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Professor Tanya Marsh talking on a panel with three others during the Future of Death Care in America symposium

Politics, Policies, and Price Lists: Unpacking The Future of Death Care in America Symposium

The death of a loved one is often a person’s first encounter with the funeral industry. Focused on funeral arrangements and grieving—rightfully so—families are often unaware that behind every encounter with a funeral provider lies a litany of politics and policies guiding everything, including required pricing disclosure.

While much of the policies and politics governing death care were designed to protect traditional burials and funeral homes, there is increasing concern that the expansion of death care offerings and flawed rules prevent funeral home directors from effectively operating their businesses.

On Friday, March 1, 2024, the Wake Forest Law Review and the Cremation Association of North America (CANA) hosted The Future of Death Care in America Symposium at Worrell Professional Center, home of Wake Forest Law, to discuss the politics and policies facing death care in America today. The Symposium was also live-streamed via Zoom.

Cemetery, funeral, and property law expert Tanya Marsh, associate dean of academic affairs and professor at Wake Forest Law, conceived of the Symposium with the goal of bringing together different death care perspectives for the first time. “I speak often with those in the funeral industry and those leading funeral reform efforts,” says Professor Marsh, who teaches the only Funeral and Cemetery Law course in the country. “And although these folks come from different perspectives, I think there is more common ground than most people believe.” Professor Marsh emphasized that the Symposium would not have been possible without the generous support of the Cremation Association of North America. “Barbara Kemmis and I came up with the idea for the Symposium a year ago,” Professor Marsh says, “and I’m so grateful for CANA’s support to make it a reality.”

While at most events like this panels would consist solely of professors from institutions, The Future of Death Care in America Symposium was different because few academics specialize in death care.

Instead, Professor Marsh, along with Wake Forest Law 3Ls Grace Genereaux and Gabby Korb, contacted influential reformers with their distinct perspectives, leaders in the death care industry, and a few death care academics to serve as panelists. 

The unique group of panelists also provided Professor Marsh with a unique teaching opportunity; she paired her students with the panelists to collaborate on an article centered around death care. The purpose was twofold: “Students had the opportunity to work with people in the real world on real-world legal issues and receive writing credit in a top law review,” Professor Marsh says.

The Symposium included a presentation delivered on abandoned cemeteries by Dr. Terry Brock from Wake Forest University’s Cultural Heritage & Archaeology Research Group (CHARG). The keynote speaker was funeral industry reform advocate Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, writer, and founder of the nonprofit The Order of the Good Death. It also included three panels: Regulating New Methods of Disposition, Licensing Funeral Directors, and Consumer Protection—The Future of the Funeral Rule. 

The final panel, Consumer Protection—The Future of The Funeral Rule, gave panelists a forum to talk about ways the Funeral Rule affects consumers. 

Funeral providers are mandated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to abide by the Funeral Rule, which requires funeral providers to give consumers written price lists at particular times, and also mandates the disclosure of particular pieces of information regarding what the law does and does not require.

The FTC is considering changes to the Funeral Rule, including mandating that funeral providers post price lists online. To assist in revising the Rule, the FTC asked members of the industry and public to provide written comments.

Professor Marsh seized upon this opportunity to further the education of her Funeral and Cemetery Law students. The class discussed and analyzed the Funeral Rule and how it might be improved. Their insights contributed to written comments that she submitted to the FTC proposing changes to the Funeral Rule.

Professor Marsh and her class suggested a reconceptualization of the standard price list to help people with limited experience in the funeral industry better understand their options and prices, starting with Methods of Disposition. Each Method of Disposition is broken down by goods and services required by the funeral provider, the goods and services that may be required by a third party, and optional goods and services. They also suggested changing the wording of the Proposed Embalming Disclosure to make it clearer that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases. 

Although Professor Marsh and her students have not heard back about their suggestions to the Funeral Rule, they remain hopeful that their recommendations will be seriously considered and implemented.

Wake Forest Law would like to give a special thanks to moderators Professor Philip Olson, Professor David Harrington from Kenyon College, and Tanya Marsh, panelists Professor Victoria Haneman from Creighton Law School, Barbara Kemmis from CANA, Katrina Spade from Recompose, Renee Flaherty from the Institute of Justice, Caressa Hughes from the Service Corporation International, Dr. Hari P. Close II from the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, Inc. (NFDMA), Isabel Knight from the National Home Funeral Alliance, Poul Lemasters from the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association (ICCFA), Sarah Pojanowski from Selected Independent Funeral Homes, presenter Dr. Terry Brock, and keynote speaker Caitlin Doughty.

