Monday, September 28, 2009

Highlights from the AALA Conference

The American Agricultural Law Association conference was held on September 25-26 in Williamsburg, Virginia. Once again, we were able to provide financial assistance to our LL.M. candidates, and seven of them attended the conference. Their agricultural and food law posters were on display at the conference, and they had an opportunity to interact with the over two hundred attorneys at the conference.

Twenty-six alumni from the LL.M. Program were also at the conference, and in many cases they were willing to provide helpful assistance and suggestions to our current candidates. It was great to see our alumni and catch up on their accomplishments. And, they were very helpful in our recruiting efforts, answering questions and telling interested law students and lawyers about the Program.

We were proud to have eleven of our alumni as participants in the conference. Jeff Peterson, an attorney with Gray, Plant, Mooty (St. Cloud and Minneapolis, MN) and I both presented during the first day of plenary sessions. Jeff provided the Bankruptcy Law Update, and I provided the Food Law Update. Beth Crocker, Counsel for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture was the moderator for the Update panel. Doug O'Brien, Chief of Staff for USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan accompanied Secretary Vilsack to the conference for his role as key note speaker, one of the highlights of the conference. As a past President of the AALA, I was honored to be seated at the head table with the Secretary and other AALA representatives.

Other alumni presenters included:
  • Terry Centner, Professor of Agricultural and Applied Economics,University of Georgia;
  • Marne Coit, Agricultural Policy Consultant and Apple Seeds Board Member, Fayetteville, Arkansas;
  • Janie Hipp, Director, Risk Management Education Division, USDA Risk Management Agency;
  • Martha Noble, Senior Policy Associate with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, D.C.;
  • Ross Pifer, Director of the Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center at The Penn State Dickinson School of Law;
  • Michael Roberts, Senior Counsel, International Affairs, Roll International Corporation
  • Rusty Rumley, Staff Attorney, National Agricultural Law Center.
Our visiting faculty were also prominent participants in the conference, with Neil Hamilton, Professor, Drake University Law School and Director of the Drake Agricultural Law Center and David Grahn, Office of General Counsel, USDA both presenting updates during the first day of plenary sessions.

The National Agricultural Law Center was well represented, with Director Harrison Pittman, and attorneys Shannon Mirus, Rusty Rumley, Beth Springsteen and Paul Goeringer in attendance.

Pictured below are Secretary Vilsack with President of the AALA, Ted Feishans, North Carolina State University at the luncheon and later that evening, LL.M. alumni Craig Raysor and Jeff Peterson.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Professor Kelley Attends Moscow Conference

Professor Christopher Kelley serves as co-chair of the Russia/Eurasia Committee of the ABA International Law Section. This coming week, the section is sponsoring an international seminar in Moscow, Resolution of Russia-Related Business Disputes: The Next Wave Conference. The Conference will bring together members of the global legal community for a series of program sessions, followed by a reception at Spaso House. Topics will include:
  • Arbitration in Russia: The Current State of Play and Prospects for the Future;
  • Investment Treaty Arbitration: A Strategic Option or Legal Defense?
  • Russians Abroad: The Experience of Russian Companies in Foreign Litigation and Arbitration; and
  • Related Civil and Criminal Proceedings in Russia.
Professor Kelley left for Moscow this morning to attend the seminar and will be back Tuesday evening.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

LLM Alum, Brandon Willis Appointed to USDA Position

LL.M. alumnus, Brandon Willis was recently appointed to the position of Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs (DAFP). Brandon will oversee all FSA programs under the Production Emergencies and Compliance Division (PECD), Conservation and Environmental Programs Division (CEPD), and Price Support Division (PSD). Prior to his appointment as DAFP, he was a confidential assistant in the USDA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services. Before joining FSA, Willis served as the Agriculture Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Max Baucus, a position he took after completing his LL.M. coursework.

Brandon grew up on a third generation sheep ranch in northern Utah and managed his family’s raspberry farm, Bursting Berries. He earned his bachelor’s degree in crop and soil science from Utah State University in Logan, Utah, and his law degree from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyo. He attended the LL.M. program in 2004-05 and served as a Graduate Assistant for the National Center for Ag Law. He completed his thesis last summer and received his LL.M. degree in August.

Congratulations, Brandon!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Highlights From the Bill Marler Visit

Celebrating both our 30th class and the inclusion of "Food Law" into our name and curriculum, the School of Law was delighted to host Bill Marler, food safety expert and food poisoning litigator.

Mr. Marler taught the two-hour Food Law & Policy class Friday morning to a packed room. Faculty, students, and representatives from the food industry throughout Northwest Arkansas were in attendance as Mr. Marler delivered an excellent presentation on his food borne illness litigation practice. His PowerPoint presentation not only covered the legal fundamentals but provided a moving tribute to the suffering of his clients, people severely injured and permanently disabled by food borne illness.

Following his class, Mr. Marler met with Archie Schaffer III, Executive VP Corporate Affairs, Tyson Foods, Inc., and Christine Daugherty, an attorney with Tyson’s Legal Department to discuss Tyson Foods' safety initiatives. And, he met the director and staff of the National Center for Agricultural Law, a research center at the School of Law.

Mr. Marler had lunch with our LL.M. candidates and conducted an informal question and answer session. Questions ranged from specific inquiries about his cases and his clients to broad issues of public policy and ethics. His visit was capped off with a session with the J.D. staff and candidates for the Journal of Food Law & Policy.

Mr. Marler's visit was inspiring not only because of his incredible success as a litigator but because of what he does with that success. As a tireless advocate for food safety reform, new food safety initiatives, and more effective regulation of food borne illness, he is using both his fame and his fortune to improve our food system. For example, the Marler blog has become a central source of information, and beginning Monday, September 14, he launches a new online newspaper, Food Safety News. And, he will be sponsoring the China International Food Safety & Quality Conference November 4-5 2009 in Bejing.

We are grateful for Mr. Marler's visit and hope we will have the opportunity for collaboration in the future.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bill Marler to Visit LL.M. Program

We will be delighted to host Bill Marler, noted personal injury lawyer and national expert in foodborne illness litigation, on Friday, Sept. 11. Mr. Marler will be speaking to our Food Law & Policy class and our Emerging Issues in Food Law class.

Bill Marler has been a major force in food safety policy. He and his partners at Marler Clark have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death. They have secured more than $300 million for their client victims. But, Marler's work extends beyond litigation. His advocacy for better food regulation has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including recent testimony to US Congress Committee on Energy and Commerce. The non-profit corporation that he founded, Outbreak provides advice and consultation to the industry in an effort to prevent future illness. Among his many honors is the 2008 Public Justice Award, given to him by the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association.

Marler was recently quoted in the Washington Post article, This Woman Might Die From Eating Cookie Dough, Severe Case Gives Context to Issue of Food Safety.

The Food Law & Policy presentation, from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. in room 342 of the School of Law is open to the public. The second class will provide a special opportunity for the LL.M. candidates to meet with him.