU Law students equal footing for Congressional, federal government and national nonprofit jobs with law students from D.C.-based and East Coast law schools. I also hope that it ultimately increases the number and volume of policymaking voices from Kansas, other Midwestern states, and KU School of Law in our nation’s capital. It is important that our life experiences and priorities are represented.

KJLPP: What did and do you value most about the Journal?

Schmidt: The Journal — the friends, the work, the Symposia, producing the excellent product — was the centerpiece and a highlight of my law school experience.

Now, being a professor gives me a broader perspective of the Journal than I had as a law student. The Journal is an important asset to KU Law, our students, Kansas, and the country. We all benefit from having so many bright students who are interested in public policy and choose to spend their time and talents producing this great publication.

Justice Carol Beier retires from Kansas Supreme Court

Justice Carol A. Beier, L’85, recently retired from the Kansas Supreme Court after serving on the high court for 17 years. Photo courtesy of the Kansas Supreme Court.

After a 20-year judicial career, Kansas Supreme Court Justice Carol A. Beier retired on Sept. 18.

Beier, L’85, served on the Kansas Supreme Court for 17 years. Previously, she was a judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals for 3.5 years.

“I will be ever grateful for the opportunities I have been given to spend so much of my legal career in service to my home state and its citizens,” Beier said. “Twenty years and thousands of cases since my children helped me put on my robe for the first time, I will pack it away with pride. This is possible because I can bear personal witness to the good faith and daily striving of our Kansas courts to be and remain fair and impartial guardians of the rule of law and the rights of all.”

Beier was the first female graduate of KU Law to serve on the Kansas Supreme Court and the third woman appointed to the high court. In 2012, she was named to the KU Women’s Hall of Fame.

“It’s lovely to be someone who is helping to blaze a trail for other women,” Beier said. “I hope that there are lots of future Kansas Supreme Court justices who are female alums of KU Law.”

In addition to her work on cases, Beier had many administrative duties. She served as a departmental justice for six judicial districts and was the court’s liaison for several particular areas of the court’s supervision.

“I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people at the Kansas Supreme Court – folks who have become lifelong friends,” Beier said.

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Carol A. Beier, L’85, participates in a Q&A session with law students at the University of Kansas on April 1, 2019. Beier and her colleagues on the Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments at KU later that day. This was the court’s first visit to Lawrence in its 158-year history. Photo by Andy White/KU Marketing Communications.

Background

Beier is originally from Kansas City, Kansas. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1981 and with a Juris Doctor in 1985. Beier also earned an LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2004.

Prior to her judicial career, Beier was a partner at Foulston & Siefkin law firm in Wichita. She also worked in private practice in Washington, D.C.; served as a staff attorney at the National Women’s Law Center; and clerked for the late Judge James K. Logan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

She taught at KU Law during the 1989-90 academic year at the request of former Dean Michael Davis.

“I had the good fortune to teach for a year at KU Law, shortly after I came back to Kansas,” Beier said. “I loved my year teaching at KU. It was very fun.”

While at Green Hall, Beier managed the Defender Project – now called the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies – with former KU Law Professor Kim Dayton. She also taught an appellate clinic, Gender in the Law Seminar and Advanced Torts.

“I loved running the Defender Project,” Beier said. “It was like having a small law firm of my own.”

Former Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, L’82, and Justice Carol A. Beier, L’85, listen to oral arguments in a special session held at the University of Kansas on April 1, 2019. This was the court’s first visit to Lawrence in its 158-year history. Photo by Andy White/KU Marketing Communications.

Service

Beier has been actively involved with the legal community for many years. She was a founding member of the Kansas Women Attorneys Association in 1994.

“The Kansas Women Attorneys Association has continued to grow and strengthen over the years,” Beier said. “I’m very proud of my early and frequent involvement with it.”

She has also served as the District 10 Director of the National Association of Women Judges. While living in Wichita, she was the president of the Wichita Women Attorneys Association and involved with the Wichita Bar Association.

Beier has remained loyally involved with KU Law throughout her legal and judicial career. She has served on the law school’s Board of Governors for 20 years, including a year as president of the organization.  

Beier received the law school’s highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award, in 2013. The award celebrates graduates for their professional achievements, contributions to the legal field and service to their communities and the university.

