law student

Law student Henry Joel Simmons catches the golden snitch as Harry Potter in Assault & Flattery’s satirical play “Harry Potter and the Order of the Peregrinus” on Friday evening at the Utopia Theater.

Photo Credit: Austin McKinney | Daily Texan Staff

UT law students deviated from the no-nonsense world of their legal studies Saturday evening to partake in a celebration of irreverence, wizardry, parody and performance.

Assault & Flattery, UT law’s student-led theater troupe, performed “Harry Potter and the Order of the Peregrinus” for a sold out theater Saturday evening. The performance marked Assault & Flattery’s 60th anniversary. 

In the play, Potter and his band of magic law students are pit against Draco Malfoy and the Slythegreens in a struggle for highly-coveted judicial clerkships, which are controlled by Snemily Snadens, an ally of the Slythegreens and Voldemort. Snemily Snadens' character is one of several in the play that are based on former and present-day UT faculty. Emily Kadens, former UT law professor, inspired the character.

Familiar elements from the Harry Potter series were used to poke fun at the law school experience. The play’s antagonists were called “Job Eaters” and Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility was an oversized T-shirt emblazoned with a St. Mary’s University School of Law logo. 

Songs like “Welcome to Your Cubicle,” based on One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” “Law Prof’s Paradise,” based on Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise” and “I Believe In a Thing Called Law,” based on The Darkness’ “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” were written and performed by students. 

Kazoo-driven renditions of popular songs were performed throughout the evening by the Assault & Flattery band, which also accompanied several of the songs in the performance. Medley, UT law’s a cappella group performed between the first and second acts, adding to the slew of legal humor and parody through their own reworking of popular music. 

Henry Joel Simmons, a UT law student who co-directed the play and starred as Harry Potter, said the event helps lighten the otherwise unrelenting atmosphere surrounding the law school experience. 

“Law school is infamous for being extremely stressful and extremely reverent,” Simmons said. “I think it’s really important for students [to] take it upon themselves to lighten the mood a little bit, let students realize that there is some humor in the law school experience.”

The play incorporated current events into its narrative, which ensured that those in attendance who were not law students followed the material. Further, an “Abridged Desk Reference” containing legal terminology was inserted into the playbill for the sake of non-law students in attendance. 

Puja Parekh, a UT law student who acted in the play, said the play was designed to appeal to all students. 

“We can’t just have law school jokes,” Parekh said. “Not everyone in the audience is a law student. We try to have current political events, things that are going in Texas and the world to have everyone relate to the show a little bit more.”

Members of Assault & Flattery run the group like a professional theater troupe, building sets, designing costumes and writing all the material. 

Anna Kuntz, a UT law student who designed the costumes for the play, said Assault & Flattery gives law students a unique way to express their concerns and artistic ambitions. 

“It’s a good creative outlet,” Kuntz said. “We’re usually stressed out and this a good way to express ourselves.”

Published on March 4, 2013 as "School of Magical Law". 

Dean Ward Farnsworth, new dean of the Texas Law School, meets and greets with law students during the 45th annual Law Week on Tuesday afternoon. Fransworth’s highest concern is improving student life through offering better student mentoring and  increasing job opportunities.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Dean Ward Farnsworth of the School of Law spent part of Tuesday at a meet and greet mingling with students as part of Law Week.

This is the 45th annual Law Week, an event meant for community building both within the law school and outside it, said Jackie Ammons, UT law student and president of the Student Bar Association.

Farnsworth spoke about his goals for the school and said he wants to make it the best place to be a law student.

“My most important goals are maintaining affordability, high quality classroom education and job opportunities afterward,” Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth plans to improve job rates by working with the school’s alumni to help create job opportunities. He wants to encourage the University to hire more alumni and also plans to improve mentoring of current students.

“We invite our alumni to stay involved in the school by getting to know our current students and offering them advice and guidance,” Farnsworth said.

In August 2012, the American Bar Association revised its standards to require more data disclosure from law schools, including employment outcomes and scholarship retention rates, according to the association.

“I support all efforts to improve transparency when it comes to job proqospects for students here and at other schools,” Farnsworth said.

The school has 308 newly enrolled students this year, down from 370 students in 2011, Farnsworth said. He said this was because of a bad job market and fewer applicants.