The Symposium panels, Abandoned Cemeteries presentation, and the keynote speech are available for viewing and listening here.

Applying the Law to Real-World Issues: Innovative New Courses at Wake Forest Law

From left to right, top to bottom: Alyse Bertenthal, Marne Coit, Marie-Amelie George, Allyson Gold, Ellen Murphy, Gregory Parks

From left to right, top to bottom: Alyse Bertenthal, Marne Coit, Marie-Amelie George, Allyson Gold, Ellen Murphy, Gregory Parks

From reviewing bodycam footage to learning about cannabis law, Wake Forest Law is offering some exciting new courses this spring! Read on to see how the Law School is keeping ahead of emerging concepts and charting a path forward in the legal education landscape.

Cannabis LawProfessor Marne Coit

The first class of its kind offered in North Carolina, Cannabis Law examines the legal aspects of regulating cannabis at both the federal and state levels. The course covers the history of cannabis regulation in the US, medical versus recreational rules, hemp regulations, banking, product labeling, and more. Not only do students learn about these concepts in the classroom, but they are provided with opportunities to connect with guest lecturers who are experts in the law and industry and build out their networks. A unique component of the course is a final assignment that revolves around writing a policy one pager, which simulates the process of reviewing a bill and drafting a compelling argument for or against the bill. “Students have to be able to take stakeholder perspectives into account and be succinct and specific in their messaging,” says Professor Marne Coit. “These are skills they will be able to apply in other legal settings.” 

Special Topics in Criminal ProcedureDr. Alyse Bertenthal

In Special Topics in Criminal Procedure: Police Discretion, Dr. Alyse Bertenthal integrates students into an ongoing research project that examines North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission investigative practices. The course offers an on-the-ground perspective of the criminal justice system and covers such concepts as police investigations, exercise of discretion, regulation of law enforcement, and the everyday practices of stakeholders in the criminal justice system. Students have the chance to conduct interviews, watch and analyze bodycam footage, and formulate policy recommendations. “This is a real opportunity for students to get experiences they don’t traditionally have in a law school course,” says Dr. Bertenthal. “It’s also an excellent way to develop skills that are crucial to good lawyering.” 

Regulating IntimacyProfessor Marie-Amelie George

Intimate relationships are deeply personal, yet they are also subject to extensive state regulation, and it can often be challenging to balance the desires of individuals and the needs of society. Regulating Intimacy asks crucial questions that spark students’ critical thinking: How should the state safeguard people’s ability to pursue personal happiness, while at the same time ensure that individuals behave responsibly towards others? Can the government stay out of private spaces and simultaneously protect individuals from oppression and abuse? “This course focuses on many of the policy issues that undergird family law,” says Professor Marie-Amelie George. “It grapples with the idea of what the law is versus what the law should be. Ultimately it examines alternatives to making the law more just for all members of society.” Students will discuss the tradeoffs that these regulations require between the rights to privacy, autonomy, and equality. Students are asked to debate on an advocacy topic, select a source around the class concepts and lead a class discussion on the material, and write a research paper on a relevant topic. 

Firearms LawProfessor Gregory Parks

Professor Gregory Parks became interested in firearms law when he realized that there was a rising percentage of Black people purchasing guns. This intersection of his expertise in Black rights and gun ownership converged and set the stage for his course, Firearms Law. Students examine major supreme court cases on firearms, discuss what drives gun ownership and its roots in American colonial law and the Civil War, attempt to answer questions around who can own guns and who can’t, and more. The course integrates elements of pop culture, including song lyrics and media depictions of guns. Professor Parks says of the course,”The conversation around firearms is more complex than the general public discourse, even those discussions led by politicians. We’re not getting a full nuanced understanding of these ideas. Firearms Law helps budding legal minds learn how they can shape the narrative and impact people’s understanding.”

US Housing Law & PolicyProfessor Allyson Gold

Since 1948, adequate housing has been a component of the human right to an adequate standard of living, as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But housing in America has always been a fraught issue. US Housing Law & Policy provides an introduction to this complex topic and examines the history of housing policies and problems, public housing and federally subsidized housing, habitability and code enforcement, foreclosure, gentrification, eviction, and fair housing law—particularly as it relates to low-moderate-income tenants and homeowners. Students will analyze the laws that govern subsidized housing, housing discrimination, and other issues; apply federal, state, and local law to real-world housing problems and assess solutions proposed by housing justice advocates; and investigate and examine a discrete topic in US Housing Law and Policy through a capstone paper. Each student will also give a Ted Talk presentation on their paper to the class. “Students have likely heard about gentrification, affordable housing shortages, and mortgage rate increases, but may not know the regulations and systems that affect these issues,” says Professor Allyson Gold. “In US Housing Law & Policy, students will develop an understanding of issues in their own backyard, literally and figuratively.”

