Northwestern Law teams go head to head in trial competition

CHICAGO --- Teams from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law’s Bartlit Center on Trial Advocacy captured both first and second place at the Midwest Regional ABA Labor Law Trial Competition held in Chicago Nov. 5 and 6. 

In the all-Northwestern final round, the team of Michael Ovca (3L), Patrick Cordova (3L), Brooke Troutman (2L) and Brenna McLean (3L) narrowly defeated colleagues Heidi Savabi (2L), Joey Mintz (2L), Christian Segar (3L) and Dana Amato (3L). 

The competition included eight teams. But the only team that could beat Northwestern was from Northwestern. Both student teams were undefeated until they had to compete against each other.

Ovca, Cordova, Troutman and McLean will now go on to compete for the national championship in New Orleans in January.

“I am very proud of our Bartlit Center trial team for winning the ABA Labor and Employment Student Trial Advocacy Competition,” said head coach Rob Robertson of Robertson Duric. “Our continued success is a testament to the exceptional students that Northwestern continues to produce.

“Those students are consistently talented, knowledgeable, hard-working and exhibit the professionalism that is the bedrock for our calling. It was particularly gratifying this year as the two teams entered from Northwestern both reached the regional finals,” Robertson said.

Steven Lubet, director of the Bartlit Center and the Williams Memorial Professor at Northwestern Law, said Robertson and his students represent the best traditions of the Law School. 

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Judge denies request for Laquan McDonald juvenile court records

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A judge denied a request by attorneys for Jason Van Dyke for the juvenile court records of Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke is charged with murder in McDonald's death. Defense lawyers say they will ask a juvenile court judge to reconsider the request for the records. Van Dyke's next court hearing is scheduled for December 8.


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Judge again denies Van Dyke access to protected Laquan McDonald records

A Cook County judge on Wednesday again barred attorneys for a Chicago police officer charged in the killing of Laquan McDonald from reviewing protected records detailing the slain state ward's troubled childhood.


"After being denied access to these records by this court, (they) sought to circumvent this court and issued subpoenas directly to DCFS for all records in (Van Dyke's) pending murder prosecution case," attorney Robert Robertson said in a response filed Wednesday on behalf of McDonald's mother. "Obviously, believing that two bites at the apple is far better than one, (they) sought to erase this court's ruling simply choosing a different forum and repackaging his same ... argument."

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Royal Couple hosted in Serbian Bar Association of America in Chicago

Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine were the guests of honor at a reception hosted by the Serbian Bar Association of America at the Gallery at Green River in Chicago.

SBAA president Marko Duric welcomed Their Royal Highnesses to the reception and introduced Lifeline Chicago Vice President, Milena T Bajich, PsyD, who spoke about Lifeline’s 23 year connection to the American Serbian community in Chicago and the Midwest. Dr Bajich introduced HRH Crown Prince Alexander to the assembled guests, who listened intently to his remarks before introducing HRH Crown Princess Katherine to address the group.

Princess Katherine spoke with passion about the continuing need for medical and social programs that address the needs of the most underserved, vulnerable populations in Serbia. Her Royal Highness believes that there are no borders when it comes to human suffering.

All the attendees were very encouraged and honored to attend this reception at Gallery at Green River, where all together they were discussed wider humanitarian cooperation. Following the formal remarks, Their Royal Highnesses engaged in discussions with individuals and small groups about specific humanitarian efforts in Serbia and how they can get involved with the foundation and Lifeline going forward.

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Judge bars officer's lawyers access to Laquan McDonald's juvenile files

A Cook County judge on Wednesday barred attorneys for a Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting of Laquan McDonald from reviewing protected juvenile records detailing the state ward's chaotic childhood, saying she was troubled by the request.


"Laquan McDonald is a victim, and was for most of his life," attorney Robert Robertson wrote in a 21-page document filed Wednesday on behalf of the slain teen's mother. "Now, in death, (Van Dyke's legal team) seeks access to the most intimate details of his young life for purposes of defending the man who shot Laquan repeatedly as he lay defenseless in the street."

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Van Dyke attorneys denied access to Laquan McDonald juvenile records

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A judge ruled Wednesday that Jason Van Dyke's attorneys cannot have access to Laquan McDonald's juvenile records. The white Chicago police officer was charged with first-degree murder in the black 17-year-old's October 2014 shooting death. Police dashcam video shows Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke was charged in November 2015, shortly before the video was released to the public.