Plans for the future

After more than 35 years of public service, Beier is looking forward to retirement. She plans to spend time with her family and travel.

Beier is grateful to have spent the majority of her legal career in service to Kansans. She encourages fellow public servants to consider following in her footsteps.

“I hope that many of my fellow capable and dedicated lawyers who revere the rule of law, those who want to preserve reason and civil discourse, those who know that the elusive perfection of our union takes constancy and care from all of us – will consider taking a chance on becoming my successor,” Beier said. “Our system of justice needs them.”

— By Ashley Golledge

Law professor, alumni teach Legal Ethics CLE to more than 1,500 attorneys in six months

Professor Michael H. Hoeflich

Michael H. Hoeflich has taught Legal Ethics Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs to more than 1,500 attorneys in the past six months. Hoeflich is the John H. & John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Kansas School of Law.

Hoeflich taught the CLE programs virtually in conjunction with Joseph, Hollander & Craft LLC (JHC) partners Christopher Joseph, L’00, and Diane Bellquist, L’02.

“As a result of the pandemic, it became increasingly difficult to put on in-person CLE programs, so I approached Chris Joseph and suggested that we start a series of free online programs,” Hoeflich said. “We have been delighted at the strong positive response those programs have received.”

Since April, more than 1,500 attorneys have participated in the free CLE programs taught by Hoeflich, Joseph and Bellquist. For each CLE program, JHC produces a Legal Ethics and Malpractice Reporter newsletter.

CLE program topics and host organizations included:

  • “The History of Ethics and Comparing Modern Rules,” April 15, 2020, Greater Kansas City Society of Healthcare Attorneys (GKCSHA)
  • “Legal Ethics & Trial Publicity,” April 30, 2020, Joseph, Hollander & Craft LLC
  • “Tech Tips in a Cyber World,” May 28, 2020, Joseph, Hollander & Craft LLC
  • “The History of Ethics & Comparing Modern Rules,” July 17, 2020, Kansas Women Attorneys Association
  • “Assisting or Counseling Client Fraud or Criminal Activity: ABA Formal Ethics Opinion 491,” July 22, 2020, Joseph, Hollander & Craft LLC

On Sept. 23, Hoeflich will present a CLE program on “Representing Cannabis Industry Clients: Ethical Pitfalls” with JHC attorneys Christopher McHugh, L’00, and Andrew Goodwin. The program has been approved for 1 hour of Ethics CLE in Kansas and Missouri. To register, visit the JHC event web page.

Hoeflich joined the KU Law faculty in 1994. He served as dean from 1994 to 2000. He previously served as the director of the M.S. in Homeland Security: Law & Policy degree program as well.

— By Ashley Golledge

Raj Bhala selected for Department of State speaker program

Law professor also honored in ’50 Kansans You Should Know’

A University of Kansas law professor will offer expertise on a variety of trade issues through the U.S. Speaker Program.

Professor Raj Bhala
Raj Bhala, Brenneisen Distinguished Professor

Raj Bhala, the Brenneisen Distinguished Professor at the KU School of Law, teaches international and comparative law courses, and is among the world’s foremost authorities in international trade law. He was asked to join the program because of his scholarship, teaching and experience in areas including international trade law, Islamic law, and India, and on cross-cutting, vital issues of law and policy concerning China. His insights from his work at the KU School of Law in International Law and Literature also may help advance our nation’s public diplomacy goals.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the U.S. Speaker Program makes available distinguished expertise to overseas groups in partnership with American embassies around the world. As the U.S. Speaker Program’s Fact Sheet indicates, the program “recruits dynamic American experts to engage international audiences on topics of strategic importance to the United States.” 

“It is a great honor, and very humbling, to be asked by the State Department to provide impactful presentations to key audiences around the world on some of the major issues of our time,” Bhala said. “I look forward to this responsibility, serving as a two-way Ambassador between my fantastic students here at KU Law and those important audiences, and to gaining insights for my scholarly publications and sharing them overseas.”

Presentations are both in-person and remote via tools such as Zoom, covering “topics of strategic importance to the United States,” according to the program’s fact sheet. Audiences include public and private sector officials, academics, students and the media.