Food, Agriculture, and the EnvironmentProfessor Ellen Murphy

There are many facets to the new Food, Agriculture, and the Environment course, but this iteration of the course focuses primarily on agriculture. The goal is to introduce students to the concept of agricultural exceptionalism—policy exceptions in the law where agriculture is treated differently than other laws (e.g., child labor laws are different for farms versus other industries). Among the topics covered are the Farm Bill, discrimination in federal farm programs, agricultural labor, misbranding on food labels, land use, and more. Students gain an understanding of the policies and laws behind the food system so they can advocate to make change. “It’s important to understand the history of food production and the ways in which we have supported it as well as critiques on the current process,” says Professor Ellen Murphy. “We have an entrenched system, but in order to advocate to change that system, you have to understand it first.”

Constance Hollingsworth and Grace Pierce

Sprinkling Grace Wherever She Goes: How a Little Girl Took Her Business to the Next Level with the Help of Wake Forest Law’s IP Law Clinic

The Launch of Sprinkle Grace Co.

Five-year-old Grace Pierce and her mom Constance Hollingsworth—along with their family of entrepreneurs—have a reputation for making things happen. So when Grace began struggling with dry skin, Constance developed essential oil rollers, lip balm, and body butters to help her daughter combat the dryness. “I’ve always been creative,” says Constance. “I will research until I figure out how to create something.” Grace loved the products, and with her mom’s support, she launched a business selling them. 

As the business expanded to include lipgloss, lollipops, hand sanitizer, diffuser and gemstone jewelry, a book, a doll, and more, so did the mission. Grace knew she wanted to “sprinkle grace and spread love” to girls, their moms, and their grandmothers, and use the business to do just that. Thus, Sprinkle Grace Co. was born.

Taking Sprinkle Grace Co. to the Next Level

From the beginning, Grace and Constance focused on making the best possible products that were representative of the brand. 

They also wanted to legitimize their business. They started by attending a “kidpreneur” conference where they learned from other entrepreneurs how to take their business to the next level. “If we were going to do it, we were going to do it right,” says Constance.

Following the conference, they immediately filed for their LLC (Limited Liability Company), a business structure that helps protect business owners from personal liability of the company’s debts.

Next, they wanted to trademark the name Sprinkle Grace, but needed help going through the process.

Constance began researching free clinics that assist small business owners. That’s when she came across UNC School of Law’s Intellectual Property Clinic. Grace and Constance began working with a Carolina student team led by Clinical Associate Professor and Director Zaneta Robinson (JD ’03). 

In 2021, Professor Robinson joined the faculty of Wake Forest Law as an associate clinical professor and the founding director of the Intellectual Property Law Clinic 

But she had not forgotten about Sprinkle Grace. 

Grace and Constance were ready. They transferred their files to Wake Forest Law’s Intellectual Property Law Clinic—one step closer to fulfilling their dreams.

Working with Wake Forest Law’s Intellectual Property Law Clinic

Wake Forest Law’s Intellectual Property Law Clinic (IP Law Clinic), under the supervision of Director Zaneta Robinson, provides pro bono law student representation to inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses in filing trademarks before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Through their work in the Clinic, Wake Forest Law students have an opportunity to put their coursework into real-world practice. Students gain experience drafting and filing trademark applications at a federal level, communicating with Trademark Examining attorneys, and drafting briefs in response to Office Actions or potential refusals to register.

Sprinkle Grace Co. and the IP Law Clinic were a great match. The Clinic took on Sprinkle Grace Co. as a client, making it their first priority to register the Sprinkle Grace trademark. With the help of a team of students working in the IP Law Clinic, that’s exactly what they did. 

After Registering the Trademark

However, registering the trademark was just the beginning. The IP Law Clinic helped Grace and Constance understand the importance of maintaining and protecting the trademark. “A lot of people don’t understand the importance of trademark for business… It’s definitely something people should think about,” says Ishani Kumbar (JD Candidate ‘24), who worked on the project. “Even though trademarks aren’t life or death, they can represent someone’s livelihood. To grow their business in the future, they need to protect their brand. It’s another thing to maintain it and make sure you can enforce it against people who may be infringing upon it. A mark can become abandoned, then it doesn’t have any more protections and it’s fair game for anyone else to take.”