“I’m spending a lot of time trying to meet admitted students and encourage them to come here,” Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth is also channeling energy into improving student life. He named a few inconveniences, such as vending machines eating people’s money, broken latches in the restrooms and the quality of the coffee, that he hopes to improve. He said he would like the school to be free of little annoyances.

Second-year law student Katie Ostrander said the dean has sent out many emails to students about what they would like to see improved.

“He really cares about what students think,” Ostrander said. 

Farnsworth was a professor and an associate dean at Boston University’s law school before becoming dean of the UT School of Law last summer.

Published on February 20, 2013 as "Dean socializes with students". 

UT Law student Cody Wilson printed a plastic lower reciever of an AR-15 with a 3-D printer, attached it to a real gun and fired six rounds before the plastic piece broke.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

UT law student Cody Wilson said he is trying to decide between continuing with school and taking a break from UT and devoting more time to his increasingly successful efforts to revolutionize the gun industry.

Wilson has been working to create digital files for guns that could be used with a 3-D printer, a piece of technology that converts digital designs into a solid, plastic form. On Saturday, his efforts materialized when he printed the lower receiver of an ArmaLite AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle. He then substituted it for the lower receiver on a real AR-15 and along with his partners from his company, Defense Distributed, managed to fire off six rounds before the gun broke.

Wilson said he plans to print an entire gun with a 3-D printer as soon as possible, and he will be working with other types of more durable plastic to make the guns more effective. He said while a license was not required to print just the lower receiver of the AR-15, he may need a federal firearms license to print an entire gun, and he has not yet received one after applying for it roughly a month ago.

Wilson said printing the lower receiver is very significant, as it showed people the seriousness of his efforts in a material way, and people may now access the file through his website to print a lower receiver themselves, allowing them to create an unregulated gun.

Printed on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 as: Student aims for 3-D gun

Cody Wilson speaks to the Longhorn Libertarians his pursuit to create a gun using a 3-D printer in Garrison Hall Thursday.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

UT law student Cody Wilson claims he is roughly three weeks away from printing his first gun using a 3D printer, a machine that creates solid objects from digital designs.

“It was the most ridiculous, amazing, ambitious thing we could think of,” Wilson said.

At a public discussion hosted by Libertarian Longhorns on Thursday, Wilson said he and his friends endeavored to create a gun design called “Wiki Weapon” that could easily be shared online and physically recreated using a 3D printer. While printing a gun with a 3D printer is not a new idea, Wilson said his goal is to improve the process by continually making the designs more accessible and the product more functional.

This is the first time Wilson has spoken publicly about why he began the project.

Wilson said he wanted to undertake a difficult project, revolutionizing gun printing, to show people that they can take direct and creative actions to accomplish their goals. 

“Don’t just sit around like we have been doing for hundreds of years writing a thesis about the perfect utopia or something,” Wilson said. “Make it.”
A spokesperson for Stratasys, a 3D printer manufacturer, said the printers normally cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Wilson said he has seen a backlash against his work from those who feel efforts to make such technology more mainstream could have negative side effects, and he claims he has even been labeled by some as a modern terrorist. Wilson said while he believes his efforts could create new problems, the technology he is creating is not something that could be controlled by the government because 3D printing will become too accessible to be regulated.

Within the last month, Wilson started three companies to further his work. He said he has been in talks with multiple companies interested in funding his endeavors, and his support has been growing, despite ideological objections to the work.

Hunter Cash, an entrepreneurship senior at St. Edward’s University, has recently been working with Wilson on the financial aspects of his project.

Cash said this growth and the controversial nature of the work is what prompted him to get involved. “It gets your name out there,” Cash said. 

George McHugh, supply chain management senior and vice president of Libertarian Longhorns, said it was important for Wilson to speak at the University because of the relevance of his work. McHugh said in the future people will depend on 3D printers the way they depend on iPhones and microwaves now.

McHugh said the main idea he took from Wilson’s work is that action is required to produce a result.

“If you want to see change, you have to be the change,” McHugh said. 

Printed on Friday, November 2, 2012 as: Student to uneil plans for innovative 3-D gun

 

UT law student Cody Wilson is in the process of advancing his “Wiki Weapon” project with various companies. 