The U.S. Speaker Program Department conducts approximately 650 programs annually consisting of workshops, lectures, seminars and consultations. These events not only help “share ideas and information,” but also “build and sustain relationships with foreign audiences,” according to the program description.

’50 Kansans You Should Know’

Raj was also recently honored as one of Ingram’s Magazine’s “50 Kansans You Should Know.” Now in its 10th year, “50 Kansans You Should Know” recognizes Kansas area residents “for their over-sized contributions to business success, civic engagement, philanthropic zeal and shared interest in moving their communities forward.”

Raj was recognized for a teaching style that “brings to his students a blend of insight, experience, rhetoric and oratory (laced with references to Shakespeare) that helps them break down barriers erected by cultures, religions, economic systems and political structures,” according to the article.

Bhala joined the KU Law faculty in 2003. He teaches courses including Advanced International Trade Law, International Law and Literature, and Islamic Law (Sharī‘a). Bhala is a senior advisor for Dentons U.S. LLP and writes a monthly “On Point” column for BloombergQuint (Mumbai). He is frequently asked by media outlets to share expertise on international trade law, with recent appearances in Fortune, PolitiFact, the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s Marketplace.

In 2017, Ingram’s Magazine selected his wife, Dr. Kara Tan Bhala, who earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at KU in 2009, as one of the “50 Kansans You Should Know,” making Raj and Kara among the first KU Law couples to receive the award.

— By Margaret Hair

Gaining practical experience through KU Law Legal Corps

Second-year law student Natasha Veenis

This summer, I had the great opportunity to intern for the Kansas Legal Services (KLS) in their Wichita, Kansas office. KLS is a non-profit organization that gives legal aid to the most vulnerable Kansans. Since you can only receive a court-appointed attorney for criminal cases, the KLS organization provides legal aid for a vast array of civil cases.

At KLS, I interned under Danielle Saunders and focused primarily on domestic, family, juvenile, adoption and social security legal issues. During my time at KLS, I was able to participate in the weekly Protection From Abuse (PFA) docket, attend virtual and in-person court hearings, draft and edit legal documents, communicate with clients, and strengthen my research and writing skills. In addition, toward the end of my internship my time was mainly spent on assisting with the upcoming 3-day trial in August. Preparation for trial involved drafting and sending interrogatories, creating deposition notebooks, attending depositions, issuing business record subpoenas, attending the mandatory settlement conference, attending the pretrial conference hearing, creating trial notebooks, creating demonstrative exhibits for trial, and attending the trial from start to finish. This trial not only gave me an opportunity to see civil procedure applied, but also gave me a firsthand look at issues of evidence and criminal procedure, classes I will take this coming fall. Overall, my internship was packed with lots of learning and applying my 1L legal knowledge and research skills towards cases.

Before this summer, I was not sure what type of law I wanted to practice. But this internship revealed to me that my passion rests in advocating for those who feel voiceless and striving to give them the justice they deserve. Particularly, I am interested in pursuing a career in family law with a focus on domestic and sexual assault victims because I loved working on cases where I felt I was really making a difference.

Lastly, this internship definitely taught me valuable professional skills and life lessons that will help me going forward. One of the professional skills being that organization is key to having a balanced work-life schedule. If you have an organized plan for each case, you are far less likely to feel overwhelmed with your cases. Another professional skill being that kindness towards clerks, attorneys, judges, and clients in this profession can make a world of difference and will never be forgotten. One life lesson gained is to celebrate the small victories, because in the end they all contribute to the big victories!

— By 2L Natasha Veenis

KU Law student participates in 1L LCLD Scholars Program

Rising 2L Natalie Nelson participated in the 1L LCLD Scholars program this summer.

Natalie Nelson participated in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD)’s annual Scholars Program this summer. The program is designed to expand the number of opportunities available to diverse first-year law students.

Nelson was the first in her family to go to law school. Upon graduation, Nelson looks forward to becoming a first-generation female attorney.

Students from over 100 law schools across the nation participate in the program and work with attorneys from Fortune 500 legal departments and Am Law 350 law firms.

“I chose to apply for the 1L LCLD Scholars program because I believed in the vision of the LCLD network and felt that, if given the opportunity, it would have a significant impact on my future career,” Nelson said.