Declarations of Use, which allow trademark owners to keep their registration active, should be filed with the USPTO within the first 5-6 years of registration, says Ishani, and must be renewed the tenth year of registration and every 10 years after that.

Ishani says working with Sprinkle Grace Co. has been a rewarding experience. “I am learning so much about intellectual property,” she says. “The work is so important. I am honored to be a part of it.” She also admires Grace and Constance. “It’s impressive that someone so young had the idea and the drive to do something like this,” says Ishani. “Shout out to her mom for supporting her and helping her make it happen!”

Taking Advantage of Extensive Resources

Yang Cao (JD ’22), one of the first students to apply to be in the IP Law Clinic, was also assigned to Sprinkle Grace Co. 

Although she learned some trademark law while taking an intellectual property class with Professor Simone Rose, working in the IP Law Clinic was her first real practice experience. Yang did not let that stop her. After being assigned to Sprinkle Grace Co., she took advantage of her extensive resources, relying on Professor Robinson for expertise, as well as intellectual property classes. “Professor Robinson designed the curriculum really well,” says Yang.

She also learned from her classmates. “During the lecture time, we could talk to different groups to hear what they are doing, learn about their experiences, share with each other,” says Yang. “Even when you’re describing the same thing, the listener is learning the information in different ways.”

Yang, who recently passed the bar, has decided to become a patent attorney, a desire cemented by her experience in the IP Law Clinic.

The Future of Sprinkle Grace Co.
Sprinkle Grace is now a registered trademark—a feat that would have been difficult without the foresight of Constance and Grace and the diligence of the IP Law Clinic students. “[The Clinic has] been wonderful,” says Constance. “I am so grateful for their hard work and taking the journey with us to see it through.”

Sprinkle Grace Co. doesn’t plan to stop there, however.

Sprinkle Grace Co. applied and joined the Amazon Black Business Accelerator Program, which provides support in building an Amazon Store. They also started a podcast on Apple, Sprinkle Grace Adventures, and revamped their YouTube channel, Sprinkle Grace. 

The company—whose products are sold online and in three stores (for now)—hopes to launch additional products, like hoodies. They are also planning a coat drive. “[We just] want to inspire people,” says Constance. “Life can be hard. So we want to make sure we’re a movement and doing things to change the world.”

Despite all the hard work, Constance also makes it a priority for Grace to just be a kid—sprinkling grace and love wherever she goes.

To learn more about Sprinkle Grace, visit their website at https://www.sprinklegraceco.com/

Wake Forest Law Hosts Discussion: “Legal Desert…or Legal Oasis: Solving the Problem of Access to Justice in NC”

On Thursday, September 28, 2023, Wake Forest Law hosted a presentation and discussion titled “Legal Desert…or Legal Oasis: Solving the Problem of Access to Justice in NC” to educate students about opportunities in “legal oases” as well as general “smaller town” practice.

There to provide insight into the key challenges and efforts to tackle the problem of legal oases in North Carolina were Wake Forest Law alum and North Carolina State Bar President Marci Armstrong (JD ’83), Co-Executive Director of the Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism Jimbo Perry, Director for Incubator for Legal Practice & Innovation Mark Atkinson, and Wake Forest Law alum and Lawyers Mutual Claims Counsel/Relationship Manager Will Graebe (JD ’92). Dr. Alyse Bertenthal, Associate Professor at Wake Forest Law, served as the moderator of the discussion. Greetings were made by Wake Forest Law Dean Andrew Klein.

The presentation and discussion began with an introduction to legal oases and the barriers people face as a result. It was noted that in North Carolina alone, one half of counties are considered legal oases (once called legal deserts), meaning there is less than one lawyer for every 1000 residents. Sixty-three percent of North Carolina attorneys are concentrated in five North Carolina counties—Durham County, Forsyth County, Guilford County, Mecklenburg County, and Wake County—making it difficult for people in smaller counties to gain access to attorneys when they need them the most.

Wake Forest Law’s Assistant Dean of the Office of Career and Professional Development Francie Scott understands the importance of exposing students to the needs and opportunities in communities. “Our office is committed to helping our students pursue meaningful careers and find the unique intersection of their skills, interests, and values,” says Dean Scott. “This collaboration with the North Carolina State Bar and the Chief Justice’s Commission was the perfect chance to highlight potential job opportunities that are sometimes overlooked, while at the same time addressing the critical need for access to justice in North Carolina.”

