Category Archives: News & Achievements Archive

Drake Law School and the Iowa State Public Defender announce new Wrongful Convictions Clinic at Drake

Drake Law School and the Iowa State Public Defender are excited to announce a new collaboration creating a Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

The Wrongful Convictions Clinic at Drake Law School will begin in January 2021. The Clinic will be led by the State Public Defender’s Wrongful Convictions Division. Student attorneys in the clinic will represent individuals convicted of serious felony crimes in Iowa in post-conviction proceedings to establish their actual innocence. The Wrongful Convictions Division of the State Public Defender’s office was created by Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, LW ’09, during his tenure as State Public Defender in 2015.

State Public Defender Jeff Wright, LW ’06, explained that the Wrongful Convictions Division works closely with the Midwest Innocence Project, in Kansas City, MO, to identify, investigate, and litigate cases of individuals who are claiming factual innocence of the crimes for which they were convicted. “We are excited about this new alliance and all the possibilities which come with it. Not only will this collaboration greatly increase our capacity to review and investigate meritorious claims from Iowa inmates, but it will also help identify policies that contribute to wrongful convictions,” said State Public Defender Wright.

Students in the Clinic will assist in all aspects of assigned cases including reviewing trial transcripts and case files, visiting incarcerated clients, interviewing witnesses, collecting records, consulting subject matter experts, conducting legal research, drafting pleadings, and attending court hearings.

Erica Nichols Cook, LW ’09, Director of the Wrongful Convictions Division, will supervise the Clinic. Nichols Cook previously served as an adjunct professor of law at Southern Illinois University, teaching about wrongful convictions and supervising an externship program with the Illinois Innocence Project. Prior to that, she was an assistant appellate defender, Cook County public defender, and a staff attorney with the Illinois Innocence Project.

“I am excited to return to the Clinic where I learned how to be a lawyer and an advocate,” said Nichols Cook. “Through this new collaboration, we will more effectively represent the wrongfully convicted in Iowa and teach new generations of lawyers in the criminal justice system how to identify and remedy wrongful convictions.”

As part of the new partnership, the state Wrongful Convictions Division will relocate to the Neal and Bea Smith Law Center at Drake. “Being on campus and a part of the dynamic learning environment at the clinic will empower students and clients alike,” Nichols Cook said.

“We are honored to be able to contribute to this important work through our new Clinic,” said Drake Law Dean Jerry Anderson. “Student efforts may lead to real reform in the criminal justice system and a path to justice for the wrongfully convicted. Along the way they will develop legal skills that they will carry with them wherever their future legal careers take them.”

— Theresa Howard, Law School

Drake Law School named a top law school for Criminal Law by PreLaw Magazine

Drake Law School earned a place on PreLaw Magazine’s list of top law schools for Criminal Law with an A- rating. Law schools were graded based on the breadth of their curricular offerings including concentrations, clinical programs, centers, externships, journals, student groups, certificates, and other offerings.

Drake Law offers students substantial opportunities to learn about and develop skills in the field of criminal law. With coursework ranging from prosecution and defense to scientific and expert evidence to global issues in criminal law, students can explore a range of subject areas. The Drake Criminal Defense and Juvenile Delinquency Clinics provide students hands-on experience representing indigent clients in court appearances, depositions, and negotiations. Since the ranking was completed, Drake has expanded its criminal law program even further with the introduction of a new Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

Students also gain practical experience through internships with offices such as the Polk County Prosecutor’s Office, Federal and State Public Defender, and U.S Attorney’s Office. The Law School offers a certificate in Prosecution and Defense which is specifically designed to prepare students for careers in criminal law.

Students interested in criminal justice reform can take advantage of unique opportunities through Drake’s Institute for Justice Reform and Innovation (IJRI). Advanced seminars cover a wide range of legal subjects like restorative justice, trial and jury innovations, and innocence projects. Students may also get involved as research assistant on some of the IRJI’s ongoing projects.

“Drake Law’s rich curriculum and extensive opportunities to gain real-world experience through clinical programs and internships prepare students to hit the ground running when they graduate,” said Jerry Anderson, dean of Drake Law School. “It is not uncommon for students in our criminal law program to conduct a jury trial before graduation. These experiences make them strong candidates for many different employment opportunities. As a result, we have recent graduates working as prosecutors or defense attorneys across the country, from Los Angeles to Cook County (Chicago) to the Bronx.”

— Theresa Howard, Law School

Drake Law team wins national environmental law and policy competition

The Drake Law School team of Bradley Adams and Katherine Leidahl won the inaugural Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University Environmental Law & Policy Hack Competition. This national competition is designed to orient students toward the development of creative and impactful environmental policy.

The competition required the submission of a written policy brief, detailing suggestions for the use of vegetative landscapes to combat and mitigate climate change. The Drake Law team’s subject was Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a municipality that has in recent years experienced an extraordinary number of weather events linked to climate change with critical consequences. Adams and Leidahl researched multiple levels of legal background constraints and consulted with a variety of officials and other stakeholders. After a preliminary round of judging based on the briefs, the finals required an oral presentation and defense of the policy recommendations.

