Meet Sylvia Smith, ’15

Sylvia Smith1

Undergraduate Institution: University of Iowa Tippie College of Business

Undergraduate Degree: Business

After a year-long term of service with Americorps in North Liberty, Sylvia Smith, a University of Iowa second year law student, knew she wanted to attend law school for one reason: to make a difference in the criminal justice system.

Smith worked with at-risk K-12 youth and occasionally with adults in corrections as the Restorative Justice Youth Program Coordinator for the Community Corrections Improvement Association, which sparked her passion to fight for individuals in our criminal law system.

“It is frustrating to witness the way our current system disadvantages certain people, specifically minorities and the poor,” she said.  “The system the way it is has a huge impact on families and youth. I would like to work with others to curtail the cycle of incarceration.”

The 28 year old graduated with a degree in finance and marketing from the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business. She then chose to continue her education by attending the University of Iowa College of Law. As a longtime Iowa resident, Smith was lucky to have a good law school in the state, close to her friends and family.

Last summer she worked for the Iowa City Human Rights Commission investigating complaints of discrimination, employment public accommodation, education, and housing.

While attending the UI Law School, resurrecting the American Constitution Society has been a highlight of her experience thus far. The progressive organization, she said, focuses on building a network to shape legal policy and foster debates on key issues such as the Voting Rights Act, DOMA, and judicial nominees. In addition, she is the social chair of the Black Law Student Association and a member of the University of Iowa College of Law Outlaws.

Smith said a law school education is beneficial because it improves communication skills and teaches you to look at the world with a critical eye.

“Your vocabulary expands greatly and so do your reading skills,” she said. “You learn to analyze and think like a lawyer; the way you look at the world and what you read, you look at these things critically. You engage in meaningful debates to not only learn how to express yourself effectively, but to be accepting, yet critical, of other people’s viewpoints.”

However, law school can often be stressful and consume a lot of time, she said. Smith uses several techniques to ensure she is balancing her life. She plays the guitar in a band, spends time outdoors, cooks, leisure reads and hangs out with friends.

“I try and connect with people that are not in law school,” the Smith said. “It’s really easy to forget about the rest of the world, family and friends, and it’s hard to reconnect. I do yoga and I exercise, but it’s hard to find time. Sometimes it’s hard to not feel guilty about taking time from studying to do the essential things like eat or drink.  I always have to remember that I am a person and that it is necessary to do these things.”

But overall she enjoys the hard work and the law school experience, especially the interaction with faculty the UI provides.

“I like that faculty lounge and the student lounge both exist on the same floor,” she said. “We have some amazing professors that do incredible things outside of the walls of the law building.  That we have an opportunity to interact with them on a very human level is, I think, a big privilege.”

Smith said she intends to soak up as much as she can while obtaining her education, with the primary goal of getting a job in the public sector.

“Ultimately I want to help others, and I’m learning that there are many different ways to do that,” she said. “I would be very happy to graduate and go on to be a public defender, but any way that I can feel like I’m making a positive difference in people’s lives is a career that interests me.”

Meet Kelsey Rwayitare, ’14

Kelsey Rwanda1      Kelsey R1

Hometown: Clear Lake, IA

Undergraduate Institution: University of Iowa

Undergraduate Degree: History Major, Philosophy Minor

Kelsey Rwayitare, a University of Iowa third year law student, knew from the start of her law school experience she wanted to dedicate her career to those without access to basic human rights – and now she is well on her way.

Last summer she was granted the opportunity to clerk for the Rwandan Supreme Court writing memoranda, conducting research, and helping the Justice write opinions. Some of Rwayitare’s work included editing Civil Procedure Regulations for the Chief Justice and working on court reform with the Inspector General.

“I have the opportunity to help lay the groundwork for a judicial system growing in public trust, and I could not be more excited,” she said.