So why are there legal oases? Why do attorneys not want to practice in smaller counties?

From a lower quality of life and lower pay, to a lack of opportunity and loneliness, life as a small-town attorney does not sound appealing to most. But, according to the panel of experts, its reputation is not built on facts.

“I think it’s a myth that you can’t make money in a small town,” Marci Armstrong, who lives in a region with a population of 12,000, says before adding, “A lot of these rural communities aren’t that far from big cities.”

Working in a legal oasis is also a way to help others. “If you want to help someone, access to justice is a great way to get there,” says Jimbo Perry, a sentiment echoed throughout the panel discussion.

Practicing law in a legal oasis, panelists emphasize, is an opportunity to find meaningful work, avoid forced specialization, and meet the need for access to justice in these communities.

However, for the panelist experts, providing access to justice isn’t enough to flourish in a small-town. Their recommendation? Find someone who knows the community and learn everything you can from them. And give back. “If all your time is given to billable hours, it is going to be really hard to listen to your neighbor,” says Jimbo Perry.

In addition to dispelling myths about practicing law in a legal oasis, panel experts discussed current solutions for broadening access to justice.

Courtroom 5 is one of the ways North Carolina is leading the effort.

Developed by two women in Durham, NC, Courtroom5 is a mobile phone application to help educate pro se litigants to be more informed by providing guidance throughout their court case, litigation training, and workshops on managing a court case. The app costs $15 per month and offers additional in-app purchases, such as attorney consultations and hearing transcriptions.

The app serves as one of the readily-available ways people can improve their access to justice. Other methods offer a more long-term solution to tackle the issue.

For example, panelist Mark Atkinson recently launched the Incubator, which consists of a one-year program that helps entrepreneurial-minded law school graduates work with clients with low-to-moderate income and start their own practice in smaller communities. Although it takes time to complete, the Incubator Project offers promising results in the long-term.

The conversation and work around access to justice is ongoing. The North Carolina Chief Justice’s Commission on Professionalism and the North Carolina State Bar have recently joined forces to examine this critical concern, and are engaging with all the North Carolina law schools in an effort to meet the need for legal services in underserved areas.

Panelists also had ideas for the future.

One solution, offered by Marci Armstrong, was for young lawyers to learn from small-town lawyers who are near retirement, and eventually take over their firms. “Older lawyers don’t have anyone to leave their law firm to,” says Marci Armstrong. The younger lawyer pays the now-retired lawyer each month for their stake in the firm, providing them with a financial gain and someone to leave their firm to, Armstrong explains. The younger lawyer gains experience before taking over the firm and maintains the legal presence in the small-town community.

Panelist Will Graebe sees potential with artificial intelligence (AI), such as ChatGPT–an AI-powered language model capable of generating human-like text based on context and past generations. He recognizes its current limitations, however, referencing a recent scenario in which ChatGPT wrote a well-written legal brief that ended with the wrong conclusion. “As young lawyers, you are going to utilize AI—but we are not there yet.”

The “Legal Desert …or Legal Oasis: Solving the Problem of Access to Justice in NC” presentation and discussion was the final event of a week-long education series sponsored by Wake Forest Law. The programming series also included a “table talk” with Jimbo Perry, as well as a 1L career panel on small-town law practice, led by Jimbo Perry, Marci Armstrong, Judge Tom Langan (JD ’98), NC District Court judge, Shannon Russell, Inner Banks Legal Services, Boyd Sturges (’91, JD ’95), Davis, Sturges & Tomlinson, Charity Wilborn, ADA, 11th Prosecutorial District, and Christiana H. Johnson, Legal Aid NC, Wilson NC.

Wake Forest Law Welcomes U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Wake Forest Law had the honor of hosting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Tuesday, October 31. Judges, clerks, lawyers, Fourth Circuit staff, and U.S. marshals descended on Winston-Salem for a full day of activities that included oral arguments, a town hall, and other events.

Beginning at 9 a.m., Chief Judge Albert Diaz, Judge Robert B. King, and Judge James Andrew Wynn listened to oral arguments in the North Carolina Business Court located on the third floor of Worrell. Approximately 25 students attended the oral arguments in the courtroom, while all students, faculty, and staff were invited to view the arguments from the first floor auditorium where the event was being live streamed.