The team was awarded a cash prize to be used to help implement the policy concept.

— Theresa Howard, Law School

Blue Magazine Fall 2020 issue debuts

The fall issue of Blue, the Drake University Alumni Insider, was published online and is available to read.

What’s Inside:

  • Meet seven alumni who are living the Drake mission
  • Read about the newly created John Dee Bright College at Drake University
  • Walk through a day in the life of Dr. Hijinio G. Carreon, AS’99, MercyOne Central Iowa’s chief medical officer
  • And more

— Alicia Chilton, University Communications and Marketing

Drake receives Campus Prevention Network Seal of Prevention

Drake has been named a recipient of the Campus Prevention Network (CPN) Seal of Prevention. Presented by EVERFI and Parchment, the CPN Seal of Prevention is awarded to institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to digital prevention programs tied to student safety, well-being, and inclusion. 

Each recipient of the CPN Seal of Prevention has taken action to create a safer, more inclusive campus through comprehensive, evidence-based digital prevention education on issues such as sexual assault, alcohol misuse, mental health, and discrimination.

“It is extremely exciting for Drake to be recognized for our continued commitment to prevention,” said Lynne Cornelius, Drake University violence prevention coordinator. “Drake has made it a priority to have all incoming students participate in a series of online trainings aimed at creating a safe and inclusive campus community. These trainings are foundational to building a shared understanding of the values we embrace at Drake and our community expectations.”

The criteria for the CPN Seal of Prevention is based on the Principles of Effective Prevention Programs published by Nation, et al. (2003). View a full list of the 2020 recipients of the CPN Seal of Prevention and more information on the awards.

Drake named a top law school in the nation for family and child law

Drake University Law School earned an A+ ranking for family and child law in preLaw magazine, placing Drake among the top four law schools in the nation for this field. This is the third year in a row that Drake Law received recognition for excellence in family law.

The publication based the rankings on law schools’ offerings in family law, including clinical programs, certificates, externships, and courses. The results are reported in preLaw’s Back to School 2020 issue.

The issue highlights an effort led by 2020 alumna Kerrigan Owens and Drake Law’s Director of Clinics and Experiential Education Suzie Pritchett, which established a pop-up clinic for young mothers at the Young Women’s Resource Center in Des Moines. The nonprofit organization supports, educates, and advocates for girls and young women ages 10 to 21. The clinic, staffed entirely by Drake Law students, performed intake services which included issues such as custody and domestic violence, and then forwarded the cases to the Polk County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project.

The Law School’s curricular and clinical programs are the foundation for projects like the pop-up clinic. “Students perform practical exercises in their substantive classes, and our close connections with the bar, the courts, the legislature, and non-profit groups enrich the student experience and enable them to connect the classroom with the real world,” said Professor Andrea Charlow. Charlow teaches courses in family law and alternative dispute resolution at Drake Law.

The Joan and Lyle Middleton Center for Children’s Rights works to advance children’s rights and improve the child welfare system. Students can work in the Children’s Rights Clinic providing legal services to children and families in child abuse and juvenile delinquency cases under the supervision of experienced faculty. Students can also get involved in local, state, and national efforts to improve representation for children and the systems that serve them through lobbying, research, and educational programming.

In addition to the Middleton Center, Drake Law students have opportunities to gain real-world experience in family law through the Law School’s Refugee Clinic, General Civil Practice Clinic, and Juvenile Delinquency Clinic.

Drake Law School offers internships for credit in areas including children’s rights, juvenile law, and disabilities rights. In addition, students can gain experience in competition teams such as the ABA Law Student Division Negotiations Team and on-campus organizations such as the Drake Association for Child Advocacy.

“I’m proud that Drake Law School offers many opportunities for students to make a difference in the important area of family law,” said Jerry Anderson, dean of Drake Law School. “This ranking by preLaw is further evidence of our mission to graduate complete professionals who are ready to serve their communities.”

— Theresa Howard, Law School

Leah Bishop Among 689 applicants to receive competitive CVS Health Minority Scholarship

Leah Bishop, second-year pharmacy student, was one of five pharmacy students in the nation among 689 applicants to receive a 2020–2021 CVS Health Minority Scholarship. Bishop will receive an $8,000 scholarship and national recognition. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy and CVS Health partner offer the annual scholarship program. The purpose of the scholarship is to reduce challenges and financial barriers that underrepresented minority students who are pursuing a PharmD degree face and to support them in caring for an increasingly diverse population of patients as part of a health care team.

“I am honored to have received this scholarship,” said Bishop. “Not only will it help with the financial burden pharmacy school can have, but it serves as an affirmation to me that I have chosen the right career. In the future, when I’m a pharmacist, I look forward to advocating for each of my patients to receive the same quality of care.”

Read more about Bishop and the CVS Health Minority Scholarship.

— Kaylyn Maher, College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

Voices of Drake: Leah Huizar, assistant professor of English

This Q&A is part of the story series Voices of Drake that highlights the diversity, ambition, and passion of the incredible people that make up our campus community. This week’s story is designed to celebrate and shine light on Latinx Heritage Month, Sept. 15–Oct. 15. It spotlights Leah Huizar, assistant professor of English.