LCLD scholars participate in a summer internship and attend a Scholars Summit event. Nelson was a summer associate at Stinson LLP in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I have been working with truly incredible people and have enjoyed every second of it,” Nelson said. “I am not sure I could ask for more.”

Due to COVID-19, the in-person 1L LCLD Scholars Summit in Atlanta was canceled. Instead, four virtual meetings about career development were held throughout the summer. The program adapted by hosting smaller Zoom sessions and creating a LinkedIn page for students to continue to network with one another and the supporting organizations.

Rising 2L Natalie Nelson participates in KU Law’s Legal Career Options Day event in 2019. Photo by Andy White/KU Marketing Communications.

Through the 1L LCLD Scholars program, Nelson has gained valuable legal experiences.

“I hope to continue learning how to communicate and network with others, especially in an online environment,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that the most rewarding part of the program was meeting like-minded law students, attorneys and staff.

“It is amazing how much you learn just by creating a space for conversation and being willing to have a growth mindset,” Nelson said. “Although this sounds simple, and perhaps cliché, it really has been rewarding even just listening.”

Nelson is originally from Highland Village, Texas. She earned an undergraduate degree in medical humanities from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

At KU Law, Nelson is the vice president of the Sports Law Society and a member of the Federal Bar Association. In the fall, she will be a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar and teaching assistant for lawyering skills classes.

Nelson ultimately plans to use her law degree to pursue a career in transactional law, but she is keeping her mind open to new opportunities that might come her way.

— By Ashley Golledge

Judge retires after 27 years on the bench

Judge Steve Leben, L’82, retired after a 27-year judicial career. Photo courtesy of Judge Steve Leben.

Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Steve Leben, L’82, retired his judicial robes and gavel on June 26.

Leben’s judicial career spanned 27 years. Most recently, he served as a judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals for the past 13 years. Previously, he was a district judge at the Johnson County District Court for 14 years.

Prior to his judicial career, Leben worked in private practice for 11 years.

“I didn’t really plan to be a judge, but that was the primary part of my career,” Leben said. “I wouldn’t want to change that for anything.”

In addition to his time on the bench, Leben has taught at the University of Kansas School of Law as an adjunct faculty member since 2007. At KU Law, he has taught Legislation & Statutory Interpretation for 13 years and taught Evidence for three years.

“I’ve taught part-time at KU since 2007,” Leben said. “I’ve enjoyed that thoroughly.”

Leben is originally from El Dorado, Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1978 and with a Juris Doctor in 1982.


Judge Steve Leben received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts in 2014 for his work on improving fairness in U.S. courts. Leben (right) is pictured with his wife, Dr. Ann Warner, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. Photo courtesy of Judge Steve Leben.

Judicial fairness

Throughout his judicial career, Leben used his platform to help promote judicial fairness throughout the country. He co-authored a white paper on procedural fairness for the American Judges Association in 2007 with Minnesota trial judge Kevin Burke. The pair have made presentations in 20 states to more than 2,500 state and federal judges.

He received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts in 2014 for his work on improving fairness in U.S. courts. Leben also co-founded proceduralfairness.org, a website devoted to procedural fairness in courts.

“I think that work has been significant in helping judges focus on something that can really improve the experience that people have with their justice system,” Leben said.

He also edited a national quarterly publication for judges, Court Review, for 20 years.

“Court Review let me shape the national agenda of what other judges were thinking about,” Leben said. “I helped focus judges nationally on making sure people feel fairly treated as they go through the court system.”

Judge Steve Leben received the Robert K. “Weary” Award from the Kansas Bar Foundation in 2019. Leben co-founded a CLE program called Ethics For Good in 2000 with Mark Hinderks, L’82, and former KU Law Professor Stan Davis. Photo courtesy of the Kansas Bar Foundation.

Professional service, scholarship

Leben served as president of the American Judges Association from 2006 to 2007 and has held several roles in the Kansas Bar Association and American Bar Association. Leben has taught more than 100 accredited Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs.