Three cases were heard, including Jordan Jones v. George Solomon, a civil case surrounding an Eighth Amendment violation claim related to cell conditions in a prison and a First Amendment retaliatory transfer claim. The Judges fired off questions to both the prosecution and the defense as they tried to determine whether the actions of the involved officers were actually considered “cruel and unusual punishment.” The auditorium was packed with viewers, most of whom were Wake Forest Law students.

After the oral arguments, the Office of Career and Professional Development hosted a special session of its Table Talk Tuesday series. Representatives from the Federal Defender Office of the Middle District of NC and the US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of NC discussed their experience, offered career advice, and answered questions.

At noon, select students were invited to join the Judges and their clerks for lunch. Lunch was followed by a Town Hall with the Judges and their clerks, moderated by Professor Audra Savage. Dean Andy Klein introduced the casual panel conversation, during which Judges discussed their career paths and offered advice to students and the clerks shared a bit about their backgrounds and the skills and qualities required to clerk for a judge. The Judges all agreed that while becoming a judge often requires being in the right place at the right time, there really is no magic formula; it takes a lot of hard work and determination. The Judges also emphasized the importance of clerks in the judicial system, stating that many clerks are surprised at the level of responsibility they have. The Town Hall concluded with questions from the audience and an emphatic round of applause for the panelists.

The full day of events ended with an intimate dinner at the Graylyn, where Wake Forest Law faculty mingled with the Judges, clerks, and others. And although it was Halloween, there were no tricks—only treats!—as the day was a big success and a great opportunity for the Wake Forest Law community to engage with the federal appellate court.

North Carolina Court of Appeals Visits Wake Forest Law

On September 20, Wake Forest Law hosted the North Carolina Court of Appeals at Worrell Professional Center. Judge John Tyson, Judge Allegra Collins, and Judge April Wood comprised the panel, which heard two cases. The hearings were open to students, faculty, staff, and the public.

Court was called into session with the customary call of “Oyez, oyez, oyez,” and the hearings began.

The first case, State of North Carolina v. Daniel Peacock, was a criminal case out of Henderson County. Officers entered Mr. Peacock’s home and then an interior bedroom of the home to serve a search warrant. Two officers testified that the occupant of the bedroom, Defendant Peacock, resisted their commands and reached under the bed for a baseball bat. A jury convicted Peacock of resisting a public officer. On appeal, Assistant Appellate Defender David Hallen, a recent law school graduate who was arguing his first-ever case, argued that the search warrant did not yet exist at the time the officers entered the home, thus the State was unable to meet two elements of the resisting offense (officer acted lawfully and defendant resisted without justification). The State, represented by Special Deputy Attorney General Daniel Covas, argued that the resisting conviction was proper because the homeowner had given police permission to enter the residence the day prior.

“It was a ‘hot bench,’” said Professor John Korzen, director of Wake Forest Law’s Appellate Advocacy Clinic. Professor Korzen discussed the case beforehand with his Appellate Advocacy Clinic class. “This case was a great teaching tool because there were strong arguments for the defendant.”

The second case heard by the judges was Hale v. MacLoed, Page, and Green Farms Co. This civil case involved a $250,000 loan by the plaintiff to the defendants’ North Carolina hemp business. The business was later liquidated in Michigan, with only a small payment to the Plaintiff. The trial court allowed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss made by Defendant Page, who was the company’s CEO. On appeal, the Plaintiff contended that seven of the claims should not have been dismissed. The Plaintiff alleged that Page and MacLoed fraudulently induced him to make the loan, violated securities laws, committed breaches of contract, and breached a fiduciary duty, among other allegations.

Professor Meghan Boone brought her civil procedure students to watch the proceedings, as the case was relevant to what they were studying in class. “I was thrilled to give my civil procedure students a chance to see a live oral argument on a motion to dismiss,” says Professor Boone. “It was an invaluable opportunity to give them insight into not only the legal frameworks that we are learning about in class, but the way that these frameworks are used by advocates in real legal disputes.”

After the arguments, the judges took questions from the audience and attended a reception where students and faculty could meet them. The North Carolina Court of Appeals comes to Wake Forest Law once each year to give law students the chance to watch the appeals process in action.

Watch the proceedings here.

Wake Forest Law Welcomes Young Indigenous Leaders from Peruvian Amazon

The week of September 5, Wake Forest’s Andrew Sabin Family Center for Environment and Sustainability (formerly known as the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability (CEES)) hosted a delegation of young Indigenous leaders from the Peruvian Amazon. The multi-day event, which was a collaboration between Wake Forest’s Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation (CINCIA), the US Department of State (via the embassy in Peru), and a number of funders, included seven young Indigenous leaders from six different regions in Peru. Also participating were Edgar Flores, a representative from the US Embassy in Peru (and the first Indigenous staff member at that embassy), Marta Torres and Carmen Acho from CINCIA, and Luis Fernandez, Executive Director of CINCIA and Wake Forest University research professor of biology.