Rwayitare applied for the position through Chief Justice Rugege and received an offer. She then proceeded to apply for funding through the University of Iowa and received an EJF grant, the Cmiel Human Rights Funded Internship, and the Annette Stewart travel stipend. She left for Rwanda June 6 and will returned the United States August 10.

The experience taught her how to function in a court system different from the United States and helped her gain a broader sense of how the law works and grow her ability to identify strengths and weaknesses in a wide variety of legal settings, she said, adding it also helped her understand the Rwandese culture and act as a springboard for her future career.

“This summer was absolutely a dream come true because it blends all of the things that are important to me,” she said. “My husband is Rwandese, and we decided to come to Rwanda for the summer with our 16-month-old son. This opportunity allowed me to get to know my husband’s culture and grow my legal career.”

Stella Elias, a UI immigration law and civil procedure professors, had Rwayitare as a student in one of her immigration law classes and said she has no doubt the clerkship in Rwanda will provided Rwayitare with rigorous training in legal research and writing and exposed her to many facets of appellate advocacy in a fast-moving and high-pressure environment. It also introduced her to new mentors with whom she may forge life-long professional and personal ties, she said.

“We live in an increasingly connected world, and we work in an increasingly global profession, and this experience will provide Kelsey with skills that she will find invaluable as a 21st century lawyer,” she said.

Elias said she is confident Rwayitare will excel in her clerkship; she has great legal research skills, she is a very good legal writer, and she is a warm and compassionate person.

Meet Matthew Enriquez, ’15


Hometown: Topeka, KS

Undergraduate Institution: University of Kansas

Undergraduate Degree: Communication Studies

Matthew Enriquez, a second year University of Iowa law student, has known the importance of education and being a lifelong learner from a very young age. His father, an immigrant to the United States, told Enriquez higher education is a gateway to the “American Dream.” His mother, a lifelong teacher, delivered a contrasting, but equally compelling viewpoint: higher education is a time when students should develop and begin to identify their purpose in life.

In combination, those viewpoints, along with his personal observations of inequity and exclusion in higher education, fueled his interest in creating positive working environments for students, faculty, and staff at universities. He hopes to use his law degree to counsel colleges and universities on equal employment opportunities, policies, and labor relations.

Either from the employee or management side, I want to help create positive working environments so that educational institutions can focus their priorities on their academic missions,” the 25 year old said.

At Bowling Green State University, where he received his master’s degree, he had an opportunity to see how policy affected who was able to attend college, work at a university, and succeed at both of those things. He decided there that he wanted to work to maximize each of those things, and thus attended law school.

The Citizen Lawyer Program initially attracted him to the UI because the program creates opportunities for him to apply what he’s learning in the classroom to his passion.

Enriquez received the 2012-2013 Katherine Finn Milleman Memorial Award which enabled him to serve as an unpaid legal intern for a judge in Washington D.C. this summer. As part of this job, he is researching and writing memoranda about legal issues for the judge. The experience, he said, is a great opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge he learned during his first year of law school to actual legal practice.

At the UI, he is primarily involved in the Iowa Student Bar Association, the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students, and as an advisor and house director for Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity.

“Unlike many of my classmates, when I go home, I am actually going to my place of employment,” the Topeka, Kansas native said. “Although it might seem like a nightmare scenario for a law student, I have found it to be a refreshing environment because it allows me to practice my counseling and advising skills on a daily basis with a group of students who understand that I have a demanding schedule.”

For the Iowa Student Bar Association, he served as the 1L ECGPS Representative and attended the student government meetings in order to voice the needs, concerns, and opinions of law students. As Law Foundation Representative this coming year, he’ll have the opportunity to provide a student perspective to the Iowa Law Foundation as its Directors work to advance the needs of the Iowa Law through philanthropy.

In 2013-2014, he is serving as the Vice President of the graduate and professional student body. Through this role with ECGPS, he will have the opportunity to provide grants to graduate and professional students and organizations. Additionally, he will advocate for the needs of all graduate and professional students (including law students) to University administrators, the Iowa Board of Regents, and Iowa legislators.