Twenty-one years ago, Leben co-founded a CLE program called Ethics For Good with Mark Hinderks, L’82, and former KU Law Professor Stan Davis. They received the Robert K. “Weary” Award in 2019, which recognizes lawyers or law firms for exemplary service and commitment to the goals of the Kansas Bar Foundation. The program has raised more than $750,000 in donations to various nonprofit organizations.

Leben has received many national service awards throughout his career, including the Distinguished Service Award from the National Center for State Courts in 2003. From the American Judges Association, he received the Harold V. Froehlich Award for Judicial Courage in 2016 and the Chief Justice Richard W. Holmes Award of Merit in 2017.

He has also published 15 law review articles in the areas of procedural justice, administrative law, civil procedure, family law and evidence. His scholarly publications have been cited by state and federal courts in Kansas and in more than 75 law journal articles by other authors.

Judge Steve Leben speaks with students at a KU Law event in 2019. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Plans for the future

After 27 years on the bench, Leben is ready to start the next chapter of his life. In the fall, he will teach full-time at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law as a visiting professor. Leben will teach Criminal Law, Appellate Advocacy and Legislation.

“I am very much excited about doing teaching full-time,” Leben said. “I don’t believe I would have the opportunity to teach full-time at any law school if I hadn’t had the opportunity to hone my teaching skills at KU. I am very grateful to Dean [Stephen] Mazza and his predecessors for giving me that chance.”

In addition to his appointment at UMKC Law, Leben intends to continue teaching a summer Evidence class at KU Law for the foreseeable future.

— By Ashley Golledge

KU Law alumna dedicates career to public service, advocacy

Emily Warr, L’14
Photo by Joy Asico / Asico Photo.

Since graduating from KU Law in 2014, Emily Warr has dedicated her legal career to public service and advocacy. Warr has provided legal representation for low-income clients as a public defender, worked as a contract attorney on a large hospital settlement and helped develop innovative projects in public interest law.

She spent her first year out of law school working as an independent contract attorney at MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, Washington. She simultaneously worked as an overflow and conflicts attorney at the Mason County Public Defender’s Office in Mason County, Washington. Then, she spent two years as a public defender at the Yakima County Department of Assigned Counsel in Yakima County, Washington.

After three years of working in public defense, Warr moved cross-country in 2018 to become a portfolio manager at Equal Justice Works in Washington, D.C. At Equal Justice Works, Warr managed Fellows working in public interest law on topics, such as immigration, indigenous peoples’ rights, prison reform, prisoners’ rights and environmental justice. She also helped grow the Fellowship program and expanded the Midwest fundraising base.

Most recently, Warr enrolled as a doctorate student in the Post-Baccalaureate Doctor of Nursing Program at Columbia University in New York. She began studies in psychiatric mental health in June 2020.

Warr’s time as a public defender inspired her to reflect on the criminal system, return to school and pursue a career as a nurse practitioner in psychiatric mental health.

“I really loved being a public defender, and it was a lot of the issues that I care the most about represented in the criminal system,” Warr said. “Part of my caseload was working on mental health and substance use cases in civil courts and criminal courts. I was on the psychiatric unit a lot, which made me think about becoming a nurse practitioner in psychiatric mental health.”

Upon her completion of the 2.5 year program at Columbia University, Warr hopes to start restorative justice practices as alternatives to incarceration. She hopes to establish Yakima, Washington as one of many places around the country turning to restorative justice as an alternative to prosecution and possible imprisonment.

Warr – who is a Washington native – has a special connection to the city of Yakima. She was born there and has family that still live there. She grew up nearby in Puyallup.

“There are some places doing restorative justice practices in New York and in Washington, D.C., but I don’t know if there are any in Yakima,” she said. “If I could start them in Yakima, I would. I feel like I know I can dedicate my time there.”

Warr earned an undergraduate degree in sociology from Seattle Pacific University in 2009. While in college, Warr sparked a passion for public service and advocacy.

“I came out as a lesbian when I was in undergrad. I was at a university that was not very accepting of that,” Warr said. “A small group of us came out during our time there, banded together and created our own group that the campus would not approve of. I feel like that impacted my desire to be an advocate going forward.”