A portion of the program took place at Wake Forest University from September 5-8. The young leaders then traveled to Washington, DC from September 9-12. The goal of the visit to Wake Forest was to strengthen the capacities of these young Amazonian leaders in Peru to exercise their rights on issues of importance to them, including tribal education, gender equality, community surveillance systems, sustainable economic activities, and the sustainable use and conservation of natural resources for the benefit of their communities and the environment. The young leaders are reporting their learnings back to their communities at ExpoAmazónica, a large conference of Indigenous groups in Peru, this fall.

Wake Forest Law welcomed the Indigenous leaders on September 6 for a lunch workshop with Professor John Knox and Professor Scott Schang. Two of the young leaders also spoke at the event. Their remarks were interpreted from Spanish to English by faculty and alumni of Wake Forest’s Interpreting and Translation Studies Graduate Program, who also interpreted the presentations by Professor Knox and Professor Schang into Spanish.

Professor Knox spoke on human rights law and Indigenous land rights. He presented on four specific rights that were relevant to the Indigenous leaders: the right to recognition—to have their ancestral territorial limits demarcated and protected; the right to informed prior consent—to be consulted and to give or withhold consent for actions that adversely affect them; the right to self-determination—to be able to decide for themselves their own path for land development; and the right to remedies—if their lands are used, they have the right to the benefits of that usage or if the land has been taken away, they have the right to restitution. He gave a brief overview of the courses of action the Indigenous leaders can take when these rights are violated, including filing complaints with various bodies of experts, such as the United Nations. “While there wouldn’t automatically be remedies to the violations, filing complaints with an international body can raise visibility and get a binding decision to enforce and protect your rights,” he told the leaders.

Professor Schang, director of the Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, then spoke to the audience about some of the ways that law school clinics help people with securing their land rights, as well as how the Indigenous leaders could leverage companies to intervene on their behalf. “Many multinational companies have said they will abide by the system of international human rights,” said Professor Schang. “If your country’s government isn’t abiding by those rights, you are within your rights to submit complaints through the various channels available.”

After the professors spoke, two of the young Indigenous leaders took the podium. Nayap Santiago Velásquez of the Wampis Nation discussed how 1.37 million hectares (larger than the size of Connecticut) of the Amazonian forest is taken care of by the Wampis Nation, and that protecting their ancestral homeland is integral to protecting the Amazon. Danitza Cenepo Tapullima spoke about some of the ways in which she and her Indigenous sisters have helped to combat violence against women in their region. Both speeches were powerful testaments to the key role that youth leaders play in the fight to protect their land and their people.

The session was a valuable reminder of the many benefits of radical collaboration across Wake Forest University. Thanks to the partnership between the Sabin Center, CINCIA, Wake Forest Law, and other campus departments, the program was a success and demonstrated how we can and must collaborate across disciplines, generations, and geographies to find solutions to major global issues.

Read more about the program.

Young Indigenous Leaders from Peruvian Amazon

Young Indigenous leader

Wake Forest Law, NC State, and NC Wildlife Resources Commission Collaborate to Ensure Safety on NC Waterways

In 2022, 148 boating incidents occurred in North Carolina, resulting in dozens of deaths. Even with robust boating regulations, training resources available to boaters, and a number of boating safety campaigns, boating safety remains a concern for the thousands of boaters on North Carolina’s waterways. Ensuring effective adherence to boating laws requires a multi-pronged, collaborative approach.

This is just what Wake Forest Law professors Alyse Bertenthal and Scott Schang are aiming to do. Through a recently-awarded grant from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC, ncwildlife.org), they are partnering with biologists, wildlife law enforcement officers, social scientists, and policy analysts to leverage expertise from across fields to improve boating safety law and the practices of law enforcement.

The two primary goals of the project are: 1) to use data to determine practices, programs, and legal structures that promote compliance with boating safety laws and regulations; and 2) to develop interventions to improve compliance with safety laws. “The questions we are seeking to help law enforcement answer are how are officers interpreting and implementing laws through daily practice?” says Professor Bertenthal. “How are they making decisions, and are there ways to structure those processes to ensure that boating safety laws are applied effectively and equitably?”

