Ethics event focuses on fictional portrayals of legal issues

Contact: Cheryl P Roland

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A panel discussion on how fictional portrayals of legal issues can shape public perception of the law will be the Wednesday, Feb. 28, offering in the spring speaker series presented by Western Michigan University's Center for the Study of Ethics in Society.

The discussion of "Legal Ethics in the Media: How Does Fiction Influence Reality?" is set for 4 p.m., in the Brown and Gold Room—Room 242—of the Bernhard Center. The free, public presentation, which is co-sponsored by the WMU Cooley Law School, School of Communication and Haworth College of Business, will include the insights of three attorneys: 

  • Dr. Norman Hawker, professor of finance and commercial law in WMU's Haworth College of Business.
  • Dr. Tonya Krause-Phelan, auxiliary dean at WMU Cooley Law School.
  • Dr. Victoria Vuletich, professor at WMU Cooley Law School.

The trio will consider how television and movies present countless and often subtle depictions of legal ethics issues, perhaps without viewers even recognizing them as ethical issues. They will explore the extent to which fictional characters and situations shape the public's perception of the law as well as lawyers and their ethics. The presentation is designed to be interactive and allow for lively audience participation.

Hawker, whose research interests include antitrust law and trade regulation, teaches classes in business policy and social and ethical environment, legal environment, business strategy, and strategic business solutions. Before joining the WMU faculty, he taught at WMU Cooley law and the University of Toledo College of Law.

Krause-Phelan joined the WMU Cooley faculty in 2005 as a visiting professor teaching criminal law. She became a full-time professor in 2006. In addition to teaching, she assists with the West Michigan Defenders Clinic and coaches national mock trial and moot court teams.

Vuletich has been on the faculty at the Grand Rapids campus of WMU Cooley law since 2008. Before joining the faculty, she served as the State Bar of Michigan's staff ethics counsel, supervising the Practice Management Resource Center, counseling attorneys on ethics issues and prosecuting unauthorized practice of law matters. A nationally recognized expert, she presents frequently on legal ethics and has served as a guest lecturer at Hertford College, Oxford University.

Upcoming events in the spring ethics series include presentations on the following days and times. All are free and open to the public. The presentations on March 22 and April 12 are part of the Center for Humanities spring series on the "Promise of Education."

  • Thursday, March 22—"Education Reform and the Promise of Public Education," a presentation by Dr. Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University, at 7 the Dalton Center Recital Hall.
  • Thursday, March 29—"Why We Don't Have a Peace Memorial: The Vietnam War and the Distorted Memory of Dissent," with Dr. Christian Appy, professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, at 7 p.m. in 1028 Brown Hall.
  • Monday, April 2—"Educational Equity: From the 'Kalamazoo Case' to the 'Kalamazoo Promise' and Beyond," a panel featuring WMU's Drs. Kathy Purnell and Ashley Atkins, Dr. James Robb from the WMU Cooley Law School, Cyekeia Lee from the Kalamazoo Promise, Michael Evans of the Kalamazoo Literacy Council, and Dr. Sandra Standish of KC Ready 4s, at 6 p.m. in 204 Bernhard Center.
  • Thursday, April 12—"Inequality, Citizenship and the Promise of Education;" a presentation by Dr. Danielle Allen, professor of government at Harvard University, at 7 p.m. in 2452 Knauss Hall.

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