With a diverse group of students already at the UI College of Law School, Enriquez brings another unique perspective to the group.

“Coming straight from a master’s program makes me a little different than most of my classmates,” he said. “Even though it’s quite a bit of schooling, I think earning my master’s before this was beneficial because it helped me understand the rigor of postgraduate work accompanied by working almost full time.”

Enriquez has identified a few goals during law school he hopes to accomplish. First he plans to maintain involvement in higher education administration through participation in the graduate and professional student government. Second, he plans to engage in legal academic work outside of his classes each semester, even if it is something as small as subscribing to legal newsletters or reading law review articles. Finally, he has a concrete goal to get involved in a couple professional organizations, specifically the Iowa State Bar Association and the National Association of College and University attorneys.

“I think it’s important for balance to have other commitments and responsibilities during law school,” he said. “Also, I have found it very important for me to supplement my classroom learning with outside learning, and participating in professional organizations is important because it can serve the dual purposes of education and networking.”

Meet Elisabeth Archer, ’15

Elisabeth Archer1

Hometown: Ottumwa, Iowa

Undergraduate Institution: Luther College

Undergraduate Degree: Political Science and History

It didn’t take long for Elisabeth Archer, a second year student at the University of Iowa College of Law, to realize how closely the political and legal fields were connected.

After completing several internships and work experiences with the U.S. House of Representatives, the Iowa State Legislature, and Governor Branstad’s office, Archer realized that pursuing a career where the two paths converged was of great interest to her. In the future, she hopes to work for a congressional committee as legal counsel, aiding in the preparation and drafting of bills.

Largely the influences directing her towards a legal career were those mentors and people with whom she worked during her experiences in several political environments, although she has received abounding support in this endeavor from her family, friends, and professors.

Iowa born, bred, and educated, (a Luther College graduate) Archer was excited and fortunate to have the opportunity to continue her education in Iowa and still receive a top-tier legal education.

One of her major accomplishments during law school thus far was working on her attitude and making it through the first year. Throughout the year she learned to go with her own gut, study in her own way, and in doing that, gained a great deal of confidence in her abilities and was able to make law school about her personal approach and goals.

“I think my first year was very difficult for me because I let myself become intimidated by stories I heard from graduates that law school was the worst three years of their lives,” the 22 year old said. “I was also intimidated by my accomplished peers and their keen intellect, but I think at the end of the day I just had to learn to buckle down and create my own experience.”

This past summer Archer served as a legal extern to Justice Mansfield and Justice Waterman at the Iowa Supreme Court. Because the Iowa Supreme Court’s terms largely mirror those of the U.S. Supreme Court, the first part of the summer included aiding in the drafting of opinions and concluding the court’s adjudicative term, and the latter part of the summer focused more on attorney discipline cases. She also participated in the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, which included attending several educational sessions in Arizona.

Archer said the biggest surprise of law school came on the day after her last final second semester of her first year.

“I was getting ready to leave my apartment and head off for the summer and I realized that I already missed school,” she said. “I then let my parents know that I was obviously very ill and needed special care, but really, all jokes aside, once I started to get over my fears and stresses, I found that I actually really enjoyed classes and the whole law school experience.”

During Archer’s first year she was a member of OWLSS (Organization of Women Law Students and Staff), the Federalist Society, the Pro Bono Society, and she served as a student representative on the Faculty Committee for Student Honors and Awards. In her second year, Archer will also be a student writer for the Iowa Law Review and a research assistant to Professor Enrique Carrasco.

One of her ongoing goals, which got put on hold during her 1L year, is to read the top 100 classic novels. She began reading Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol at the end of last summer and upon arriving at law school, the book lived up to its title – it became a dead soul on her nightstand, she joked.

Most students are scared when they arrive at school because it is a totally new experience and you are in a class chalked-full of other intelligent, accomplished individuals, making it difficult to set yourself apart, she said, and advises law school administrators to continue to understand the precarious situation that law students are in.