Project co-investigators include professors from North Carolina State University, Drs. Nils Peterson and Krishna Pacifici in the Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology Program. Additionally, all of the work being done is in consultation with the NCWRC and representatives of the agency. “The overall goal of the NCWRC’s Law Enforcement Division is to provide the boating public with a safe and enjoyable recreational boating experience through both law enforcement efforts and educational opportunities,” says Maj. Mark Dutton, the agency’s State Boating Law Administrator. “We are excited to partner with Wake Forest Law and NC State and look forward to seeing what their research shows. We value any measures that would overall improve public safety and the boating experience.” Major Dutton is joined on the project by NCWRC staff Carrie Ruhlman, Cristina Watkins, Fairley Mahlum, Capt. Branden Jones, and Amy Braun. “This project builds valuable partnerships between Wake Forest, NC State, and the Wildlife Resources Commission,” says Bertenthal. “It promises to make an impact in North Carolina by generating knowledge about effective and efficient law enforcement practices to ensure boating safety.”

In addition to analyzing statistical data collected by the NCWRC, investigators will conduct interviews, review observational data from ride-alongs with law enforcement officers, and conduct boater surveys. The investigators will also review case files and interview assistant district attorneys to identify legal outcomes and law enforcement officer practices that affect those outcomes. Investigators will use the data analysis to develop interventions and best practices–-effectively turning data collection and analysis into tangible solutions.

The project also leverages student interest in real-world law enforcement practices. Professors Bertenthal and Schang will incorporate research activities and analysis into their courses, providing students an avenue for hands-on, experiential learning—a hallmark of a Wake Forest Law education. “This presents students with a terrific opportunity to understand how law enforcement works in the field while contributing to the Commission’s efforts to improve the effectiveness of their efforts,” says Schang. “Students will not only gain insight into how science is used vis-a-vis the law, but they will also have the chance to think creatively and strategically about applying the law.”

The collaboration between scholars, students, and agencies offers an exciting model for research that has potential to effect change throughout the state. Boaters traverse more than 5,000 miles of North Carolina waters and it is critical that they understand and comply with the rules and regulations to ensure safety. Ongoing examination of law enforcement practices through projects like this provide important opportunities for delivering that assurance.

Accountable Prosecutor Project Releases National Report on State Absolute Immunity Law

In 2021, Wake Forest Law launched its Accountable Prosecutor Project, a research arm of the Foundation for Prosecutorial Accountability. The Project’s purpose is to research the current landscape of prosecutor accountability mechanisms as well as ways to improve prosecutor transparency and connection with communities. Since then, 13 research assistants and 4 attorney volunteers have worked with Project Director Eileen Prescott to assemble the Accountable Prosecutor Project’s first major report on absolute immunity law.

This report is a survey of the case law in each state’s courts (not federal courts) regarding lawsuits against prosecutors. In most states, prosecutors are protected by “absolute immunity,” which is even more protective than the qualified immunity that protects law enforcement officers. Typically, absolute immunity means that people cannot sue prosecutors even for malicious misconduct, as long as the prosecutor’s action was related to their job. But there are always exceptions: legislators and courts in each state must decide what behavior is outside of a prosecutor’s role and if there are any circumstances where the immunity should be abridged. This report compiles the unique approach of each state in one place so that academics and practitioners can analyze them in the aggregate.

Key takeaways from this national report on state absolute immunity law include:

  • Several states do not apply absolute immunity to prosecutors, relying on sovereign immunity or qualified immunity when prosecutors are sued.
  • Most states act in the shadow of federal law on the matter, reacting to federal Supreme Court cases that carve out exceptions for non-judicial prosecutor duties such as press conferences or on-scene investigation.
  • The question of absolute immunity for prosecutors has never reached the highest court of 11 states, and 62% of states had five or fewer relevant cases in their history.

The full report is available here.

Sager Speaker Series Hosts Marilyn T. McClure-Demers, Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Nationwide

On November 3, Wake Forest Law students gathered for the second Sager Speaker Series honored guest: Marilyn T. McClure-Demers.

The Sager Speaker Series is named for Wake Forest alumnus Thomas Sager (JD ’76), former vice president and general counsel for DuPont Co. and current partner at Ballard Spahr LLP. Sager was a strong and early proponent of diversity in the legal profession and helped pioneer the DuPont Convergence and Law Firm Partnering Program, or DuPont Legal Model. This industry benchmark has received national acclaim for its innovative approach to practicing law. Continue reading »