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

As he continues efforts to make building a gun as simple as pressing print, law student Cody Wilson’s life is getting more and more hectic.

Wilson has begun plans for three new companies, appeared in the New York Times and spoken with officials from the cable network HBO all within the last month. The recent attention Wilson has received focuses on the development of a project he calls “Wiki Weapon.” The project involves the development of digital designs for guns that can easily be shared and produced with a 3D printer, a generally plastic piece of machinery used for manufacturing solid objects from digital designs. Although the creation of such technology is not a new idea, Wilson’s efforts mark an attempt to advance it and make it mainstream and accessible.

Wilson said since he began making headlines with the project earlier this month, he has seen a tremendous response both nationally and within the University from people who want to be involved in the project.

“I’ve met quite a bit of UT students through the Libertarian Longhorns and through emails people have sent me,” Wilson said. “There is a lot of volunteer talent. There are a couple [of UT students] I have been talking to that just want to do anything [to get involved].”

He said he has been discussing his project with major companies that want to be involved in his project and was recently contacted by HBO representatives about a movie deal. 

Jose Nino, history senior and president of Libertarian Longhorns, an organization that promotes decreased government regulation, said he sees opportunities with the project and has been talking to Wilson about speaking at UT.

“I think it’s a great form of technology,” Nino said.

Wilson said he recently began planning three separate companies to work around the project.

He said the first company, Defense Distributed, will be a nonprofit organization that will be used to share the research with the rest of the world, with the aim of advancing this type of research. Nonprofit organizations are exempt from some federal income taxes.

The second company, Liberty Laboratories, will be a limited liability corporation that will focus on the manufacturing of products once development is advanced further, Wilson said. The third company, which has not yet been named, will be a private asset organization meant to protect the progress of the project.

Wilson said although he sees issues with the development of his technology, he doesn’t believe that it could or should be regulated, and he hopes there are not attempts to do so. He said he believes some technology cannot be controlled by the government. 

“I think at some point, if we have any measure of success, we are going to be painted as bogeymen,” Wilson said.

He said he expects to print his first gun in five to six weeks.

Printed on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 as: Law student markets gun plans

UT alumnus Cody Wilson developed software that would offer a design to make firearms through 3D printers.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

UT law student Cody Wilson is making headlines as he continues to develop software that would allow anyone with the funding to easily build a gun from the comfort of their own home.

Wilson has been working with several other researchers and financial backers to create a design for a gun that could be shared through the internet and printed using a 3D printer, a piece of machinery used for manufacturing solid objects from digital designs. Although the printers cost between $10,000 and $30,000 on average, there is no permit required to purchase or lease one. As a result, some are raising concerns that current gun laws have not kept up with changing technology.

Wilson said the software is near completion, and he is facing increasing opposition to it. The company he leased a 3D printer from, Stratasys, took back procession of it earlier this week, citing legal concerns about what Wilson could do with it.

In a press release issued Wednesday, the company wrote, “We believe Mr. Wilson intended to use Stratasys property to produce a weapon that is illegal according to the Undetectable Firearms Act of 1988 (a.k.a. “the plastic guns” law) which prohibits the manufacturing or possession of a gun undetectable by airport metal detectors.”

Wilson said he has no intentions to break any laws with his project, and he has been carefully examining the legalities of the software throughout its development.

He said he is upset with Stratasys for making accusations about his intent.

“They make it seem like we were about to go break the law or something, which I think hurts us, and Stratasys just doesn’t care,” Wilson said. “They want to keep their name clean, so they are happy to just throw us under the bus.”

Wilson said he recently got the project’s fund up to $20,000, and hopes recent opposition to the project won’t affect its support base, which has also been growing.

There are legal licenses required to build a gun in some circumstances, and Wilson said he will be obtaining the proper licenses to ensure his efforts are legal before he creates any weapons.

Wilson said he sees potential hazards with his new technology, as it could allow anyone with the funds to more easily build a gun, but he doesn’t think it would be possible to control the sharing of these files under constitutional freedoms.

“How do you stop that, and should you?” he said. “I think the answer is ‘no.’”