“I think that the administrators at Iowa are already very understanding of the life of a law student and I would advise prospective students to take advantage of all of the opportunities to interact with the faculty, administration, and staff and engage them with questions and concerns throughout their education,” the Ottumwa, Iowa native said.

The four-story UI law library is one of Archer’s favorite places in the law school, but finds studying at home to be more effective.

“It is such an impressive place and we have so many amazing resources available to us, that being said, I am a home studier,” she said. “I find that studying at home gives me a more comfortable, laid back atmosphere, which helps take the edge off all of the work you have to do each night.”

Working at her internship last summer has made her appreciate the rigor during the school year.

“I think that Iowa Law produces hard-workers who are well-trained, but who are also relatable and easy to interact with,” she said. “I feel that Iowa Law has fully prepared me and my classmates for our future careers.”


Reuters cites a study by Professor Rantanen that shows a decline in agreement among judges on the federal patent court of appeals

Reuters cites a study by Professor Rantanen that shows a decline in agreement among judges on the federal patent court of appeals

Professor Miller Submits Amicus Curiae Brief in Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Case

Professor Robert T. Miller has submitted an amicus curiae brief in a New York case arising out of the events that triggered the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

The case is ACE vs. DB Structured Products and is one of several similar cases pending in New York courts in which billions of dollars are at stake.

In 2006, DB Structured Products (DBSP) was in the business of securitizing residential mortgage loans, that is, packaging such loans into residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBSs) that were ultimately sold to financial institutions around the world. When the housing bubble burst and real estate prices fell, RMBSs generally lost a large fraction of their value. Most institutions holding the RMBSs sold the securities at significant losses, often to hedge funds that specialize in buying distressed debt.

The prices of RMBSs have recovered substantially since 2008, and the hedge funds that bought the securities have made significant profits. But now some of these funds are suing the banks and other financial institutions that originally created and sold the securities. “They made some excellent investments, buying when prices were irrationally low following the panic of 2008,” Professor Miller said, “and now they are hoping to get an even greater return by litigating against the original sellers of the securities.”

In the transaction underlying ACE v. DB Structured Products, as in such transactions generally, DBSP made various representations and warranties to the buyers about the quality of the mortgage loans being sold, including the standards according to which they were underwritten, their loan-to-value ratios, and so on. DBSP also promised that, if any of these representations and warranties turned out to be false with respect to a particular loan, DBSP would repurchase the non-conforming loan at face value.

The plaintiff alleges that a large percentage of the loans did not conform to the representations and warranties, and DBSP denies this. At this stage of the litigation, however, the issue is whether the plaintiffs can still sue on this claim at all.

DBSP argues that, if the representations and warranties were breached, then that breach occurred at the time the loans were first sold in 2006, and since New York law has a six-year statute of limitations for contract claims, the statutory period ran out in 2012. The plaintiff argues that the period began to run not at the time the representations and warranties were breached, but only when, much later, the plaintiff demanded that DBSP repurchase the allegedly non-conforming loans and DBSP refused.

Professor Miller is interested in the case because much of his scholarship concerns the allocation of risk between sophisticated parties entering into complex commercial agreements. “The agreements underlying these transactions,” he said, “are just the kinds of agreements I teach and write about.”

When, in the original agreement, DBSP represented and warranted to the purchasers that the mortgage loans had certain qualities, Professor Miller says, DBSP was agreeing to bear the risk that the loans may not actually have those qualities. “The issue,” he explained, “is how long DBSP agreed to bear that risk—for six years, or until sometime in the indeterminate future when the purchasers may claim that the representations and warranties were breached and demand that DBSP repurchase the loans.” On that issue, he said, “there are the strongest economic arguments for thinking that DBSP was bearing the risk only for the statutory period of six years beginning at the time the agreement was made.”