A few years after undergrad, Warr decided to pursue a law degree at KU because, “it felt like a place where I could get really good experience in areas that I wanted to work in.” While at KU Law, Warr was the president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. She was also president of OUTLaws & Allies, a student organization for LGBTQ students and their allies that seeks to educate the community at large about the issues and concerns specific to the LGBTQ community.

“There were multiple things that I knew I was interested in doing as an attorney around reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights,” Warr said. “I felt like Kansas was really an epicenter of some of the things that were going on in this country, especially at that time in reproductive rights.”

From the KU Law faculty and administration, Warr cultivated her interest and love of public interest law. “The faculty and staff at KU made all the difference,” she said.

Professor Emeritus Sandra McKenzie, who retired in 2015, was a dedicated and highly regarded teacher. Warr said McKenzie was known for her accessibility to students and open-door policy.

“She was a big advocate for OUTLaws & Allies and always had us over for Thanksgiving. She showed us how to be an advocate, whether you’re practicing in public interest or not,” Warr said. “She was wonderful and very supportive.”

Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Leah Terranova was also impactful to Warr’s time in Green Hall.

“Leah was a really big public interest advocate. She tried to help me navigate finding internships and connected me with people,” Warr said. “She was very helpful and got me to think outside the box.”

— By Ashley Golledge

Graduate Profile: Brett Sitts, L’20

Brett Sitts
Brett Sitts, L’20

Active student took on law school with an open mind

For students considering law school, Brett Sitts has this advice: “Keep an open mind and stay true to yourself.”

That’s how Sitts, who graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in May, tackled his time in Green Hall.

One of his favorite experiences at KU Law was clerking for the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies. Sitts doesn’t plan to practice criminal law, but he gained valuable writing and speaking skills from supervising attorney Alice Craig, and “learned so much from the experience,” he said.

“I was grateful to have an exceptional partner in Terra Brockman – we made a lot of progress in our cases,” Sitts said. “We worked well together and the experience taught the ever important idea that two minds are better than one.”

Sitts, who is from McPherson, earned his undergraduate degree in communication studies and political science from Kansas State University. As the first person in his family to attend a graduate program, Sitts wanted to go to a law school that was supportive of first-generation professionals.

“Law school is hard in general for anyone no matter the circumstances, but having no prior knowledge in my family about what to except was frightening,” he said. “I felt at ease when I visited KU Law – I knew the law school would believe in me and help me grow throughout my three years.”

Sitts was active in several student organizations during his time at KU Law. With the Student Bar Association, he served as class president for his 1L and 3L classes, and executive board treasurer during his 2L year. He also competed in the Texas Young Lawyer Association’s National Mock Trial Competition; participated in the International Law Society; and was student appointee to the law school’s Academic Affairs Committee.

Through simulation courses and clinics, Sitts built a skill set that prepared him for his first job out of law school.

“During my 2L and 3L years I learned how to: draft contracts, take depositions, litigate a full trial, draft pleadings, and negotiate a multi-million dollar sale. Learning these skills in a low-stakes environment is invaluable,” he said.

Brett Sitts participates in a Deposition Skills simulation course with Jasmin Townsend.
Brett Sitts, left, L’20, and Jasmin Townsend, L’20, participate in the Deposition Skills simulation course in January 2020. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

From the KU Law faculty, Sitts gained practical skills and career advice. Professor Lumen Mulligan helped Sitts transform his writing abilities and understand contract law and the Uniform Commercial Code. Mulligan also offered advice, “whether it be law school-related or not,” Sitts said. Taking Dean Stephen Mazza’s course on Federal Income Taxation was also impactful.

“The class is arguably the hardest class I have ever taken in my life, but I know the IRS code now thanks to Dean Mazza. I recommend everyone take it because let’s be honest, tax is involved with everything,” Sitts said. “Additionally, Dean Mazza was always willing to make a call to someone when I was looking for employment. He was always there for me, and I really appreciate it.”

After taking the Kansas bar exam in July, Sitts plans to start work at Hite, Fanning, and Honeyman LLP in Wichita as an associate attorney.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the eighth is a series highlighting just a few of the exceptional members of the Class of 2020. Check out previous stories about Denise Dantzler, Cara Beck, Terra Brockman, Harrison Rosenthal, Sasha Raab, Tara Mollhagen Shepherd and TJ Blake.