Michael Reyes, the resident agent in charge at the Austin branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said he spoke with Wilson about the project earlier this week and he has no concerns that Wilson is attempting to do anything illegal.

“[Wilson’s] done his research into the firearm regulations,” he said.

Reyes said Wilson even went into his office to inquire about the legalities of the project.

“[Wilson’s] obviously got his ideas, and he just wants to be careful of what he is doing,” Reyes said.

Wilson said after obtaining any gun licenses that he feels may be applicable to his project, he plans to obtain another printer and continue with his efforts.

“This thing is really growing,” he said.

Conservative political talk-show host Rush Limbaugh finally entered the debate about contraceptive coverage last week, when he targeted a female student who attempted to testify in the all-male congressional hearing about birth control. It is important to understand the implications of his comments, particularly today, the 103rd annual International Women’s Day.

Sandra Fluke, a law student from Georgetown University, wanted to speak at the hearing as a proponent of President Obama’s proposed birth-control mandate. She hoped to share a story about a friend who needed birth control to prevent the formation of ovarian cysts. Because she was not part of a religious clergy, she was rejected from the panel. Limbaugh addressed the situation on his talk show, declaring Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” as she is clearly calling on the government to pay her to have sex. He further went on to call her a “feminazi” and demand she “post the videos online so we can all watch,” according to The Huffington Post. Limbaugh has since half-heartedly apologized for the comments.

His remarks caused an outrage, and many companies pulled advertising from his show. Wisely, Republican presidential candidates Romney and Santorum distanced themselves from these remarks, as have many other figures on the right. However, some are defending Limbaugh’s vitriolic and sexist speech, citing instances when figures on the left have made inappropriate and sexist comments about Republicans, such as the infamous comments made by HBO show host Bill Maher about Sarah Palin, in which he referred to Palin with numerous misogynistic terms. Why have Limbaugh’s remarks caused such offense that Obama himself apologized to Fluke, while Maher suffered fewer consequences?

The difference is significant. Fluke is a law student, while Palin was a publicly elected figure. Fluke merely wished to share her personal opinion, not inadvertently become the spokeswoman for contraceptive coverage. Instead, Limbaugh singled her out, directly smearing her name and simultaneously making Fluke a symbol for women who use birth control — all 99 percent of them.

Students and citizens hoping to become involved in politics should be ensured that their right to speak their minds is protected from the slandering of political commentators. Political activism is one of the only forms of public voice that non-governmental officials have, and this voice should be safeguarded and guaranteed. Limbaugh’s comments disparage Fluke’s reputation and send a threatening message to other citizens who might have wanted to enter the debate: you may face public humiliation and discriminatory remarks from people in positions of power higher than you for voicing your opinion.

Though still considered the most politically apathetic demographic, American youth are becoming more politically mobilized. The public should be encouraging this mobilization as we are an essential part of public policy discussions and decisions.

Both Limbaugh and Maher made crude and misogynistic comments that do not deserve pardoning. Limbaugh’s equating birth control usage to promiscuity and prostitution is asinine and archaic. As Fluke’s personal story demonstrates, birth control is used for various health purposes, from responsible family planning to the prevention of ovarian cysts and other ailments.

Furthermore, both men use insulting and demeaning terms to describe women they just don’t like. Terms like these perpetuate misogyny and normalize the idea that women are inferior to men. This type of hateful language should be eliminated from our vocabulary, and a student should be able to express her support of a political issue without fearing public defamation. On this International Women’s Day, we should celebrate the victories that both genders have made on the path toward equality rather than travel back 100 years in history with Limbaugh and Maher.  

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.

Equality legislation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in Texas has rarely had much success, but now has a better chance of passing in the 2013 Texas legislative session based on progress made in the previous two sessions, said Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas.

Coleman and Zac Evans, a Texas legislative aide and UT law student, spoke at a talk hosted by OUTLaw, the LGBT alliance for the UT School of Law, on Thursday about the progress made in the recently concluded legislative session and the steps the LGBT community will take to work for equality in 2013 and beyond.

“The 81st session was the first session where we were not on the defense,” Coleman said. “We didn’t have good things go through, but we were not fighting bad things and we actually saw some headway.”

The 82nd session was historic for the LGBT community because it was the first time pro-equality legislation passed, Coleman said.