Professor Miller also calls the court’s attention to the fact that, within the securitization market, there is a menu of standard provisions that the parties can choose to include or not to include in their agreement. The key provision at issue in ACE vs. DB Structured Products is a “Sole Remedy Provision”; some other agreements include an additional provision called a “Claims Accrual Provision.” Professor Miller argues that, in deciding this case, the court ought not to prejudge the issue of whether, in an agreement that also includes a Claims Accrual Provision, the outcome may be different.

“In interpreting the Sole Remedy Provision,” Professor Miller said, “the court should not decide what effect a Claims Accrual Provision would have because that issue is not before the court, the parties to this case have not fully briefed that issue, and anything the court said about the Claims Accrual Provision could adversely affect the contract rights of persons not parties to the case.”

Professor Miller’s brief is available here.

UPDATE: On December 19, 2013, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, unanimously ruled in favor of DBSP, holding that the statutory period began to run at the time the alleged breaches of representations and warranties occurred, i.e., the date that the contract was made. The court’s opinion can be read here.


Prof. Grewal Cited by U.S. Supreme Court

In October, Andy Grewal was featured in Iowa Now‘s Friends of the Court post.  The post discussed Grewal’s work drafting an amicus curiae with the United States Supreme Court in a case that would rule on how the IRS imposes penalties on tax shelters.

The Court handed down a unanimous decision Tuesday, December 3—unusual for a Court that reaches unanimous decisions less than half the time—and Grewal’s amicus clearly had an impact on the justices’ thinking. His brief was cited specifically in one footnote, and he says another of the justice’s arguments strongly reflected his argument.

The case—United States v. Woods—is about how the IRS penalizes tax shelters and involved complicated technical details that only tax accountants and attorneys would grasp, but Grewal’s brief did not take a position on the merits of either party’s position. Instead, his argument was focused on how the Court reached its decision. He worried that if the decision cut too broadly, it could create significant and unintended changes to the entire body of tax law, and he hoped his argument persuaded the justices to keep the decision narrow.

It did.

“That was reflected in the first part of the opinion, where the Court expressly said that it was reserving judgment on whether the district courts handled an issue correctly,” says Grewal, a tax law specialist.

His brief also raised an argument that neither party involved in the case took up, an argument that was specifically acknowledged in a citation.

“The Court acknowledged my argument and said it was not expressing a view on it since Woods’ attorneys didn’t raise it,” he says. “This may mean that in future litigation, other litigants can use the argument I raised.”

Although the Court is inundated with amicus briefs during the course of a term, few of them have their arguments so directly reflected in an opinion, and even fewer are specifically cited. Grewal says he’s pleased that his amicus made an impact.

“I believe the Court handled the narrow arguments in front of it in the right way, but this case raises broader issues and the parties overlooked some key arguments,” he says. “I’m glad that the Court held off on addressing the broader issues, as I recommended, meaning that they may be fleshed out in the future.”

The full decision is online at




Prof. Hovenkamp’s antitrust work key to US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court relies heavily on Professor Herb Hovenkamp’s scholarly work in antitrust.|topnews|text|Frontpage&nclick_check=1.

Professor Onwuachi-Willig on Interracial Romance (Huffington Post, May 24)

Professor Onwuachi-Willig on Interracial Romance (Huffington Post, May 24)

Collins Byrd, Assistant Dean of Admissions, Received UI Distinguished Educator Award

Collins Byrd, Assistant Dean of Admissions, was one of this year’s recipients of the Distinguished Educator Awards.  He received the award at the third annual UI Center for Diversity and Enrichment and Office of Graduate Inclusion Graduation and Recognition Reception on May 16.

This award, established in 1995-96, is designed to recognize a faculty or staff member who has exemplified achievement in cultural diversity.The award is in honor of Nancy “Rusty” Barceló, former assistant provost and interim director of Opportunity at Iowa.

Byrd received the award along with Kelly Collins who is the Tutor Coordinator for TRiO Student Support Services in the Center for Diversity and Enrichment in the UI Chief Diversity Office.

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