Tell us about yourself.
I am a Mexican-American poet and writer originally from Southern California. Growing up, I was fortunate to be raised around a large family composed of not only my sisters and parents but also an extensive extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I love the cold waters of the Pacific Ocean and the great forests of my home state. Since moving away, I have lived on the East Coast, in the South, and now the Midwest. 

Tell us about your education. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
As an undergraduate, I was a double major in English and psychology. I also minored in biblical studies. Though I didn’t know it at the time, looking back, I see how these fields spoke to my longstanding interests in the forces that influence and regulate our lives. As an English major, my most transformative classes were on literary and critical theory. It was there that I first began to understand the ways in which systems and structures operate all around us—and how, through language and engagement, we can respond to them. After college, I went to Penn State for graduate school where I received my MFA.

How has your cultural heritage influenced the person are today/your views of the world/or your field of work?
As a poet, I most often write from the intersections of the personal and historic. What this has meant for me is that my Mexican-American identity shapes and motivates many of the kinds of questions I examine in my writing.

What creative projects are you working on right now or what have you been working on recently? What drew or draws you to this project?
My first book of poems was recently published by Noemi Press. It’s called Inland Empire and draws on the cultural and historic landscapes of the West Coast and the ways in which colonization, faith, and gendered injustices have shaped it. My current writing project takes on similar questions through an exploration of communication circuits. How do we make and share our voices? How are these obscured or suppressed in our wider culture?   

What kinds of courses do you teach? How do your courses connect to your writing life or fit within your broader academic vocation?
I teach poetry writing courses in the English department. I also have taught or will teach the Writing Seminar, US Latinx Literature, First Year Seminar, and Intro Women and Gender Studies. To me, each course is an opportunity to ask big questions of writing, of gender, and of ethnicity with really smart student scholars.

How do you hope students come to look at the world differently as a result of their work in your courses?
At every course level, and whether literature or poetry, my courses examine how we craft the world through language. Language is always high stakes and consequential. So, our ability to effectively, authentically, and persuasively use it is a dynamic kind of power to carry into the world. This is what we do as writers.

How long have you been at Drake? What is your favorite thing about working at Drake so far?
This is my second year at Drake! Among the many joys of working here, I am most impressed with Drake students. There are few things as wonderful as working with students who want to learn and are willing to stretch themselves intellectually.

What is your favorite thing about the Drake neighborhood?
I have really enjoyed visiting Mars Cafe for coffee and Lzaza Indo-Pak Cuisine for the chai tea served with lunch.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life and what lessons did that person teach you?
I’ve been fortunate to have had many brilliant women as mentors in my life. One influence has been my grandmother. She sees everything—an observer—and this is a central skill for a writer.

How do you like to spend your free-time? Tell us about your hobbies and interests.
Creativity is an important part of my life. In recent years, I’ve worked on bookmaking and letterpress printing. I collect antique printing presses which are big cast iron machines that work with metal or wood type. In the past, I’ve printed posters, booklets, and a chapbook of bilingual short stories.

This year is a year like no other. What advice would you like to give to a first-year student at Drake?
No doubt this year is challenging and yet I see students adapting and responding with hope and endurance. On a large scale, I see students rejecting injustice, inequity, and racism and defining the kinds of future they will accept from culture. It may be that students ought to advise the rest of us. If pressed, however, I would say please don’t hesitate to reach out to your professors when you need assistance. We want you to thrive!

Dean Ryan Wise honored by School Administrators of Iowa

On Sept. 16, Dean Ryan Wise was presented with a Friend of the Association award during the School Administrators of Iowa Representative Council meeting. This award is not given annually—the winner must be nominated by a member of the Representative Council and then be approved by the other Council members and the SAI staff. According to SAI, “This honor is bestowed on individuals who have given of themselves in special, unselfish ways to enhance education excellence in Iowa.” Congratulations, Ryan!

— Catherine Gillespie, School of Education

Professor and former Law School Dean Allan Vestal selected for prestigious Dwight D. Opperman Distinguished Professorship

The Law School is proud to announce the selection of former Dean Allan Vestal as a Dwight D. Opperman Distinguished Professor of Law. The Opperman Distinguished Professorship recognizes faculty who have demonstrated the highest level of teaching, scholarship, and service to the Law School, the University, and the profession.

Vestal joined Drake Law School in 2009 as dean and professor of law. He served as dean until 2014 when he returned to full-time teaching on the Law School faculty. Prior to joining Drake Law, Vestal served as dean and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, and professor and associate dean at Washington & Lee University School of Law. He began his career in private practice specializing in business and commercial transactions, regulated industries, and civil trials and appeals.

Vestal is an elected member of the American Law Institute, and has co-authored several books on business law topics. He has published numerous articles in law review journals including thirteen written in the last five years. His service includes several national-level committees and state advisory groups.

“Professor Vestal has consistently displayed the exemplary qualities the Opperman professorship requires, in the areas of scholarship, teaching and service,” said Drake Law School Dean Jerry Anderson. “We are delighted to honor him with this recognition of his long-standing dedication to the quality education of our students and the improvement of our legal system.”