“We had over a dozen pro-equality bills that received hearings, which is unheard of,” Coleman said. “A lot of people were amazed — not only in Texas but outside of Texas — that this was taking place. As many of you know, we were able to get two pro-equality bills passed, both related to anti-bullying.”

The anti-bullying bills, House Bill 1942 and House Bill 1386, will protect all children regardless of sexual orientation by requiring all school boards to adopt an anti-bullying policy in time for the 2012-13 school year.

Coleman said the LGBT community will focus on advocating legislation that protects workers from being fired for their sexual orientation and allows same sex parents to be named on birth certificates of children in 2013.

Evans said he and others are also working to make the state legal code match a Supreme Court ruling that made Texas’ anti-sodomy laws illegal. Evans helped present the case for House Bill 604, a bill that would have eliminated anti-sodomy laws, during the 2011 legislative session.

“HB 604 would have effectively amended the state penal code, to match what the Supreme Court laid out in Lawrence v. Texas,” Evans said. “Section 21.06 still makes it a misdemeanor to have deviant sexual relations with a person of the same sex. It’s shocking to me to see it on the books, frankly.”

Evans said the LGBT community will also fight to legally amend provisions within the Texas Health Code that require public schools to teach students that homosexuality leads to increased rates of HIV.

The best way to support legislation in the future is to continue to voice concerns to legislators while they are out of session now, Evans said.

“Even the hardest nuts do crack and come around every now and again, if you are persistent,” Evans said.

Law student Richard Sawyer said he is torn between supporting measures to take anti-sodomy laws off the books and legislation for equality in the workplace as the most important LGBT issue in Texas.

“My instinct is to say they need to repeal existing criminal laws, but they don’t have any practical effect on peoples’ lives,” Sawyer said. “They are symbolic. Anti-discrimination laws in the workplace affect every LGBT person in the workforce, so that’s probably a more practical place to start.”

Printed on Friday 21, 2011 as: LGBT coalition lobbies for equality laws

Members of Heman Sweatt’s family sat among faculty, staff and students at a book talk Thursday to honor UT’s first African-American law student. The talk was the first event of the 25th Annual Heman Sweatt Symposium, which will last throughout the semester. UT admissions officer Gary Lavergne spoke to a standing-room-only crowd to discuss his new book, “Before Brown: Heman Sweatt, Thurgood Marshall and the Long Road to Justice.” Following a U.S. Supreme Court case, Sweatt was admitted to the University’s law school in 1950, paving the way for integration on campus. “[The case] is an important part of UT’s history,” said Greg Vincent, vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement. “It’s also an important part of Texas history and American history.” When Sweatt applied to the School of Law in 1946, he was denied admission. At the time, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People attempted to find a plaintiff to launch a case to fight segregation. The civil rights group eventually chose Sweatt. Initially, the state attempted to avoid allowing Sweatt admission to the school by building another law school for African Americans in Houston. Ultimately, however, the Supreme Court decided that the new school was not sufficient, largely because the school was not equal in prestige or faculty experience to the UT law school. As a predecessor to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education, Sweatt’s case ultimately allowed for admission of African American students at other institutions, Lavergne said. “You do not get to Brown v. Board without the Heman Sweatt decision,” Lavergne said. “In order to knock down the unanimous decision of Plessy v. Ferguson, you had to make sure that everyone understood that law was wrong.” In addition to providing details about the case and Sweatt’s life, Lavergne and Vincent also discussed Sweatt’s personality and his ability to stand up for his rights. “[The case] stands for the epitome of moral courage,” Vincent said. “Heman Sweatt was a modest, unassuming man. But he wanted to do what all of us wanted to do, which was to pursue his dream of a quality education at his university. Because of his moral courage, he made it easier for all of us.” Students at the event said Lavergne’s talk helped explain some of the roadblocks African-Americans faced in the mid-20th century. “The fact that this guy was willing to be the center of all this hatred blows my mind,” said finance sophomore Joe Niehaus. “It’s cool that he went through all the rungs of hardship to deal with that, especially since it’s so pertinent to this University.” The symposium will continue throughout the semester. The next event will feature a panel discussion about the history leading up to the creation of the symposium. It will culminate with a special evening of honors on May 6.