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Mother of teen who was shot by Chicago police opposes release of son’s juvenile records

CHICAGO -- The mother of Laquan McDonald intends to fight the release of her son's confidential juvenile records to attorneys for a white Chicago police officer who fatally shot the black teen.

Following a hearing Thursday in Cook County juvenile court, the mother's attorney, Robert Robertson, called the request by lawyers for Officer Jason Van Dyke irrelevant because the officer didn't know McDonald's identity let alone his troubled past when he opened fire in October 2014.

"It's an unnecessary character attack prior to trial," said Robertson, referring to the first-degree murder charges facing Van Dyke. The family received a $5 million out-of-court settlement from the city after McDonald's fatal shooting.

Robertson said that McDonald's mother, Tina Hunter, who is raising her daughter in the Chicago area, wants her privacy.

"They really don't want themselves drawn into the public eye," he said.

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Two brothers shot by Chicago cop cleared of wrongdoing

Dressed in a dark gray suit, a Chicago police tactical officer stood up in the witness stand, raised an imaginary gun and pointed it at a criminal defense lawyer. Officer Wilfredo Ortiz had been asked to re-enact what had happened to him while he was on patrol in the Roseland neighborhood early on New Year's Day 2014 when he heard gunshots and rushed to a nearby house. On a back porch, a man pointed a gun at him and refused to drop it, Ortiz testified. The veteran officer fired off 11 shots, critically injuring the alleged gunman and his brother on the porch and wounding their sister inside the home. Both brothers were charged with multiple felonies.

But in a second blow for the prosecution and police in little more than a year, a Cook County judge last week acquitted Michael Williamson, the man identified by Ortiz as the gunman, on aggravated assault and weapons charges, saying the officer's story had changed on a key detail.

Early last year, the same judge had ripped a detective's testimony against Williamson's brother, Princeton, and thrown out his alleged admissions to police and prosecutors. With that critical evidence barred, prosecutors dropped the weapons charges against him.

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Law School Team Wins First Place in Regional Trial Competition

CHICAGO --- A Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Bartlit Center Trial Team won first place in the Midwest Regional of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Student Trial Advocacy Competition held March 10 to 13 in Chicago.

The victory in the AAJ competition is Northwestern Pritzker’s second regional championship of the season, having won the National Trial Competition Midwest Regional last month. This is the first time that Northwestern Pritzker has qualified for the national championships of both major trial advocacy competitions in the same year. 

In the AAJ competition, Cassandra Myers (3L), Christian Segar (2L), Patrick Cordova (2L) and Michael Ovca (2L) captured first place, ahead of teams from 14 other law schools.

The Northwestern Pritzker team defeated Wayne State University Law School and University of St. Thomas School of Law in the preliminary rounds, and went on to beat Chicago-Kent College of Law in the semi-finals and Loyola University Chicago School of Law for the regional championship. They will now go on to compete for the AAJ National Championship, to be held March 31 to April 3 in New Orleans.

The head coach of Northwestern Pritzker’s AAJ team is Robert Robertson of the Law Offices of Robert Robertson. Northwestern’s other coaches, all of whom are alumni and former trial team members, are Mark Duric of Nicolaides Fink Thorpe Michaelides Sullivan LLP; Kendrick Washington, adjunct professor of trial advocacy at Northwestern University; Anne Yonover, judicial law clerk to the Honorable Charles P. Kocoras of the Northern District of Illinois; Mary Kim of Dechert LLP; and Andrew Cockroft of Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Steven Lubet, Williams Memorial Professor of Law and director of the Bartlit Center on Trial Advocacy at Northwestern, congratulated the students and their coach. 

“I cannot say enough good things about Rob Robertson,” Lubet said. “He is a great lawyer and a great coach who instructs our students in the intricacies of evidence and technique, while always keeping his eye on the bigger picture of overall strategy and absolute professionalism.”

Robertson praised his students for their hard work and dedication. 

“This team exemplifies all that I have come to expect from Northwestern Pritzker law students: They are intelligent, exhibit professionalism, have an outstanding work ethic and the strength to trust themselves to handle any situation that presents itself.”

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