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Student scores trifecta for College of Law in national writing competition

March 21, 2013

Long before Kyle La Rose was a law student, he was a writer, having served for three years straight as editor of The Cougar, his high school yearbook at Casa Grande Union High, then declaring journalism as his major at the University of Arizona.

La Rose’s interest in words persisted, even as he switched his major to political science, graduated and enrolled in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in the fall of 2010. Today, the third-year student will receive the prestigious Scribes Law-Review Award from the American Society of Legal Writers at the annual meeting of the National Conference of Law Reviews in Lansing, Mich.

“I’m relieved to bring it home for ASU again,” he said. “I had a lot of help from my advisor (professor Andy Hessick) and our legal writing faculty. We have such high-quality writing professors who really care about the students and make sure we get the most out of our writing experience.”

La Rose is the third College of Law student in as many years to win the Scribes competition, which honors the best-written article in a law review or journal in the country. Michael Vincent (Class of 2012) captured the award last year for his paper, “Computer-Managed Perpetual Trusts,” and Cody Huffaker (Class of 2011) received the prize in 2011 for his article, “A New Type of Commandeering the Bypass Clause of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Stimulus Package).”

La Rose’s article, published in the Winter 2012 issue of the Arizona State Law Journal, is titled, “The Injury-in-Fact Barrier to Initiative Proponent Standing: How Article III Might Prevent Federal Courts from Enforcing Direct Democracy.” Using Proposition 8, California’s voter-backed ban on same-sex marriage, as a backdrop, La Rose addresses this complex question:

Can states ever statutorily vest initiative proponents with a particularized interest in the validity of their ballot measures that is sufficient to confer federal standing? La Rose’s conclusion: likely not.

“Kyle’s article was simply excellent,” said Mary Bowman, chair of the Law-Review Competition Selection Committee for Scribes. “We at Scribes are so impressed with the quality of the student writing coming out of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.”

Bowman congratulated the law school, which boasts the 5th best Legal Method and Writing Program in the country, according to new rankings by U.S. News & World Report, “on the terrific quality of the student writing being produced at ASU.”

Judy Stinson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a former director of the College’s legal writing program, said its stellar accomplishments are a team effort.

“We are fortunate to have strong students who care about their writing and apply themselves, and great faculty advisors, like Andy, who spend the time it takes to help our students write clearly, effectively and thoroughly,” Stinson said. “In addition, the administration at this law school is committed both to theoretical, doctrinal education and scholarship, as well as practical-skills education, and that puts us in a great spot.”

Stinson said La Rose set himself – and his writing – apart by taking a timely issue in federal court and focusing on a unique aspect, federal standing, which is among Hessick’s areas of expertise.

La Rose credited his writing professors, Susan Chesler and Stinson, with getting him through his first year of legal writing, and his clinic experience and time externing for Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch and Arizona Court of Appeals Judge Donn Kessler with helping him practice those skills.

“It’s a totally different animal, and you have to learn a whole new rule book,” he said. “When I got into law school I had to work harder than ever before to put out a good written product.”

La Rose spent more than a year on his prize-winning Journal comment, the idea for which originated as the Obama administration declined defending the Defense of Marriage Act and the Republican Party took up the cause. “I was interested to find out if they had standing to do that,” he said.

After graduation on May 9, La Rose will spend the next year as a law clerk for Judge Kessler, and hopes someday to become a public defender. He has loved law school, including a semester in the Public Defender Clinic, and is equally excited about starting his career.

“Like my friend, (3L) Jeannette Corral says, you enter law school being very idealistic. You want to change the world and help people, and then you get bogged down in classes, and seeing how unhappy some people are working in the legal field,” he said.

“But you jump into the clinic, and start doing the things you went to law school for, and it’s really scary and intimidating, and you don’t know what you’re doing sometimes. But it’s incredibly rewarding to actually see yourself helping people the way you envisioned when you first went to law school. That makes it great.”

The Scribes award comes on the heels of two other writing honors graduating law students have earned this academic year. Brandon Nagy won the 2012 Albert S. Pergam International Law Writing Competition for his article, “Unreliable Excuses: How do Differing Persuasive Interpretations of CISG Article 79 Affect its Goal of Harmony??” and Meggan Medina earned an honorable mention award in the 2013 W. Gregor Macfarlan Excellence in Contract Management Research and Writing Program for her article, “A Nightmare Trifecta for Small Business Contractors: False Claims Act, Implied Certification, and Presumed Loss Rule.”